Scum Fuck Flower Boy is Tyler, the Creator’s fourth studio album, and his first record in two years, it features a heavy focus on themes of love and finding yourself, loneliness, motivation and hopelessness through an elaborate ocean of disco beats, jumpy drum tracks, soulful bass rhythms and fantastic vocal features from Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, Estelle, Rex Orange County, Lil Wayne, Jaden Smith, Anna of the North and Steve Lacy.
“Foreword” is the wavey intro to Flower Boy, setting up the themes and tones of the rest of the album by exploring Tyler’s motivations and by the end of the song, exploring the lack of it. The subtle yet hard hitting theme of suicide creeps up in the last few lines when he talks about the pool in his mansion; “you better not drown, keep those ten toes up, ‘cause if those ten toes down, that means that you fucked up, and that’s what I swim in”. The last lines of the first verse hint at Tyler’s fear of a time when his fans might not believe in him, and if his career as an artist will ever fade away, while the beginning of the verse asks the question of how long his hobbies can occupy his free time.
A beautiful track with a gorgeous bridge, “Where this flower blooms” is a reflection from Tyler from before he was a famous artist, the first verse taking it back to when he had to sleep on his grandma’s floor, work at starbucks and avoid repo men. Frank Ocean provides decent vocals on the chorus but it’s nothing fans wouldn’t expect from him, the reference to OJ Simpson feeds into the some of the themes of loneliness and depression on the rest of the album and puts a darker spin on the chorus. My favourite part of the song has to be the bridge, its summery beat with the positive lyrics “I rock, I roll, I bloom, I grow” indicates Tyler’s progression as he compares his talent to a flower blooming, this is similar in meaning to the track “Find your wings” on his last album Cherry Bomb. The second verse of the song shows Tyler encouraging young black kids to be who they want rather than conforming to the stereotypical rappers message of hypermasculinity. The song finishes with a lonesome piano melody, creating the atmosphere for the interlude “Sometimes” and finalising the message of the track
Track 4 is a colourful love song featuring Kali Uchis, who appeared on Cherry Bomb. Tyler himself said that “See you again” is his favourite track off the record, and we can see why, from the amazing pitch perfect vocals from Tyler in the first verse, to Kali Uchis’ angelic vocals on the chorus. “See you again”, in its simplest form, feels like one of best songs from Tyler, and definitely the best lyrics from him, it’s clear to see he’s stepped up on his writing with lyrics like “Wonder if you look both ways when you cross my mind” and lyrics comparing love to sleep; “you exist behind my eyelids, my eyelids, I don’t wanna wake up”
Probably one of the best singles released this year, the comeback track “Who dat boy” featuring A$AP Rocky hit hard with fans and newcomers along with praising critics. The almost eerie atmosphere attached to the beat brought the merciless first verse to life. With a nod to his previous album Cherry Bomb right next to a reference to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, it quickly becomes clear that Tyler’s somewhat morbid humour that made up the themes of Goblin are still here and subtly hidden under greater themes. Lyrics like “I’m a goddamn artist you can give me some markers and I’ll draw you a closet” Shows that Tyler sees himself as a “true artist” as not only a rapper but a producer, fashion designer and director compared to other rappers on the scene rapping about fast cars, drug use and guns.
In terms of lyrics, Pothole takes a break from the Flower Boy theme and discusses obstacles in Tyler’s life through a metaphor of driving, with potholes being objects or people stopping him from getting to where he wants to be. He declares himself as a “Lone wolf” Praising himself as an independent artist who can think for himself, rather than the “snakes in the grass” who he calls out for being sheep, from this track and others from previous albums, it’s clear that Tyler has a real issue with people who don’t think for themselves. “Lone wolf” might also be a subtle reference to his 2013 album WOLF and the last track “Lone”. The feature from Jaden Smith adds a pleasant layer to the smooth flow on the chorus, leading into the better second verse. His line “Nobody gon’ make a peep, ‘cause everyone wants some wool” creates the idea that none of the other rappers want to speak up against the system and instead want to play along for the rewards, with “wool” being a metaphor for money.
With a solemn reverb soaked intro from Slow Hollows’ Austin Feinstein and a poetic mess of unorganised vocals from featured artist Estelle, Garden shed sheds some light onto Tyler’s own conflicting views regarding his sexuality, this is mainly found in the second verse with lines like “since a youth kid, thought it was a phase” and “that was real love I was in, no reason to pretend” The fragile lyrics accompanied with the soul filled beats and slow burning guitar patterns create a sensitive atmosphere that’s almost reminiscent of his track “answer” from his 2013 record Wolf. Despite how the song feels, the poor media coverage of the song when the album leaked makes the meaning feel tarnished. Various articles bashed Tyler for opening up and speaking up about his own experience, even calling him out for being homophobic on previous projects.
Another single released before the album, Boredom is a conflicting tune with summer vibes and downhearted lyrics, with a steady theme of loneliness realised through elaborate verses. Lines like “If we’re talking ‘bout real meals, ask my stomach, he ain’t saw ‘em” Shows that Tyler hasn’t been eating well due to the fact that he’s shut himself off, added with “My eyeballs are turning to drywall” possibly meaning he’s dehydrated. The ideas of loneliness are created with lines like “message me with some plans that are amusing as well, ‘cause I haven’t seen the exit of these walls since before this morning” accompanied with a fast drum beat and a slow set of vocal and instrumental melodies. The third verse seems more like a cry for someone to notice how bored and lonely he is, and for someone to hit him up just to hang out in the parking lot. With amazing featuring artists Austin Feinstein, Anna of the North, Corinne Bailey Rae and Rex Orange County.
Fast paced, loud and aggressive, “I ain’t got time!” serves as a contrast to the previous hook on “Boredom” with the lyric “find some time”. The hard hitting rap shows Tyler dismissing people only interested in him because of his success and talks about his astonishment for what he’s accomplished, the track itself feels compact, the beat fits the low hitting bass and the raspy vocals from Tyler work well with the clap samples and disco beats. The topics discussed in “Garden Shed” also pop up with the line “Next line will have ‘em like woah, been kissing white boys since 2004” but the fragile tones are replaced with aggressive in your face vocals, in that respect the song feels more like a Tyler, the Creator song from 2011.
A two part track released alongside the Who dat boy single, “9/11 / Mr. Lonely” is a overarching theme of loneliness through two contrasting beats, the “9/11” part is a joyous summer tune with upbeat synths skipping on a soulful bassline, however the lyrics reveal a heartbroken Tyler unable to find joy in his accomplishments; “yeah, I got a sold out show, crowd wild but don’t matter ‘cause you’re not front row”. Frank Ocean’s verse also gives us a similar sense of loneliness as he reminisces about being picked up from the suburbs by a significant other. The song then transitions into a breathless self deprecating verse from Tyler on top of stuttering hi hats, using his quit wit and shock tactics to reflect on his own condition.
“Dropping seeds” Featuring Lil Wayne is probably the least Flower Boy and more Scum Fuck that the rest of the album. Lil Wayne’s first verse is full of gross connotations and euphemisms that don’t fit at all with any of the themes that flow throughout the record. The whole interlude feels like the “loose change” of beats that just got thrown together.
Sombre track “November” shows some of Tyler’s insecurities by using November as a metaphor for a better time in his life that he misses, rapping over a jittery drum track as he questions himself and his relevance, it’s also clear that he worries about people who may be taking advantage of him; “What if Clancy fuckin’ me over? What if Who dat boy is rhetorical and this shit is over?” As the song progresses the more the lyrics feel hopeless, and after the short interlude in the middle of the song the track slows to an unorganised and jumpy mess of restless vocals and ill fitting beats.
A direct follow on from where “November” ended, Tyler proceeds with his voicemail to his love. Here we can see the shift in the album theme, with a vocal adjustment and multiple beat shifts, “Glitter” is a violet song that keeps you on your toes, and while the bridge is a bore to get through, the verses are pleasant and loose story elements are a nice touch from Tyler.
The instrumental final track “Enjoy right now, today” is a positive and bright bunch of beats, the lack of vocals leaves you to ponder on the elaborate themes, beats and lyrics on the rest of the album, a nice little head bopping tune to tie up Scum Fuck Flower Boy.
Overall, the album is definitely the most mature, showing a lot of progression in Tyler’s writing and production, the picture he paints with this record is so vivid even the individual tracks feel colourful. I think the best features on the record are Austin Feinstein on guitar, Kali Uchis and A$AP rocky, while Frank Ocean gives a very organic vibe in his collaborations, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before on Tyler’s previous projects.
Words by Sam Harris