Tyler, the Creator Unearths His Sensitive Side in Flower Boy

By David Copithorne

When it comes to controversy, Tyler, the Creator is no stranger. The rapper has been making headlines since 2009, creating music that was brimming with disturbing violence and misanthropic lyrics delivering him thousands of adoring fans and critics alike. His distinctive voice and stage presence put him on the forefront of his group, Odd Future, where he took a commanding lead. From there, he put the “Creator” part of his name to use. Taking advantage of his fame, the artist created clothes, shoes, TV shows, animations, and his own personal brand, making him one of the most influential and creative figures in the industry, all while maintaining his unique persona. Now, with the release of his latest album, Flower Boy, we get the most honest and sincere look at the 26-year-old rapper to date; one that reveals his sensitive side, outing his insecurities and even his sexuality.

From the first song to the last, Flower Boy is Tyler’s reflection of himself, trading the angry, sometimes bratty attitude for a new mindset, fueled by self-improvement. He takes a good look at his behavior and confronts the driving forces head-on. Loneliness, disorientation, and self-doubt are what guided Tyler in the past, but, now, instead of hiding these themes between the lines of his lyrics, he’s calling them out into the open. This evolved way of thinking forces him to shed his old persona to find his wings.

With his new personality transition comes a change in his musical stylings. His previous music was without vision. When he was on the offensive, he was often attacking no one in particular to make himself look edgy, demonstrating his immaturities. Whenever he tried to get romantic, his songs were creepy and unsettling. While his childish behavior is certainly part of his appeal, many questioned when Tyler would get serious. In Flower Boy we see him finally find his way musically. The messages that he conveys are clear and detailed: the pain of unrequited love, navigating youthful ennui, and the angst of missed connections. 

It wouldn’t be a Tyler, the Creator album if there wasn’t some controversy involved. Throughout the album, Tyler frequently references his recently revealed homosexuality. On the opening track “Foreword,” he raps, “Shoutout to the girls that I lead on … and always keeping my bed warm/And trying they hardest to keep my head on straight/And keeping me up enough ‘till I had thought I was airborne.” In the song “I Ain’t Got Time,” he explicitly states, “Next line will have them like whoa/I’ve been kissing white boys since 2004.” 

Since the album came out, many have debated on the legitimacy of his sexuality claims. It’s understandable for some to be skeptical of his coming out due to his immature behavior and homophobic lyrics in the past. However, the song “Garden Shed” seals the deal, citing the loss of friends due to his sexuality and having sex with women to impress his peers should be evidence enough to prove otherwise.

The songs on the album are relaxed and subdued, which is a stark contrast from the likes of his previous work. On albums like Goblin and Wolf, his music was loud and brash, even close to becoming horrorcore. The tracks on Flower Boy are a symphony of sonic wonder; his production continues to be unique to any other rapper in the game. Glowing orchestrations of sound with unpredictable chord transitions adorned by choruses of beautiful voices. “See You Again,” “Glitter,” and “Garden Shed” are by far the prettiest songs on the album, but for fans of his grunge aesthetic, there’s “Who Dat Boy” and “I Ain’t Got Time!” which will certainly please those who enjoy his earlier work.

While his confessions on his album do not excuse past actions and behaviors, it does paint a better picture of the rapper-producer. Although it is unfit to call Tyler “mature,” it’s very clear that he is working hard to change himself and evolve his music from his past work. Flower Boy shows thoughtfulness can be freeing. As Tyler, the Creator discovers and begins sharing himself, he becomes more whole. When not hiding under a mask of aggression, he becomes his best self, producing his best work to date.