Learning to love 'Cherry Bomb'

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I’ve never been a huge fan of the Odd Future crew music-wise. Besides Frank Ocean, the group has an abnormal style their leader Tyler, The Creator has always been especially sinister, vulgar and off-putting in his music. But their over-the-top antics and wild sense of humor that they display at their concerts, on their Adult Swim show and at their annual Camp Flog Gnaw carnival have always kept me interested in their endeavors.

When Tyler, The Creator released his third studio album “Cherry Bomb” almost exactly this time last year, I was not surprised to see that it didn’t deviate much from my perception of the Odd Future formula. Songs like “Buffalo” and “Pilot” were harsh on the ears with blown-out bass and dystopian vibes, while the title track sounded like it was recorded in a mosh pit as Tyler yells in the background. And, as was the case with his last album, “Wolf,” there were a few tracks that sounded incredible (namely “Deathcamp” and “Smuckers”) leaving me again disappointed that I didn’t get a consistent, unblemished album from Tyler. But over the course of the past year my stance on “Cherry Bomb” has completely changed.

Compared with music from the likes of Future, Young Thug and a plethora of other drug-crazy trap artists, Tyler’s brutal honesty is refreshing. He’s not afraid to sing a six-minute song on how he’s in love with someone who’s barely underage and his fear of the consequences, or to rap about his maniacal role as Wolf Gang’s Joker-esque leader. His song “The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah Part 6-12 (Remix)” takes pleasure in tearing apart the current hip-hop trends of referencing lean and Xanax before asking for some “real chaos” in the genre. And I have to admit, some real change might be necessary when fledgling artists like Lil Yachty are rising to prominence (listen to his album “Lil Boat“, and you’ll know what I mean).

Not only is Tyler honest, but “Cherry Bomb” might also be the most sonically varied album of the last year. There’s just something amusing about Tyler’s confidence in placing the uplifting, trumpet-filled song “Find Your Wings” right before the hardcore, bellicose title track without as much as a second of relaxation between. Then a few songs later, we get “Perfect,” a slow cut with Columbian singer Kali Uchis that’s reminiscent of Kimbra’s distinct New Zealand sound. Somehow Tyler is able to transition “Perfect” into “Smuckers,” where he can be heard trading bars with Lil Wayne in one of the best rap verses of 2015.

I guess I needed a year’s worth of context to be able to see where Tyler was coming from with the direction of his album, and although it’s an acquired taste, it’s clear to me now that “Cherry Bomb” is the kind of radical music we need in an increasingly dull hip-hop landscape.