Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #6: "Yonkers" -- Tyler, the Creator

2011 was the year of Odd Future, and Tyler, the Creator, the collective's ringleader, led the way. The center of attention in almost every respect, the 20-year-old rapper released Goblin, which garnered him praise from a number of publications and a Best New Artist award at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.

I think something we can all agree on when it comes to Tyler is that, as he says himself on "Goblin," he's "not that great a rapper." No one's falling head over heels for Tyler's flow or rapping skills. So, what's the allure? Why was Goblin arguably the most talked-about rap record of 2011, and maybe even the biggest had it not been for Watch the Throne?

Part of it has to be the DIY nature of Tyler's music, itself seemingly a backlash to the sleek, polished nature of modern rap. For those disillusioned with the direction of the genre, this can only be a breath of fresh air. Don't count out the rawness of the music, either -- and not just in terms of his vocal. There's an edge to the music that most mainstream rappers today wouldn't even dare to gravitate toward.

"Yonkers" was the song that propelled Tyler into the stratosphere, and should have scared every living rapper out there -- except, perhaps, for artists like Jay-Z and Kanye, whose appeal is all-but-solidified no matter what at this point. This was not only a backlash to overproduced rap, it was a full-frontal assault.

Tyler's always been under scrutiny for his misogynistic, sometimes overly-vulgar lyrical content, which targets basically anyone and everyone, and at times features lyrics that can be construed as insensitive toward the homosexual community. With "Yonkers," his lyrics aren't exactly as controversial as some of his other tracks, but it's still a shock to anyone who's hearing his music for the first time.

In keeping with the theme of Goblin, during which Tyler talks to his therapist about his problems and life, "Yonkers" is introspective, but also a song about the abandon he experiences in New York City. And while Tyler disputes the fact some call his music horrorcore, tell me that backbeat under his rap doesn't creep you the fuck out.

2012 will be an interesting time for Odd Future, as it's still to be seen whether the collective will actually remain relevant or if they're a passing fad. Frank Ocean seems to have something to say about this and may end up the more relevant in the long run, but for now, Tyler, the Creator is one of the biggest new rappers in the game, as well as one of its most provocative figures. What will he do next? It's rumored Wolf, his follow-up, comes out in 2012.

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