The first time I did an Uninformed & Uninterrupted piece was for our April magazine, a quick ranking and anecdote on Solange's When I Get Home, an album I found to be a meticulously crafted ode to rhythm and modern-day R&B. If I'm going to be completely honest, I wrote that sentence to sound a lot more knowledgable than I actually am; I have no clue if any of that was right or made sense. For a majority of the year I had When I Get Home pegged as my album of the year (which will be abbreviated to AOTY for the rest of this) until Mac DeMarco released Here Comes the Cowboy; which held the spot for a good three days. I really enjoyed those three days. I just laughed out loud typing "I really enjoyed those three days." Felt like a retrospective Civil War love letter. While I'm almost certain that Here Comes the Cowboy will appear on my end-of-year favorite albums list, I'm fully certain that at least one project will appear ahead of it: Tyler, the Creator's IGOR, a damn-near perfect follow-up to 2017's Flower Boy, an album I consider to be one of my all-time favorites.
A few weeks ago a Sony financial report leaked and it was revealed that a new Tyler album was to be expected sometime before July. In an age where album rollouts seem to take mind-numbingly long (Astroworld, Eternal Atake, Yandhi, Rihanna's upcoming album, etc.), I can only thank Tyler for making it a two-week wait. These long waits aren't always a bad thing. Maybe "mind-numbing" isn't the best word, but sometimes the wait can just break your brain. Revisionist history. A months-long lingering would have led to such crippling anticipation that it's likely I would've dropped dead from a stress-induced heart attack before the album even came out. Here's to another day, lol. As Tyler dropped small snippets and accompanying short videos, it felt as if we were in for another masterpiece. I desperately wanted another project; not that I was sick of Flower Boy, I just wanted to see how much farther Tyler could evolve as an artist. After a high octane and Blue Moon fueled viewing of John Wick 3, Ralph, Hotto, and I scurried back to get our first listen in and during our ride back, Tyler posted this very upfront message on Twitter:
The album is awesome no matter how you listen, but after taking the time to follow these directions for a handful of my listenings, I can safely say that going all the way through, almost completely undistracted is the way to go. This album is an audio story, and most stories are better without breaks, at least in my opinion, so if you haven't listened yet, just immerse yourself in it. I've yet to test the drivability of the album, but Flower Boy is great for late-night highway driving; IGOR certainly will be, too.
I was blown away throughout the entirety of my first listen; I'm still mesmerized on listen thirty-something. It's by far my AOTY and at the time of writing this, it seems like there's no chance anything passes it up. The production effortlessly blends each track into a 40-minute escapade of self-discovery and conflicting sentiments regarding love, and the recipients of it. Another one of my "smart" sentences. IGOR has captured my attention and ear canals more than any album in recent memory; it's all I can seem to listen to ever since it dropped Thursday night. It's a genre-less spectacle of musical artistry and truly feels like the culmination of the progress Tyler has made as an artist, and person, since the emergence of Odd Future and The Odd Future Tapes in 2008.
Aside from the uptick in maturity and "depth" of lyrics in Flower Boy, the most captivating aspect was its features. A majority of the songs were led by guest artists, and while they don't necessarily outshine Tyler, they provide their own distinct presence on their respective tracks. While the features on IGOR aren't as "prominent" as on Flower Boy, they're utilized in a way that allows their often minimalist feel to shine through. This is supported by the original secrecy of (most) features ahead of the album's release. Tyler followed the ever-increasing trend of not listing features, theorized by anonymous Twitter users to be jump-started by Kanye West (featured on "PUPPET") with the 2013 release of Yeezus, leaving the first listen-through with a plethora of "Is that...?" and "Holy shit, it's (insert feature)!" A lot of features were still surprises, even after a few days and an exorbitant amount of listenings. Solange was on this ("I THINK")?!? Why wasn't this revealed up front? Eventually Tyler stopped making us put the pieces together with our audio senses and released a comprehensive list, or rather a collection of pins, detailing the artists that contributed their talents to the creation (of a modern masterpiece?):
That looks more like a hall of fame induction list rather than features on an album, but Tyler managed to gather these unique virtuosos and collectivize them among twelve tracks. I detailed my most surprising features (Kanye on "PUPPET" and Uzi on "IGOR'S THEME") and favorite (Playboi Carti on "Earfquake") on the Burbs' final digest on the album, but fine, I suppose I'll delve deeper into it, quit asking. Rule #1 is obviously no needles, but if somebody were to approach me with a spoon, a lighter, and a syringe full of Carti's feature on "Earfquake", shit, I just might have to. If his feature isn't a simile for me being offered heroin on a street corner by a stranger, then it must be the hidden solution to world peace. You're telling me you're gonna play that for Putin and he's gonna be mad after?
Does any other hip-hop album from 2019 so far even touch IGOR? Then again, can IGOR even be classified as hip-hop ? Much like I said in my Flower Boy piece, I'm not that well-educated when it comes to music (or anything, really) but I know what sounds good to me. I'm addicted to this album, and with no imminent releases commanding my anticipation, there's little-to-no chance I stop binge-listening anytime soon. I bought a shirt, for fuck's sake, I spent $10 on shipping. I never said I was known for my sound financial decisions.
Tyler Okonma has seemingly become a master storyteller, or is at least approaching such status, as both IGOR and Flower Boy command front-to-back listenings. Once I hear one track from either, it feels as if I'd be committing perjury calling myself a fan if I didn't take the time to listen to the entire thing. I listened to IGOR over and over as I typed this, aside from the conclusion. It only felt fitting to end my day's worth of listening as I wrapped this up. If you have listened, let me know what you thought. If you haven't, what the fuck are you doing? Stop reading this and go fire it up. Load a bowl or stuff a cone, too, it makes it that much better.