On his third official album, Cherry Bomb, Tyler The Creator branches out musically and hones his talent for using the most offensive language possible to explore bigger ideas or mirror specific emotions. This is not an angry kid maturing by finding metaphors that aren’t obviously constructed to piss people off. Cherry Bomb is Tyler The Creator broadening his sound to better match his abrasive style.
The diverse and sometimes chaotic mix of sounds better suits Tyler’s ‘provocateur that can open up when he wants to’ persona than the more sonically consistent offerings from earlier in his career like Bastard and Goblin. The Tyler The Creator is more than a shock rapper argument used to rely on forcing people to look past grimy production and visceral beats that emphasized words edited out of radio versions. Those early albums have such a strong a sense of cohesion between words and music that the overall affect convinced many (stupid) people to take Tyler literally, while others pigeonholed him as a ‘dirty beats and dirty words’ guy. Cherry Bomb is a shift from music that fits the words to crafting beats around a song’s overall mood. For example, “F***g Young/Perfect” is a song about big age differences in a relationship. Old Tyler would make some uncomfortable but creative plays on pedophile, a few pop culture references, and probably wouldn’t go over 6 minutes. Not here. This one opens with an r and b verse repeating “girl you’re perfect but you’re so f***g young”. The singing is so good if you don’t speak English it could pass as Boys II Men. This is Tyler’s Cruising With Reuben And The Jets moment where he takes on the musical style associated with the immaturity he’s addressing. Later in the song a beat kicks in and some trademark r rated wit comes through with lines like, “my dick is longer than my attention span”. Cherry Bomb wouldn’t get called diverse for just exploring r and b. Broody jazzy sounds reminiscent of Badbadnotgood show up on “Find Your Wings” while dubstep synths sneak into “The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah part 6-12 remix”. The mix of styles makes listening to Cherry Bomb feel like a conversation with a volatile, idiosyncratic, and compelling person or Tyler The Creator.
Tyler had help achieving Cherry Bomb’s broader musical scope. Pharrell was involved in production and guests on twitchy futuristic sounding “Keep Da Os”. Kanye West and Lil Wayne appear on “Smuckers” proving Tyler can hang with the heavyweights. School Boy Q and Toro y Moi appear on “Run” and The Black Lips’ Cole Alexander definitely helped with “Death Camp” though you can hear his fuzzy punk sound on “Pilot”, most of “2Seater”, and the title track. All the collaborations are uncredited, giving the sense that Cherry Bomb is Tyler’s vision and these guys just helped him get there.
Tyler The Creator certainly isn’t for everyone. He’s an abrasive mix of Bray Wyatt, 80s Eddie Murphy, and Johnny Rotten. Darkly theatrical, gifted with curse words, and shit disturber showing off his intelligence through music that makes people angry while keeping his true intentions hidden. Cherry Bomb might be his most accessible album. It frequently shifts between musical styles with only Tyler’s singular world view keeping it together. Longtime Odd Future Fans will see it as a natural progression while the musical variety means most people will like some songs and skip others.