Looking back, I think this review was one of the reasons I stopped posting for so long. It was one of the most challenging I've ever had to write, as there was a period initially where I was more divided than I think I've ever been on an album. I ended up forming a stronger opinion, and giving it a recommendation, but writing this was still an obstacle that I wasn't able to overcome. After ignoring my initial draft for months, I've gone back and edited it with a clearer mind, and I'm now posting it. Hopefully there’s still someone out there who is interested in my opinion of this one.
Tyler, The Creator- Goblin (3/4)
The first time I listened to Goblin, the second solo album and first paid release from Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator, I had honestly no idea what to think of it. I had heard Bastard, Tyler’s near cult-classic of a first album, and had a pretty similar reaction- a mix of intrigue, awe, and distaste.
Goblin picks up right where Bastard’s story left off, with Tyler in a therapy session. The dialogue between Tyler and his therapist was used interestingly on Bastard, but Goblin greatly expands on the concept. There is some real depth to the conversations, and even throughout the ridiculously over-the-top lyrics about rape, murder, and the occult that soon follow, Tyler shows himself as a relatable human being right from the start. The setting of the therapy session is never abandoned, and it’s interesting to hear Dr. TC or one of Tyler’s many alter-egos argue with him throughout the album. It’s clear that Eminem is an influence, and not since his early material has this sort of multiple personality rap worked so well.
There is also a defined narrative here, and many of Tyler’s fellow Odd Future members appear. Other than Hodgy Beats on “Sandwitches” and Frank Ocean on “She,” however, none the guest spots add much past advancing the story. This is especially true for a good 15 minute stretch towards the end of the album, where the listener is treated to such tracks as “Boppin’ Bitch” and “Bitch Suck Dick.” These tracks are intentionally bad, as evidenced by the inclusion of non-musical Odd Future members Taco Bennett and Jasper Dolphin (seriously), but that doesn’t make up for them being, you know, bad. Goblin is a fairly lengthy album, and even though it ends perfectly with “Golden,” a heated back-and-forth between Tyler and his therapist, I suspect that listeners who are not obliged to finish the album may simply turn it off part way through. That’s unfortunate, because for all of its flaws, there really is a great album here, or a at least part of one. Much of Goblin’s first half is downright brilliant, merging hardcore flow and lyrics with unique borderline drone beats, and the aforementioned humanity often lacking from hardcore rap albums.
“Yonkers” may be the song that everyone has heard, but there’s more her than just that track, and honestly its quality is worth noting. Very rarely does a hip-hop single with such a unique beat become big, and just as rarely does one with strong lyrics become a hit as well. “Yonkers” has both, and they come together to form what is truly one of the best songs of 2011. Again though, that’s no the only gem here. “Nightmare,” a personal reflection of what’s changed in Tyler’s life since his last record, is far more powerful and shocking than any of the “shock value” tracks, and even the pure shock values tracks have some merit. “Tron Cat” revels in its immaturity, but it’s entertaining throughout, and fits surprisingly well in the middle of what could be described as a very personal album. The way that Tyler merges the shock value with more personal moments is actually pretty incredible, and again, a skill that made the hip-hop world embrace Eminem just over a decade ago.
Hype has nothing to do with how an album turns out, and it’s irrelevant whether Tyler or Odd Future lives up to their hype. The fact of the matter is that they’ve become huge doing things their way, and I have to respect that. What matters here, though, is the quality of the music. Goblin is certainly not for everyone, in part because it’s so different from what else is out there, but also because it’s hard to stomach some of its readily apparently flaws. It’s hard to say whether the good and bad of Goblin outweigh each other, but it’s certainly something I feel like should be given a fair chance. There are moments of pure brilliance and creativity here, and I encourage any open minded hip-hop fan to give it a serious listen. I can’t promise that you’ll like it, but I doubt you’ll ever hear anything quite like it.