“Can we add some more colour, like, some more yellow?” ponders Tyler the Creator, before embarking on a tale of obsessive love called IFHY, which is uncomfortably dark. Such is the paradoxical way of Wolf, Tyler’s much-anticipated, frequently delayed third album. The Californian rapper/producer, mastermind behind the achingly hot Odd Future collective, had initially proposed a lighter, more instrumental style than on his lyrically controversial previous records and there are regular outbreaks of sunshine across these 18 tracks. Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, the US soul-pop superstars Erykah Badu and Pharrell Williams, and Odd Future’s increasingly high-profile singer Frank Ocean all provide welcome bursts of vocal harmony – a line-up that also suggests how widely his production talents are revered. And yet, Wolf largely remains a platform for Tyler’s gravel-voiced rants. Occasionally these prove insightful, particularly the familial strife of Answer, while Rusty knowingly lampoons those who have criticised his lyrics (“he hates women, but loves kittens”). The naysayers have a point, though, as the lazily foul-mouthed invective here is frequently reminiscent of an attention-seeking teenager. And nobody wants to hear that.
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