Tyler, The Creator – ‘Cherry Bomb’

The Odd Future leader mixes Satanic gurgles with smooth G-funk on tightest album yet

“I’m rapping about diamonds and cars and money now”, mutters Tyler, The Creator on ‘Keep Da O’s’. “What the fuck has gotten into me, man?” Five years in, it’s probably about time that Los Angeles enfants terrible Odd Future started getting a little soft around the middle. In fact, though, this is just more Tyler self-deprecation. Packed with guests including Kanye, Lil Wayne, and Pharrell, but clocking in at a brief – by his standards, anyway – 55 minutes, ‘Cherry Bomb’ might be the tightest, leanest Tyler album yet.

In part, it’s because Tyler sounds pretty chill. His past albums have been weighed down by gloomy self-analysis, but here he sounds upbeat and free to experiment, smushing together silky jazz, slasher flick synths and NERD-style party rap and rhyming over the results in a Satanic gurgle that jumps around like the line on an ECG machine. More than any rapper out there, he’s learned from Eminem, unleashing a rabbity double time on ‘Run’ or threatening “I do bring a terror like I hate America” on the aeronautical allegory of ‘Pilot’. The darkest moments are often mirrored by audacious production twists – on the bizarre title-track, his voice is almost submerged under flares of static – but just as often you’ll find him kicking back to chill G-funk on ‘Blow My Load’, or getting smoove with rare groove king Roy Ayers on ‘Find Your Wings’.

It’s a mark of Tyler’s good form that he can stand next to Kanye dropping some very Kanye lines (“I wanna turn the tanks to playgrounds!”) and still come out sounding like top dog. The track in question, ‘Smuckers’, is one of ‘Cherry Bomb’’s best, but also vying for the crown is slow jam ‘Fucking Young/Perfect’, which finds Tyler falling for a girl six years his junior. Virginia soul diva Kali Uchis plays the Lolita who’s only got eyes for him, while Tyler sweats and squirms and eventually runs the other way. It’s a very Tyler moment: at first borderline immoral, it turns out to be a morality tale, and after a wrestle with his conscience, our (anti)hero does the right thing. Gone soft? Maybe a little, but ‘Cherry Bomb’ proves there’s life in Odd Future yet.