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Junk Mail: Tyler, The Creator 'Cherry Bomb' Album Review

by Carolyn Menyes   Apr 16, 2015 16:18 PM EDT

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Welcome to Junk Mail, where a few Music Times staffers email back-and-forth about each week's biggest release throughout the work day. This week, Carolyn Menyes, Kyle Dowling and Caitlin Carter chat about Tyler, The Creator's new album Cherry Bomb. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments section, and check back next week for more.

Carolyn Menyes: Well, this was an abrasive way to start off my Thursday morning. I feel like I know so much and so little about Tyler, The Creator, which I guess is kind of what the Odd Future ringleader wants out of all of us. I've heard things here and there from Tyler, but I can't pretend like I'm way familiar with his discography. So, for Cherry Bomb, I knew to expect loudness, punk influences and some insane raps. OH and lots of gay slurs.

Honestly, the highlight of this album is the opening track/Pharrell tribute "DEATHCAMP" and it really goes down from there. "DEATHCAMP" is pure fire, though.

Caitlin Carter: I'm probably in the same camp as you, Carolyn, as far as my familiarity with Tyler, The Creator and had similar expectations of abrasiveness punk-rap. I have to say, though, that I was pleasantly surprised by this album. As far as production goes, it was very intriguing and sonically diverse.

I heard a lot of Kanye and Pharrell influences, which leads me to believe he is sort of assimilating (albeit in his own way) to those avant-garde-yet-commercial sounds of 2015. Thematically, the album seems to explore Tyler's idea of himself and his impulse to do what he wants. I know in the past, he used a lot of alter-egos to tell his stories, but this one seems to be all him.

"DEATHCAMP" was great. I also liked "PILOT," "The BROWN STAINS OF DARKEESE LATIFAH PART 6-12," "F*CKING YOUNG/PERFECT," and "2SEATER" (especially the skit on it).

I'm trying to figure out if this story is all supposed to be taking place in a movie theater or something because there seems to be references to that in a few tracks.

Kyle, what were your initial thoughts?

Kyle Dowling: I’ll be totally to the point here. This album made me want to do two things: 1) break stuff, and 2) turn it off. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do the latter. Other than the intro song, I really wasn’t a fan at all. Now, I don’t know anything about Tyler, The Creator (other than he may be arrogant judging from the name, but again, I don’t know the origin), so I imagine there’s some things in the album that many were expecting… and probably do like. But as an outsider, someone who went into Cherry Bomb somewhat blind (and yes, perhaps a little apathetic), I can boldly say I probably won’t be going back for more.

Having said all that, yes, “DEATHCAMP” was enjoyable.

CM: Tyler, The Creator LOOOOVES Pharrell, so I think "DEATHCAMP" works out so well because it's basically just an N.E.R.D. song. And we all love N.E.R.D. I feel like Cherry Bomb is a very accurate album title because this album is just sonic assault after sonic assault, and it gets exhausting to listen to after a while. The West influences that you pointed out are there, obviously -- I mean Tyler exclaims "I am a god!" in "CHERRY BOMB," so what he's doing is very purposeful.

But what makes 'Ye a great rapper and Tyler someone who will always sit outside of the mainstream is that West knows when to hold back. "CHERRY BOMB" is unlistenable -- it's too loud and it sounds like my headphones are broken. Ain't nobody got time for that. We've obviously heard this sort of roughness and volume from Tyler before -- it's all over Wolf, but this is just way over-the-top. Tyler could be so much better if he could just hold back sometimes. It's what makes Earl Sweatshirt more of a critical darling, while Tyler is still really divisive.

CC: It must have been the mood I was in this morning, but I didn't find it all that unlistenable. I will agree that the distortion he lathers on the tracks is distracting at times, but I was impressed that all Tyler did all the production himself and these were all his ideas brought to life.

I will say that I think Earl Sweatshirt had the better album, but I wouldn't discredit Tyler because of it. I think he is a very creative person that is trying to develop and mature, and this is a step toward that. I won't excuse his use of homosexual slurs, however. That's just dumb.

KD: I'll have to agree with Carolyn here. I found it uber unlistenable. The amount of distortion thrown on "PILOT" and "CHERRY BOMB" killed me. The album itself left me disinterested. And while I realize that rap music has been known to churn out aggressive lyrics and such over the course of its history, the homosexual slurs on this album were rather surprising to me. And I don't think that's me being too politically correct either.

CM: Nah, the f-word flag flew years ago. I mean, I guess nothing is off the table in rap, but all that does is prove that Tyler, the Creator is still incredibly immature. I mean, I'm almost the exact same age as he is and I don't know anybody who comfortable throws around that term. It's been his thing for a while, but man, why? What point is Tyler making with it? I get he's no, like, Kendrick Lamar lyrically, but there's some sort of in between. You can do self exploratory lyrics without degrading people.

And just because you do the production yourself doesn't automatically make it impressive. It's just overpowering. It's great for Tyler that he was able to make the exact album he wanted to, but that doesn't mean I have to like it or think he did a great job because he tried. Like I said, what makes an abrasive rap LP like Yeezus great and Cherry Bomb only a 4/10 (in my book) is the ability to balance everything out at the end of the day. "CHERRY BOMB" is like a real bomb -- explosive and now I have some ear damage.

CC: I would agree that just because you produce yourself doesn't make it impressive. However, the fact that behind the distortion, the production was pretty diverse despite all being from the head of one guy, I found that impressive. It's definitely not on the same level as Yeezus, but I don't think it's as much of an all-out audo assault as you both seem to for some reason. That said the title track was a little too noisy for my enjoyment and I also wasn't a huge fan of "BLOW MY LOAD."

KD: Cherry Bomb certainly does not compare to Yeezus. Kanye is such a powerhouse, and while he does have that aggressive angle, it's pretty unbeatable. At least, in my opinion. And yeah ... "BLOW MY LOAD" is a very, very terrible song. You know, I really didn't like this album.

Sorry, folks. I think it's great he did the production and all, but it doesn't automatically mean it's going to be good.

CM: Now I feel like I have to defend this album! Haha.

Caitlin, you seem like maybe the one of us who likes this album the most? And I know more so than Kyle and I, you're a hip-hop fan. You mentioned a handful of tracks that you enjoyed, so I guess I decided to go back and revisit those tracks. Initially, I thought that "DEATHCAMP" was the only redeeming track on this album for me, but I'll agree that "PILOT" is really solid, too. It definitely carries that N.E.R.D. influence, and that's something that Tyler executes well. I think if he had maintained those vibes throughout this album that Cherry Bomb could have been a lot better. Everything else sounds a little too assaulting.

You also mentioned liking the skits... what about those appealed to you? I'm not a huge fan of skits in general, though I understand it's a ~thing~ in hip-hop. They always just disrupt my flow, and that definitely happened here again. Cherry Bomb is at least cohesive even if it was noisy, but those took me out of it.

CC: There are definitely a few camps when it comes to skits in hip-hop. For me, I like skits when they work. It paints a picture for me and helps me get into the mind of the song's creator (no pun intended). I liked how on "2SEATER" it shows what Tyler might deal with pretty often as a famous-ish person. People are nice to his face to get what they want but have no problems badmouthing him behind his back.

I think the underlying problem with Cherry Bomb is that Tyler was trying too hard to be rebellious and stick it in your face. I'll continue to argue that the production on this album is quite good, it's just the mixing of that production and vocals that are problematic because his message sort of gets lost in the noise. I think his die-hard fans will take the time to cull through those lyrics and find the deeper meaning, but for casual listeners, it'll be hard to grasp and enjoy -- which could mean a missed opportunity for Tyler in the mainstream.

KD: Skits in rap albums have always just sat as jarring to me. But thankfully Caitlin's here to explain it all. And I really do mean that, because I never understood why they're thrown in there. Perhaps I should start paying more attention to them, because I honestly usually skip over them and move on to the next song. I will say, however, the explanation that people are nice to him only to get what they want, I think that's pretty typical of people in general - famous or not. #PeopleSuck.

Anyway, for me, Cherry Bomb is just noise.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 

CC: Cherry Bomb is an ambitious record that fails to connect because of the gratuitous distortion and vocal mixing. The underlying production and storytelling, however, is pretty solid. Although I'm okay with Tyler's desire to be immature, I'm not okay with him continuing to use the f-word slur. I think this is an album full of material for his die-hard fans to dig into, but for me personally, I'll probably only return to a few tracks.  

CM: Cherry Bomb is a very appropriately titled album. It's loud, chaotic, messy and everything Tyler, The Creator wanted at the end of the day. I think he has real potential to be a big rapper -- his N.E.R.D. inspired tracks are a testament to that. But, for the most part, I think he gets in his own ambitious way too much. 

KD: Cherry Bomb was not for me. To list a couple of dumb puns: It's a bomb. I wish he never Ty, The Created this album. Anyway, aside from the first track, I wasn't a fan. It's aggressive, but not in a cool way (if that's a thing). I can't say I'll go back for another listen, even to the track I kind of liked.  

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