“Find Your Wings” is the mantra and overall theme of Tyler the Creator’s third official album, Cherry Bomb. This simple quote encapsulates the entire body of work that Tyler and his Odd Future cohorts have produced up to this point in their respective careers. The obvious question to ask next is where does Tyler go with his music, his themes and his audience? Does he continue to latch onto the shock value raps that helped him gain his current level of fame or will he choose to create a record that shows signs of progress?.
On Twitter, Tyler stated that Cherry Bomb had taken two years to produce and that it was the first album he had actually focused on with great detail. The album opens with “Deathcamp,” a track that condemns the celebrity life that Tyler now inhabits. A jarring guitar sample is looped throughout the track with a crisp chord progression and towards the end of the track, Tyler raps, “Now your face is meltin’, from the flash of the big ol’ light/ Nigg* you asked for this life.”
While Tyler’s previous works have been influenced by depression, teenage angst and a rebellious attitude, Cherry Bomb is noticeably positive. It shows growth from an artist who had the opportunity to squander his ability on the same storytelling tropes long ago.
The record has a blend of the vigorous and hostile songs that you would expect on a Tyler the Creator record, but it also features a handful of wonderfully produced, rich and mellow neo-soul tracks. After the album was released, Tyler tweeted again, “I make songs exactly about my life now unfortunately… and I’m not depressed so you won’t be hearing no sad shit from me at all. Smile baby.”
Tyler the Creator’s persona runs parallel to the music he produces. Sometimes the tracks are abrasive and annoying and other times, we get hints of an extraordinarily talented producer and artist. The first single of this record, “Fucking Young,” is an RnB and soul inspired track about engaging in an underage relationship. Tyler manages to beautifully sculpt together a track that has expectedly offensive content, but is paired together with lush piano chords and bright synths that guides you through a song that you couldn’t imagine any other artist creating.
At times, the album feels like a jumble of confusion. Tracks such as “Cherry Bomb,” “Pilot,” and “Keep Da O’s” are chaotic and Tyler’s vocals are mixed so low sometimes that it’s hard to comprehend what he’s saying. This could have been a complete failure on Tyler’s part, but part of his appeal as an artist is his unlimited source of ideas. Tyler doesn’t want these ideas to be filtered and watered down. He simply presents what he’s created and he doesn’t give a fuck if the listener embraces those ideas. This ties back into the theme of the album; Tyler juxtaposes the idea of flying with following one’s dreams. “Find your wings/ Hey you, watcha doin’ and why you runnin’/ Supposed to fly and take control cause you’re the pilot.”
“Find Your Wings” is Tyler telling his listeners to find a passion and fully dedicate themselves to the idea they love, say “fuck the rules,” and take control of their lives.
It is so easy to ignore Tyler the Creator and label him as a crude and offensive rapper, but he truly manages to grow on this album, which makes all the confusion and chaos on some unfavorable tracks so worthwhile. When he produces a batch of songs like, “Smuckers,” “2Seater,” and “Fucking Young,” you just have to applaud his efforts and accept Tyler the Creator as a young artist still figuring out a way to best present all his ideas on a record.