Why IGOR is Tyler, the creator’s magnum opus

This piece will be different from my usual movie to life juxtaposition pieces that I usually do. Instead of a movie, or a short film like I did with Okmalumkoolkats “Amalobolo” short film, this piece will be based on a rap album if you may. This piece will seek to uncover why I think Tyler, the creator’s “IGOR” is such an iconic, relatable, and Grammy-winning album.

The first thing I want to clarify is that I am not a Tyler, the creator stan, nor do I claim to be an expert on his discography. However, I do remember the murmurs around the circles I was associated with about collectives like Pro Era, Od Future, Flat Bush Zombies, Asap Mob, etc. during their early days. To be completely honest, the only group that resonated with me during those days was Pro Era because of the nostalgic early 90’s hip hop sound and aesthetic the group adopted. Not to say that I never gave other groups a chance, in fact, I even became a fan of some individual members of those respective collectives.

When it comes to Tyler, the creator I always respected and have been a fan of his work ethic, his brand, his festival, and especially his style ( I still believe YG and Tyler, the creator are the most well-dressed rappers in America, don’t @ me). However, even though I had all this admiration and respect for Tyler and his accomplishments, it has always been hard for me to listen to his music. Tyler’s music is an acquired taste, he challenges the listener. I have attempted on numerous occasions to listen to his music so I can fit in with the cool crowds, but it never clicked. It’s not that his music was bad, on the contrary, his music is amazing, its just that at the time I had not developed a taste for his sound, YET.

This phenomenon seems to be a trend with me when it comes to accepting or appreciating unorthodox, or plain good music for that matter. Just to demonstrate a few examples for context, it took me over six months to finally appreciate and love Kendrick Lamar’s GKMC album. Around 2010 everyone in the hip hop streets was talking about Kendrick and how he was going to be the next big thing. I listened to a few of his songs and it was the hardest thing to do for me, I just did not get it. Even when GKMC dropped I did not get it. I liked songs like “The Recipe”, “Money Trees” and “Swimming pools” because they were radio-friendly and easy to listen to. It took me over six months to finally get it, to get that “Oh shit this is a masterpiece!” moment. Today I consider Kendrick’s GKMC one of my top three greatest rap albums of all time and I consider Kendrick the greatest rapper of our generation. Essentially this is how it was, and still is when it comes to highly recommended and sought-after albums and artists, especially those considered culturally significant and iconic within the hip hop and rap community. I had similar journeys with albums like Blu & Exile’s “Below the Heavens”, J Cole’s “Born Sinner” and Nas’ Illmatic just to name a few. These are all albums and artists I struggled to listen to at first yet today I find myself not being able to go a week without having listened to one or more of these albums.

good kid, m.A.A.d city
Studio album by Kendrick Lamar

Then there are albums that are just as culturally significant or highly sought after that I can love and appreciate from the first listen. These are albums like Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” ( which I still have the original CD for, so contact me if you can make a good offer), EMINEM’s “The Eminem Show” ( which is one of the best-selling albums of all time and the second-best-selling album of the 21st century ) and Lupe Fiasco’s “Tetsuo & Youth” just to name a few. It seems this effect has something to do with your maturity as a listener, your taste in music and I guess things happening in your life when the album is released. Tyler, the creator, and Skepta both released their albums in May of 2019. I fell in love with both albums from the first listen. Hardcore fans of both these artists may say that these artists have created better albums than “IGOR” and “Ignorance Is Bliss” respectively. Trust me, I am aware of the cultural significance of both artists, and to some degree, I am ashamed of myself for not being a fan of their music sooner. I will admit trying to give “Flower boy” a chance when it came out, and I just could not finish it. But now having listened to it after I fell in love with IGOR, I feel ashamed of myself because that album is an amazing work of art. The same goes for Skepta’s “Konnichiwa” and his “Vicious” EP. This is what makes music so amazing, it is a timeless journey of discovery, wonder, and awe. It is appreciating the little things, the different sounds, effects, moods, and touches that an artist ad to his craft to reflect their mindset at that period. This also reflects on our open-mindedness as music consumers and our abilities to appreciate good music when the time is right.

Flower Boy
Studio album by Tyler, the Creator

Danny Brown’s “U Know What I am Sayin?”, YBN Cordae’s “The lost boy”, and Young Thugs “So much fun” are amongst my favorite albums that dropped in 2019. Unlike Skepta and Tyler, I have always appreciated and been a fan of Young Thug and Danny Brown’s music. So, what is it the “IT” factor that made “Ignorance is bliss” and “IGOR” so special? For me personally, I would say relatability and gravitas. Both albums came out around the same time and were touching on topics which I could relate to at the time. I found solitude, healing, and solace in both albums, and as time passed “IGOR” became the more prominent of the two as far as listening experiences went. I went into them with the mindset of seeing whether I could finally listen to these artists. I was blown away and now I find myself looking to their older projects to extend my knowledge and appreciation for their music.

Ignorance Is Bliss
Studio album by Skepta

When I look at IGOR as a project it is difficult to deny its blatant genius. There is some day one Tyler fans who might feel that he has better projects and I agree, but to downplay the genius in IGOR is a big mistake. IGOR was such an amazing album that it won Tyler his first Grammy. It may be hard to believe but I remember when the nominees for best Hip Hop album were announced, I knew it was going to be between “IGOR” and YBN Cordae’s “The lost boy” which to me was an instant classic. Between the two I also knew that IGOR would win because “IGOR” was more impactful. The album is an indication of Tyler’s growth and maturity as an artist, the album is different, yet still maintains that raw Tyler essence. IGOR is more than just a rap album, and quite frankly I would not even classify IGOR as rap, it is an experience, a journey, a dystopia of IGOR’s toxic love triangle.

The Lost Boy
Studio album by Cordae

IGOR is an alter-ego created by Tyler, which is not new to Tyler. Tyler has created alter egos for all his previous albums to help express his mindset at that period through fictional therapy. IGOR was created to talk about Tyler’s most vulnerable side, his love life. IGOR is a story of toxic infatuation, not love or a crush, but rather the gross hooks that sink the way into our brain when we feel we need someone. Even if it is illogical or bringing our own demise like a drug.

IGOR

IGOR follows a three-act story structure with protagonists, side characters, reoccurring musical motives and so much more. The album kicks off with “IGOR’S THEME”, which retrospectively sets the tone for the rest of the album. IGOR’s theme has a deep gravely sound, illustrating a man who is swept away with feelings. IGOR’s them is a Segway into “EARFQAKE”, a song about being so shaken to the core about another person that they make your world shake. In “I THINK” IGOR confirms his feelings for the person he was talking about in “EARFQAKE”. These feelings are for real, emblematic of the feelings one might have when they can’t help but think that the feelings they feel towards a new person are larger than any love or crush that they’ve had before. “EXACTLY WHAT YOU RUN FROM YOU END UP CHASING” is an interlude presented in the format of a poem, this is IGOR convincing himself that his feelings are correct and worth exploring.

“RUNNING OUT OF TIME” sees IGOR feeling that he only has a certain window of time to convince the person who he is crazy about that they are the one for him. IGOR does not want to be forgotten or friend-zoned, he must have this person to be complete. After a short history together and possibly some toxic behavior from IGOR’s clearly intense and volatile behavior he pleads “Don’t leave, it’s my fault”, accepting that it’s his fault but not accepting that the relationship should be over. IGOR plays the card of a desperate lover, for the sake of preserving the relationship. This begs the question, is IGOR trying to gaslight his lover into staying, or is he gaslighting himself to stay with an abuser who is trying to leave him for his own embitterment.

In “NEW MAGIC WAND” IGOR continuously pleads “Please don’t leave” because he is not ready to let go yet. In “A BOY IS A GUN*” he pleads “Do not shoot me down”, which is the first time IGOR shows signs of self-awareness. He realizes that this person can shoot him down, romantically, mentally, and emotionally. In “Puppet” IGOR is passed admitting blame and is now willing to put his soul on the line. He proclaims whatever his partner needs he can make it happen, he is willing to sacrifice his dignity or life if needed. This highlights how toxic and unhealthy the situation has become. “WHAT’S GOOD” is probably the most “Hip Hop” song on the entire album. The track symbolizes the psychological change that IGOR is undergoing, he is no longer under his lover’s spell. Or at least that is what IGOR seems to convince himself.

In “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” IGOR sings “My love is gone”, a sad fact said with artificial joy. It’s like forcing a smile on your face and hoping it will turn into a real one. IGOR reconciles that the person was not the one, he thanks the partner for the joy and love they allowed him to feel. In “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” IGOR looks himself in the mirror and admits to the damage he has done and villainizes the lover and tells them he does not love them anymore. “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” shows IGOR’s volatile and toxic nature in where he asks his lover “can we still be friends”. This is something an ex would do with the subconscious hope that it will lead to something more again sometime in the future.

IGOR is a story about falling in love or at least being infatuated with someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you but for some reason entertains your feelings until they get bored of you. Eventually, you step out of your superficial bubble and realize that it’s not working, that you’re stuck in a non-healthy situation, but still trying to make it work even though the other person has clearly moved on. Then you eventually convince yourself you’ve moved and made peace with the fact that it’s over but deep inside you know it’s on the contrary. To some extent, we can all relate to IGOR’s toxic and unhealthy behavior throughout the relationship and its demise or have experienced this toxicity. Tyler made a story, a beautiful, although toxic, nonetheless a beautiful story in the form of a raw and lush album. What takes center stage in this album is the music, the feeling, and the experience, and not the artists featured or the lyrics. This is why IGOR to me is Tyler’s magnum opus.

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