Behind the Record: "Igor" by Tyler, The Creator - Slay Sonics

Behind the Record: “Igor” by Tyler, The Creator


Igor is an odd name that normally makes you think of Frankenstein’s assistant. But these days, Igor is the name of the latest hit album from hip- hop renaissance man Tyler, the Creator, and it tells a very ambitious story of a love triangle.

Critics are hailing Igor as Tyler’s best album yet, and in a remarkable era for great new hip-hop music, he has thrown down the gauntlet with a great new piece of work.

In their coverage of the album, Forbes writes that Igor “is something many have lived through. You fall for someone. They reciprocate but refuse to go all-in. So you exist in limbo, waiting on them to bring you to heaven or send you to hell. Consumed by the lack of closure, you wallow, you hurt, you rage. But. Eventually. You come to your senses and move on.”

The Story of Tyler the Creator

Tyler, the Creator first broke through as an artist in 2007, and he was part of what Entertainment Weekly called a “group of misfits” that went under the name Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. The Odd Future Group was what’s known as a “rap collective” of artists, and this group of talented hip-hop artists “was one of the first birthed by the internet.”

Out of this collective came The Odd Future Tape in November 2008, and like a lot of hip-hop artists these days, the tunes and albums came fast and furious. In fact, 12-full length albums came out into the world by 2011.

Notable releases from Tyler include Bastard, Goblin, Wolf, Cherry Bomb, Flower Boy, all the way up to today’s Igor, which he promised was a much different album than you’d previously expect. On Twitter he wrote, “This is not Bastard. This is not Goblin. This is not Wolf…Don’t go into this expecting a rap album. Don’t go into this expecting any album. Just go. Jump into it. I believe the first listen works best all the way through. No skips.”

In other words, Igor is an album that Tyler recommends that the listener dive into in its entirety. It’s an album, a whole piece of work, not a grouping of singles. As he told Fast Company, “My core is to explore. That curiosity, people lose that, because they think they know everything.”

The Story of Igor

Igor is Tyler the Creator’s fifth album, and it dropped this May. It was the first new release from Tyler the Creator since Flower Boy, which was released in 2017. Hip-hop albums usually have all-star guests, and Igor is no exception because it includes appearances from Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vest, Solange, Kanye, Jerrod Carmichael, Santigold, Jessy Wilson, La Roix, CeeLo Green, Charlie Wilson, and Pharrell. Yet this was what’s being described as a “hidden guest list” for the album.

Igor is Tyler’s first number one album in the US, and he sold 165,000 equivalent album sales the first week. (Don’t forget, it’s a much different music industry these days, and you chart equivalent sales in an era where we don’t have much physical media anymore.)

Like a lot of new recordings from hip-hop artists these days, Igor dropped in the world without much notice in advance, and as one music critic told Billboard, “I think the lack of build-up actually helped Tyler here.”

As Tyler told Complex, “I hate people who hype shit for months in. I think now people feel obligated to always let everyone know what the fuck they’re doing, and I hate that. People don’t even have privacy. Everyone got to always like, ‘Oh, this is what I’m working on, this is who’s on the album, this is the track list, this is coming out in eight months.’ Just shut the fuck up and put it out when it’s ready.”

Tyler started bringing Igor together in 2017. He wrote the album’s hit single Earfquake, and offered it to Justin Bieber and Rihanna. Neither of them wanted it, so he kept it for himself. Earfquake debuted at number 13 on the Billboard chart, and it was his biggest debut on the Hot 100 for singles.

Tyler the Creator also announced that he will be touring for Igor, hitting the road with Jaden Smith, GoldLink and Blood Orange.

Igor is what’s known as a concept album, which means that the songs revolve around one story, instead of each song telling its own separate story.

“Igor is all focused and cohesive, because it’s coming from one mind, and it’s a time in the way I’m approaching stuff,” Tyler adds. “Now some may say number nine don’t sound like number five, but that’s because they look surface-level at what’s the through line and thread and aren’t looking at it from a different angle. But it was all pretty much easy to really just move forward [with] everything.”

Igor Notices

Like Flying Lotus with Flamagra, it seems that Tyler, the Creator is indeed coming into a new phase as a hip-hop artist. Entertainment Weekly wrote that Igor “displays Tyler at his best, brightest, and oddest. After various solo ventures over the last decade, Tyler’s world-building talents finally achieve a balance between his optimistic outlook and cynical tendencies, his playful boasts and lovelorn confessionals.”

Billboard felt that with Igor, “Tyler, the Creator realizes his true potential on [this] messy but gorgeous new album…How many teenagers with global hype are given the chance to grow? There are too many variables in the music industry, too many constantly shifting tides for patience to dictate decision-making. And yet, here’s Tyler, having survived ten years of tumultuous record releases, country-wide ban lists, and middle-America protest, creating the best music of his life.”

And The Highlander calls Igor Tyler, the Creator’s “best album yet as he makes strides towards the artist he’s always wanted to be. It is a fun, experimental album that allows the listener to get a feel for Tyler’s relationship woes while simultaneously being able to experience the intricacies of his musical mind.”