After the career turnaround that was Flower Boy; the launch of a successful clothing line; a thriving Converse collaboration; and the Grammy-winning Igor, Tyler, The Creator has made it to the top of an industry that previously wrote him off as nothing more than a problematic child.
Few artists’ careers have been as impactful or evolved as much as Tyler, The Creator’s over the last decade. The Odd Future founder’s career began in 2009 with the release of his mixtape Bastard, a strong showing of Tyler’s production and lyrical talents, but a controversial and divisive mixtape due to its use of homophobic slurs. Tyler’s career would see a series of peaks and troughs over the next several years, one trough being the release of the critically-panned Cherrybomb. The poor reception of Cherrybomb prompted Tyler to refocus his artistic efforts on a more mature project, Flower Boy. 2017’s Flower Boy was well received for the newfound maturity Tyler demonstrated on the production, lyrically, and thematically. While Flower Boy had a compelling theme of coming out across most of the tracks, Tyler’s follow-up, Igor was a well-crafted concept album hailed for its narrative about a messy breakup and subsequent love triangle. This recent streak of success with strong narrative and concept-heavy records gave Tyler fans reason to expect a third entry in this new “conceptual” era of Tyler’s discography. Instead, Tyler decided to return to his roots with the mixtape-esque Call Me If You Get Lost, a record full of tight production, full circle career moments, and over the top braggadocio.
Bragging is a fundamental part of hip-hop culture. Flexing about fast cars, wealth, and promiscuity has always been prevalent in rap. However, not all bragging in hip-hop is earned. Rappers often exaggerate their success for the sake of fitting into the culture. In the case of Call Me If You Get Lost, Tyler can be heard flaunting his success more than ever before because, for the most part, he’s earned it. Across this project, we hear mentions of Tyler’s clothing line, shoe line, numerous Rolls Royces, new chains, lavish trips to Europe, and his shiny new Grammy for Best Rap Album.
In 2010, Tyler tweeted out that one day he wanted to make a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. With his newfound clout, Tyler called upon influence, legendary DJ, and hype man, DJ Drama. Drama can be heard shouting out his classic taglines from his Gangsta Grillz mixtape series as well as some ad-libs about Tyler and his success on nearly every track. Call Me If You Get Lost is a stylish victory lap organized like an early 2000s Gangsta Grillz mixtape. However, do not let the presentation and boasting distract from the quality production, underlying themes, and narratives sprinkled throughout Call Me If You Get Lost. In many ways, this most recent record is one of Tyler’s most personal.
Call Me If You Get Lost opens with the track “Sir Baudelaire,” titled after Tyler’s persona for this album, Tyler Baudelaire: a heartbroken globetrotter living a life of excess. With a laid-back, intoxicating beat, Tyler and DJ Drama set the tone for the record. As DJ Drama hypes up the LP with his various ad-libs, Tyler paints a clear picture of the luxurious life he’s living where his Rolls Royce is covered in cookie crumbs and his “passport [is] lookin’ thick.” On subsequent highlight “Corso,” Tyler bursts onto the scene with chunky drums and a buzzing baseline bragging about how glamorous his life is now that he’s on top of the industry. On “Corso,” the listener can catch the first mention on the album of a failed affair and love triangle that has left Tyler Baudelaire heartbroken. While not as essential to the narrative of Call Me If You Get Lost as the love triangle on Igor was to its narrative, Tyler’s continued pursuit of his star-crossed lover adds an element of tragedy to Tyler’s gloating. At this point in his life, Tyler can have whatever he wants whenever, but the one thing he can’t have is the person he loves. “Lemonhead,” featuring Detroit rapper and 2021 XXL Freshman, 42 Dugg, echoes a banger from Tyler’s Wolf or Goblin, but realized in Tyler’s new production style, with its horror movie-esque horns and rattling trap beats. “Wusyaname” is a throwback to a classic 90s R&B track with its velvety production. On this track, Tyler manages to bring the best out of YoungBoy Never Broke Again, making for one of the most heartfelt and impactful performances on the record.
The lead single “Lumberjack” features a couple of full-circle moments for Tyler’s career. At an early point in his career, Tyler had tweeted that he was confused why people kept comparing him to a hip-hop group named Grave Diggas, citing that he had no idea who they were. On “Lumberjack” the drums featured are a sample from Grave Diggas’ “2 Cups of Blood,” a representation of Tyler’s growing knowledge of the genre. On this track, Tyler also thanks his mother and his father “who didn’t pull out” for giving him life, being the first time Tyler has ever thanked his father for anything, even sarcastically. On albums in his early career, Tyler’s lyrics focussed heavily on the fact that his father was never present and had abandoned his family when he was a child. Many of his lyrics were fueled by anger directed at his father, but now that Tyler is at the top of the industry, he seems to be no longer allowing it to bother him as much.
Call Me If You Get Lost maintains its momentum through the midway point with a handful of highlights. “Hot Wind Blows'' features a luxurious and lush flute and a vocal sample from Penny Goodwin’s tropically influenced “Slow Hot Wind.” The track also features Lil Wayne in top form as he comes through with some of his most sharp bars in recent memory. On “Massa,” Tyler comes through with one of his most self-reflective tracks. With a low-key drumline and spacious synth chords, Tyler addresses his immature behavior as a young adult, how his mother was in a shelter before he “made it,” and how the shift in his music taste and maturity was responsible for the “shifty” sounds of Cherrybomb. “Runitup,” is an uplifting, celebratory track that would be wholly underwhelming if not for the invigorating hook and laid-back Teezo Touchdown feature. On “Manifesto,” we hear Tyler reuniting with Odd Future member Domo Genesis, further reinforcing that Call Me If You Get Lost is meant to be a call back to Tyler’s earlier mixtapes. The track has one of the most exhilarating instrumentals with a haunting vocal sample lifted from Nas’s “Nazareth Savage,” and sees Tyler commenting on how he feels about various social issues he is connected to like black lives matter and hate speech. On the same track, Tyler also owns up to his past controversial behavior in light of his newfound maturity.
On every Tyler record since 2013’s Wolf, the tenth track on each Tyler, The Creator album is a multiple-part track where Tyler groups at least two songs together that have some thematic or instrumental overlap. Call Me If You Get Lost’s tenth track, “Sweet / I Thought You Wanted To Dance” is not just one of Tyler’s best tenth tracks, but is also one of Tyler’s most well-composed songs. This nearly ten-minute-long goliath of a track opens with a saccharine R&B slow jam featuring guest vocals from Brent Faiyaz who collaborated with Tyler earlier this year on the track “Gravity.” Around the halfway mark of the track, the production switches to a breezy bossa nova instrumental where Tyler harmonizes with himself as well as featured artist Fana Hues, whose silky vocals lend themselves well to Tyler’s pitched-up vocals. Both Hues and Tyler have verses on this half of the track where they each break down how the characters they are playing in the aforementioned love triangle are currently feeling. Both characters conclude that they “wish [they] had better timing, [but that they] will save a dance for [each other],” which makes for one of the more emotional moments on the record.
Transitioning into the final leg of the record, listeners can hear an interlude featuring Tyler’s protective mother on the track “Momma Talk.” Long-time Tyler fans will be charmed by how similar her cadence, mannerisms, and behavior are to Tyler. It is evident that Tyler takes after his mother. The interlude leads into the track “Rise!,” which is another track where Tyler is bragging and talking to his nay-sayers, letting them know that he’s always going to “rise to the top.” The Daisy World feature on the track makes for a nice uplifting addition to what would otherwise be a straightforward cut about Tyler’s success. Tyler’s self-love continues onto the interlude “Blessed” where Tyler brags about all the wonderful things going on in his successful life now that he is well established both in the music industry and the fashion world. Behind all the bragging Tyler encourages his listeners to “come get lost with [him],” one of a handful of subtle moments on the album where Tyler seems to be indicating to his fans that he wants to see them succeed and do what they love as much as he does. “Juggernaut” is a show-stopping banger with a cold-blooded intro that switches to a grimy bass-driven instrumental with some siren and sci-fi backing sound effects. Once again Tyler brings the best out of his features with top form appearances from both Igor collaborator Lil Uzi Vert and cited influence Pharell Williams who come through with numerous clever one-liners. Subsequent track “Wilshire” is the second-longest track on the record and sees Tyler explaining, in almost excruciating detail, the love triangle Tyler Baudelaire has found himself in as a homewrecker. On “Wilshire,” Tyler raps over a monotonous beat with a slightly off mix. The track has some strange vinyl static in the background that distracts from the well-constructed story Tyler is telling and the otherwise quality instrumental. Closing anthem “Safari” features production from Jay Versace and some triumphant and chopped-up horn samples. On this cut, there are more DJ Drama ad-libs and a few more cutthroat, lightning-fast verses from Tyler. The closer makes for a fantastic final reminder that this album is not just a victory lap centered around Tyler's successful career, but also his success in growing as an artist.
Ultimately, Call Me If You Get Lost will most likely not go down as Tyler’s most influential or conceptual album, but it may go down as his most fun record, and certainly as one of his best. Do not be mistaken, “fun” is not meant to be a condescending term here. This LP is intentionally built like a mixtape, and many of the tracks here, especially the bangers and tropical-influenced tracks, are partially meant to be fun, uplifting, and danceable. It is designed in large part to be a fun listen full of braggadocio and eccentric mixtape-esque Gangsta Grillz ad-libs. This album is highly enjoyable due to its bold themes, underlying narratives, full-circle moments, and instrumental callbacks to Tyler’s previous works. Listeners will get out of this record what they put in. If you are looking for a fun listen, you will find that with ease. If you are looking to get more in tune with Tyler’s psyche, that’s here too. If you are dealing with heartbreak and just need to indulge in some breakup-themed tracks, even that can be found on the dynamic and multi-faceted Call Me If You Get Lost.
Lammas is a Junior in the College studying Government.