Hungry like the ‘Wolf’

It’s hard not love an album that hits the popular consciousness with a big, old haymaker that the mainstream never saw coming.

I feel like Wolf‘s going to be one of those albums, by the time all is said and done. Yes, lyrically, this stays true to all of Tyler, The Creator’s work to this point: A chuckling, stoned, dead-eyed agent of chaos in a world that doesn’t understand that it truly loves the resulting madness. Too many drugs, too many “faggot” callouts, too much intelligence gone out of control. Tyler is that nasty, uncontrolled Id lurking under the surface that no one wants to admit is there.

It isn’t that this is approach new. Eminem managed the balancing act on both The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP, and Old Dirty Bastard took the madness to a previously unheard of level on Return to the 36 Chambers. But unlike Eminem or ODB, Tyler has created an album with limited single potential. There’s no Real Slim Shady or Shimmy Shimmy Ya on Wolf. Yes, true hip-hop heads will be down, but it’ll be interesting to see if Tyler can mimic the sales, chart success or awards of the previously mentioned predecessors.

What really helps elevate Wolf is not Tyler, The Rapper but Tyler, the Producer. He’s the man behind the knobs for the most part, and he manages to create a full, dark, off-kilter background for his hip-hop diorama. Whether it’s the minimal, bass-heavy, slurred feel of Jamba, the otherworldy “da da da da DA da” melody on Domo23, the manic Latin energy that backs the juvenile Tamale or the slow jam synth of IFHY, Tyler finds the right sounds to back whatever approach he’s trying to take lyrically. More importantly, nothing has an assembly line, jam-of-the-moment feel. Wolf isn’t about ring tones; it’s about legacy.

The final product is an album … a full album, not three or four front-loaded singles with what Sean Combs once called “album tracks” aka half-assed filler. I can imagine a time a decade or so from now Wolf being mentioned in the same breath as We Can’t Be Stopped, Ready to Die or Midnight Marauders. History is being made, so, as a wise man once said, ya betta recognize.

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