A Pretty OK Song: "Boredom" - Tyler, the Creator
I’ve been a rap fan since high school. Most of my early listening was pretty mainstream—Kanye West’s Graduation was the first rap album I purchased—but I branched out into more obscure stuff pretty quickly. For a while, I was obsessed with the Canadian MCs k-os and Classified. Then, I found Odd Future.
Odd Future, if you weren’t aware, is a collective of rappers, singers, and general weirdos led by Tyler, the Creator. I didn’t get their music at first, and the group’s love of childish/immature humor rubbed me the wrong way, so I was not a fan. The only gem I could find in the group was Frank Ocean.
Slowly, Odd Future’s various personalities started to grow on me. I’ve come to love The Internet, and I even kind of liked Earl Sweatshirt! But no matter what I did, understanding Tyler still eluded me.
Last year, I went to Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Day event in Chicago, and I happened to see Tyler, the Creator perform while I was there. I didn’t know his music that well, but I was struck by his showmanship. He was extremely engaged with the audience, running around the stage and playing everything up. It was great.
I also noticed how supportive his fans were. In my experience, Odd Future fans—especially the ones who particularly like Tyler—don’t like him so much as they love him. Seeing that relationship cranked up to 11 in a live setting started to change my opinion, but I still wasn’t going out and buying Tyler, the Creator albums…until last month.
When I listened to Flower Boy, Tyler’s latest studio album, I couldn’t help but notice that the songs felt more structurally sound than his previous work. They were more interesting thanks to some out-there choices of instrumentation, chord progression, etc., but they still flowed better. And the lyrics were more aware, with fewer immature jokes and derogatory words tossed around—everything felt elevated, and for the first time, I felt welcome listening to Tyler, the Creator. Since then, I haven’t been able to put the album down.
“Boredom” is my favorite song on the album (“Garden Shed” is a close second that you should check out too). It’s approachable—Tyler channels his intelligence into witty one-liners and references without leaning on crude, off-putting remarks. It has a surprisingly beautiful sound, too. I love the drum entrance about a minute in and Tyler’s entrance; both are perfectly timed and powerful.
Of course, when it comes to rap, I think the lyrics are typically the most interesting part of any song. As I mentioned, “Boredom” is extremely clever, focusing on how increased fame has given Tyler less time to pursue his favorite activities. In his first verse, he insinuates that he’s been putting wealth ahead of health. He’s been working on his music so incessantly that he’s not eating or sleeping, and his eyes are starting to dry out: If we talkin’ ‘bout real meals, ask my stomach, he ain’t saw ‘em / I’ve been in this fuckin’ room so long my eyeballs are turning to drywall
The lines that struck me the most, though, are these: Hi y'all, y'all ain't hit me all day / What the fuck is the problem? Is it me? / 'Cause I'm not solved, I'm... bored
I found the use of bored particularly fascinating; “old Tyler” probably would have rhymed day with gay, but it seems like he’s grown up a bit—he even pauses for comedic effect before saying bored, winking at his old self.
Here’s why this is important: this album makes several references to the possibility that Tyler is gay or bisexual himself, but is afraid to admit it and worried that his friends are avoiding him because of his sexuality. It seems like he’s maybe finally comfortable enough in his own skin to stop being so crude about sexuality and speak about something that’s weighed on him for a long time, which is a beautiful message that makes for a beautiful album.
Until next week.