Words By- Matthew Spence:
Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence & Violence are mentioned (Just a heads up, don’t wanna trigger anyone)
Ahh yes, Tyler, the Creators’ now famous “Track 10” or known as his “Slash Tracks” (I personally refer to them as “2-in-1” tracks). Quick catch-up for those unaware (you gotta be in the know to know, you know?), Tyler, the Creator: musician, fashionista, green hat-wearing, cookie-loving mofo. Throughout his discography, he’s carried a fun little motif: every track 10 on his projects being two-part songs. Think 911/Mr. Lonely, Sweet/I Thought You Wanted to Dance, etc, and so on. You may have noticed, or maybe not.
What caused this? The best guess is Pharrell’s “In My Mind” album from 2006. Being a huge inspiration for Tyler, it also contains a slash track, “Young Girl”/”I Really Like You”, however, it is track number 9 instead of 10. Maybe I’m being conspiratorial, it’s just a theory. Now, it’s at the point fans hope and expect his signature “slash” track (that and a Frank Ocean feature but we can’t always be winners yo). But, as his repertoire progresses, it’s easy to overlook how important the slash tracks are to Tyler’s albums when we get immersed with other tracks. Especially with every track 10, we see Tyler’s expansive world around love.
Rewind the tape (no pun intended honestly) and let’s go back to the beginning of it all. Bastard, The debut breakthrough mixtape (I bet they didn’t even hear it) that was the launching pad for him and Odd Futures fame, infamy, and many 13-year-olds drawing pentagrams and saying “Fuck you” to their dads (ehh, that was happening already to be fair). Track 10 is VCR/Wheels, it’s a song about… Rape. There wasn’t a nicer way to put it, unfortunately. More specifically, a man’s fantasy to rape a woman he likes. Using VCR recordings and film entendres, Tyler raps about his strong affection for his crush by his desire to “R-Word” her, film a tape with her, and be her only one. Talk about a dark twisted fantasy so fucked that makes Kanye’s look like shit for Kids Bop. “Cause I’ll kill you if I find out you’re watching some other movies, bitch”.
Over a more R&B-inspired beat, it feels like a bunch of intrusive thoughts (granted most of his lyrics were like that at the time) turned into a love song, which segues into “Wheels”. Switching to a more rambunctious beat, and with more sincere teenage lyrics, Tyler simmers down on the hardcore lyrics for more earnest ones. Like when he says: “I skated all day, I just need some rest and your breast” how romantic. Wheels is a shift from intrusive thoughts to the reality of a young boy spending time with a girl he likes. To live young, horny, and free.
Fish/Boppin Bitch (“Goblin”-2011)
Fish from the album “Goblin”. Take the rapes from VCR and add murder….. yup. Track 10 on his official debut album, intensifies Wolf Haleys’ fantasy (and sadly it’s not the one Mariah Carey had). We get the imagery of how Wolf treats his women: drugging them, gashing their mouths, dismemberment, and having passionate sex. Now, I’m pretty sure this isn’t based on Tyler’s personal experiences, but instead it’s alluded to Albert Fish. Who’s that? I’m glad you asked and googled, he’s an infamous serial murderer and cannibal, who basically did fucked up shit to sum it up. Allusion to him, we see Tyler take a different approach on how he likes to serenade the ladies.
In the second half, Boppin Bitch: short and sweet, Tyler fucks a girl (sorry for being brash yo) who gave him an itchy and swollen dick. How Romantic! Of course, you can take this song with more of a grain of meme, as Fish came off bleaker, this song brings more of a parody vibe to it.
Don’t worry, we’re done with rape and murder (finally). To celebrate, we don’t just get an ordinary two-part song from Tyler, but, instead, 3-in-1, throw the confetti bitches. Wolf was a time for a change, in terms of sound, subject, and style so with that combined we got the concept album. Wolf is about his alter ego Wolf Haley, going to summer camp at Camp Flog Gnaw and gets into a love triangle with Samuel (the bully) and his girlfriend Salem.
Track 10 is where the story continues to grow, with Salem and Wolf coming together and connecting in many ways that put them both on Samuels’s shit list. “Partyisntover” is asking Wolf asking Salem to dance at a get-together at their having near the campfire. But he has no rhythm so it makes you wonder what they danced to (probably Death Grips). “Campfire” is a moment of child-like bliss. It feels like a perfect interlude. They’re hanging around a campfire, smores, and having sing-alongs. Leading into “Bimmer”, Wolf and Salem get away from the campfire and head to the lake for the moment he, like many….probably prayed for: losing his virginity.
Stripping away the shock value of the previous Slash Track entries, we see this one approached with innocence to help with the story. Partyisn’tover, we feel Wolfs’ shyness. Campfire, we see Wolf feel acceptance and enjoyment of the moment. Bimmer, he’s comfortable.
Fucking Young/Perfect (“Cherry Bomb”- 2015)
Remember the aforementioned, “Young Girl/I Really Like You” by Pharrell that might’ve inspired Tylers’ track 10 idea? If not, then…well, I’m mentioning it anyways. I bring it back for this particular track 10 off of Cherry Bomb since they share similarities. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say yo. (whoever they are). Both songs see our narrator falling for a girl who’s younger than him. Mainly focusing on Tyler, we figure out that the girl is underage (Big fucking yikes) so he doesn’t wanna do anything. She’s perfect in many ways and could be the “one” as you hear the chorus from the legendary Charlie Wilson himself but again….she’s too fucking young, (I’m not quoting the hook, that’s a genuine statement). Tyler knows this would be a major burden on his reputation even though they’ve never done anything sexual or inappropriate. Tyler tweeted about the track saying:
“Fucking Young” is perverted and weird, but it’s true. There was this girl that I liked, and we both had feelings for each other, but there was a five-year difference between us. It weirded me out, so I wrote a song about it.”
With hindsight to help, of course, it’s interesting at this point in his career that he’s made a more heartfelt song about odd (no pun intended) forbidden love while his older self (well younger self technically) would’ve rapped about dating the underage girl…and possibly committing aggressive acts towards her.
Leading to Perfect with Kali Uchis, we see an exchange between the two. The girl is on the same page with Tyler, she knows they could’ve been more but understands that he’s scared of the societal repercussions of them being together. Like a Cherry Bomb, the relationship seems like something fun and cool under the right circumstance but it can blow up in your face…. and illegal in your area. Ultimately, in the end, T doesn’t go through with it, ending it with “I rock”. Giving the song somewhat of a happy ending. However, the alternative version with Austin Feinstein brings off a more somber ending, we hear Austin and Kali sing to each other representing the couple’s feelings:
You make me better
And I know this don’t make sense
But you make me better
Alone, at home, alone
Even though he made the right call, now loneliness will take over which leads to the next song.
911/Mr. Lonely (“Scum Fuck Flower” Boy- 2017)
With an album already full of reflection, insecurity, and longing for more connection: Enter “911/Mr. Lonely” aka the grooviest song that makes you wanna dance and cry at the same time (I would know, I’ve done it at least twice). With his influence of Stevie Wonder, love of chords, a sample of the Gap Band and a random meme, Tyler spends the first track rapping about the one that doesn’t exist yet. Being at shows, incredible venues: Madison Square Garden, Staples Center, Apollo Theater, you name them, but yet the biggest fan he wants isn’t there. Why 911? Well, it could represent his emergency in his love life and how he is eager to love and be loved the way he wishes. While on the other end, the people call him for emergencies out of selfishness. Basically, he wants a genuine connection, like we all do, we’re human yo.[Side Note: Frank Oceans “Chirp Chirp” > everything.]
Hell, there’s one lyric that sums it up: “I’m the loneliest man alive, but I keep on dancing to throw em off”. For starters: “the loneliest man alive” we feel ya man. “Keep on dancing to throw em off”, Tyler is known for being eccentric and witty in public. So what we see, he gives off an idea that he has it together, but sadly like many, hide their sadness with happiness and dance to groove while feeling blue. Plus, the music is so goddamn infectious that people can’t help but move to it and not even take into consideration the lyrics being said. Hell, that’s a good amount of casual music-goers. The bittersweet beauty of music. One interlude before going into Mr. Lonely with a musical side swipe, it’s one long verse continuing his emotional release of loneliness. Material things aren’t filling the void, praying to every deity for someone to check up on him, plus he’s never had a pet goldfish. This song makes you feel like the friend that decided to call and check up on him.
Gone, Gone/Thank You (IGOR- 2019)
In the words of the man himself: “This Is Igor”. On the 10th track of Igor, his love is gone.
Context: Throughout Igor, we follow, well… Igor, and his delicate love triangle. In love with a man who isn’t openly expressive about his sexuality and is still seeing another woman. While Igor stands on the sideline, drowned in blue but wants to hold on. Splattered emotions like a Jackson Pollock painting, are covering his heart and mind. On the track, “Earfquake” (track 2), he pleads “don’t leave, it’s my fault”. “A Boy is a Gun” (track 6), he says “I ain’t takin’ you, yeah, I’m brushing you”. As the album progress, we see the Igors’ emotional journey: from desperation, aggressiveness, and finally acceptance
With guest vocals from Cee Lo Green; Gone, Gone is Igor accepting that everything is out of his hands and that whatever happens, happens. His love walked out the door to his girlfriend and Igor is left alone, accepting the role he played. A lover who wanted a garden to grow but instead is left with failed potential. Which is what Jerrod Carmichael discussed in a quick interlude to lead “Thank You”. He never wants to fall in love again after dealing with this imploding bond, and who could blame him, That shit sounds like it sucks. Yet, while ending on the left side of heartbreak, Igor is reflecting on the right side and is appreciative of his love for him and Thanks him for the love.
Sweet/I Thought You Wanted To Dance (Call Me If You Get Lost- 2021)
Moving on from love triangles, here’s a song about a love triangle! While Igor is staring out the window, playing with his gorgeous hair, wondering what his stress food will be for the night; we transition to meet his cousin on the other side of the world, Tyler Baulderleire. Boats, Cardigans, and More Boats. More confident, determined, and swagger above is Mick….. you know, but no matter how much stuff he has: respect, material items, men and women that will do anything to be with him, talent, and freedom than the average man walking by him (oh did I mention boats?) One thing he doesn’t have, nothing can replace. Simply, Love.
“Sweet” is where Tyler expresses his highest infatuation with a woman he’s been seeing throughout the album. Here’s the kicker: <whispers> She’s already in a relationship with his close friend. The first half, truly highlights how she makes him feel. As is his heart grows 10x the size whenever he’s around her, let alone thinks about her. So how else can he express how he feels, along with Brent Fiyaz: sing yo. But like many can say about love: the good times don’t last forever (if that wasn’t the case, my parents would still be married). Things come to a screeching hault.
With an interlude of Tylers’ mindset on the situation, we segue into “I Thought You Wanted to Dance”. With Loversrock/Reggae instrumentation that makes you wanna move and get a drink with one of those umbrellas in them. Island vibes are the point. While music makes you wanna soak up the sun, but lyrics feel like Tyler wanna go back inside. With a back and forth with Fana Hues, she’s into him but she and the boyfriend have something more special. Tyler and the boyfriend are like a house vs. home: A house is something cool and exciting, you reside and live in. Yet, a home is more of a welcoming, comforting, warm environment. Cozy and more of what feels like a safe space. The boyfriend is ultimately the “home” in the end, and Tyler ironically can buy as many houses as he wants but he can’t be the “home” wants to be. Now, did he take the news well,…..Ehh. We see his ego takeover, due to heartbreak. “The fuck do he got that I don’t got a lot of” and plenty of emotions inside scattering. In the end, though, he’s left alone on the “dancefloor”, saving a dance and left alone.
Tyler, the Creator “Slash Tracks” can feel like multiple storylines in one movie. Picture the movie “Love Actually”, except take the famous card scene and replace it with a body being dumped in a lake and someone pondering in a field of pretty flowers. Love triangles from many angles: the good guy gets the girl, the good guy loses the girl, and love that’s not meant for you. Forbidden love to yearning for it. Track 10s, particularly 2013 and up feel, like an extension of his heart as lame as it sounds. Bastard and Goblin can be taken with a grain of salt, as they for the majority are smothered in shock value and brash ideas that don’t really feel like an examination of his affection. While his later works feel that he’s channeling all of his influences of the past: whether it be Stevie Wonder, Charlie Wilson, and numerous other R&B/Soul influences, to Neo-Soul & Jazz elements to child-like melodies on “Campfire”, to Loversrock, Sonically each track has a new rendered approach (like the rest of his catalog). Now, will he continue this trend for the rest of his career? Well, the simple answer is: who fucking knows. What we can answer is that we hope he continues.