IGOR, Tyler, the Creator's True Masterpiece, is Essential Listening Page 2

Arguably the first significant turning point in the LP’s narrative is “RUNNING OUT OF TIME.” Tyler, in a pitched-up voice sings “I’ve been running out of spells to make you love me.” This is where the story becomes more solidified with less duality, although it still appears later on, albeit sometimes more subtly. Perhaps the most important part of “RUNNING OUT OF TIME” is the line “Take your mask off/I need her out the picture.” The next song “NEW MAGIC WAND” reveals more details about the narrator’s male lover being distracted by his ex-girlfriend and the conflict caused.

“NEW MAGIC WAND” is by far the most lyrically and instrumentally dense track on IGOR. Comedian Jerrod Carmichael opens it with the phrase “sometimes you gotta close the door to open a window” after which the listener is immediately assaulted by an aggressive bassline and a lo-fi drum machine. Here, the conflict between the narrator and his boyfriend is amplified. “I need to get her out the picture/She’s really fucking up my frame,” Tyler sings, more explicitly confirming that the relationship in the story told on IGOR is facing a crisis. We then find out that the boyfriend is spending almost as much time with his ex-girlfriend as he is with IGOR/Tyler: “This 60-40 isn’t working/I need 100 of your time/You’re mine.” Possibly referring to his bisexuality, Tyler’s pitched-up, distorted voice sings “Now pick a side and if you don’t/I’ll pick you both/It’s not a joke” towards the song’s middle section. I could spend far more time dissecting all of the details in “NEW MAGIC WAND,” but it’s unnecessary. The gist is that it’s a significant turning point in the LP’s narrative, and provides a cinematic level of detail not often found in this musical genre.

As previously mentioned, “NEW MAGIC WAND” also has the album’s strangest lyric: “My eyes are green, I eat my veggies.” To a first-time listener not paying the narrative any attention, it may seem like a cringe-inducing, half-baked line that tried to have meaning but fell flat on its face. However, when you look at it in the context of the rest of the song and album, it makes perfect sense. The beat and vocal delivery on “NEW MAGIC WAND” indicate a high level of stress, and the IGOR character Tyler portrays may not be thinking clearly at that moment. It also could mean that IGOR is scrambling to find reasons to convince his boyfriend to stay, but subtly reveals his personal flaws when he can’t find a better reason than “my eyes are green, I eat my veggies. Either way, it’s a lyric that can seem embarrassing on the surface but has meaning when diving deeper, something that is also present on Kanye’s best albums (“I’m In It” on Yeezus comes to mind in the embarrassing but meaningful sense). This, of course, is no surprise at all considering the many parallels between IGOR and Yeezus, The Life Of Pablo, and parts of Graduation.

Do we need to talk about yet another similarity between Yeezus and IGOR? Of course we do! “A BOY IS A GUN,” arguably the centerpiece of IGOR, samples Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s 1971 single “Bound,” which West sampled on Yeezus’s closer “Bound 2.” In fact, Tyler and Hudson Mohawke produced the unreleased demo “Bound 1,” which Kanye used as the basis for “Bound 2.” Here, Tyler steals back his “Bound” sample and uses it to great effect in a different way than does “Bound 2”. “A BOY IS A GUN” is IGOR reminding himself that fighting to keep himself in this relationship can be dangerous to himself, therefore he is the gun described in the song’s title. “How come you the best to me/I know you the worst for me.” This song also confirms that he is in love with a man: “You’re my favorite garçon/Don’t leave, stay right here/Yeah, I want you right near/You invited me to breakfast, why the fuck your ex here?” So far, the narrative has traveled from holding onto a conflict-filled relationship to acknowledging that it’s unhealthy. Where does it go next?

“PUPPET”, which follows “A BOY IS A GUN”, features Kanye West himself. Tyler/IGOR slowly begins to accept that he’s being controlled by his love for a man who’s not dedicating enough time to him, yet admits to his own vulnerability: “I do not have self control/I am starting to wonder, is this my free will or yours?/I’m your puppet/You control me/I’m your puppet/I don’t know me.” His dream of having this relationship is failing to materialize in real life, yet as he chases it to his detriment, he begins to feel like a puppet being controlled.

Due to the poor recording quality and lack of correct transcriptions (Tyler released the lyrics to the song with the statement “Kanye lyrics cannot be transcribed”), I can’t provide any insight into the meaning of Kanye’s verse on “PUPPET.” I attempted to transcribe the lyrics myself, but only got halfway through the verse. According to Forbes, however, Kanye instructs Tyler/IGOR to “breathe on a song” towards the end of the track, which I interpret as a reference to the sustained “and breathe, and breathe” line on “Blood On The Leaves” from Yeezus. (Again? Yes.) Maybe this was unintentional, but considering how many Yeezus references and parallels there are on IGOR, it’s easy to believe Tyler and Kanye did it on purpose.

“WHAT’S GOOD”, the LP’s second-most distorted and hectic song is a display of ego masking IGOR’s vulnerability. “When you see the brand new Le Fleurs on the floor/If the cop says my name, bitch, I’m IGOR,” Tyler raps, referring to his Golf Le Fleur Converse sneaker collaborations and confirming that the story is told from the perspective of the IGOR character. (For your sanity’s sake, I won't mention the potential “New Slaves” interpolation here.) However, “WHAT’S GOOD” has more references to real-life Tyler than any other songs on the album. “That car crash couldn’t take me/Green-haired angels all around me” shows Tyler talking about his 2018 car crash (no injuries or damages caused to anyone or anything [other than to his own vehicle]) and his soundtrack contributions to Illumination’s The Grinch remake. The song ends with Slowthai whisper-singing “I see the light.” “The light” is about to be seen, indeed.

“GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” shows IGOR coming to terms with the failed relationship and it frees himself from the trap in which he was caught, therefore he’s “seeing the light.” “Whether it’s rain or shine, I know I’m fine for now/My love’s gone,” Tyler sings with high-pitched vocal harmonies, creating the most Pet Sounds-like atmosphere on a record very reminiscent of the Beach Boys’ classic (consider that Pet Sounds is a cutting-edge record telling the story of a relationship beginning and ending, and that IGOR is a similar concept, differently executed). “Maybe it’s just a dream that I can’t seem to wake up from,” he continues. It’s probably the only song on IGOR that distinctly reminds the listener of Flower Boy: first, it’s a two-part song in the vein of “911/Mr. Lonely,” and Tyler’s flow towards the end of the “GONE, GONE” section can be likened to his flow on “Boredom.” Yet, at the end of the day, it really isn’t that similar.

“I just hope to god she got good taste/Can put you on some shit you’ve never seen/Can play a couple songs that you can dance to/I hope you know she can’t compete with me,” IGOR, as he becomes content with the way things ended, tells his now ex-boyfriend. Further, the “THANK YOU” section thanks the man for “the love,” “the time,” and “the joy” before Tyler sings that he’ll “never want to fall in love again.” On “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE,” he again changes the tone, saying, “you wasted my time and I know that these things are not hard.” On the last leg of the album, the lyrics’ duality makes a strong comeback comparing “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” with “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” as well as with the finale, “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?”

On “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” Tyler/IGOR tries to settle for a simple friendship with his ex-boyfriend after failing with a romantic relationship. Tyler asks “Are we still friends/Can we be friends?” before saying “I’ve got to… know.” However, the way he pauses before, and sustains the deep “know”, could also mean “no.” If you choose to think it’s “know,” it obviously means that IGOR wants an answer from his ex. But if you interpret it as “no,” it means that IGOR has failed at forming with him a simple friendship. I think of it as both, which is another example on IGOR of duality propelling the narrative. Also of interest is the slight growl at the end of the line “I don’t wanna end the season on a bad episode n**** no”, which could be another indicator of a friendship not succeeding. Further, Tyler’s last vocals on the LP are screams over Pharrell singing “we say goodbye.” Ahhhh, the duality of this song is killing me!

As mentioned earlier, I could probably spend 20 more paragraphs dissecting the fine details of the album, but I won’t (if you can't get enough of the narrative dissection, I suggest you read narrative art and Kanye obsessive Chris Lambert’s 4,000-word IGOR dissertation in Forbes). What you really need to know is that Tyler, the Creator’s IGOR is a masterpiece for the ages, made by a genius at the top of his game. Rarely do we hear an artistic work on this high a level, and even rarer do we get to witness it unleashed to the world in real time. This is more than deserving of the 11/10 score for music as it’s endlessly fascinating and even dozens of listens later, continues to reveal new details.

The sound on this album proves that a good recording doesn’t need to replicate the image of musicians playing in a room. Despite the gritty and occasionally distorted production style and mix, IGOR sounds rather excellent, especially for a modern “hip-hop” (if you can even call it that) recording. While I’ve only heard the 44.1kHz/16bit files, the album sounds extremely dynamic, with excellent bass and soundstage depth. On “NEW MAGIC WAND,” every sound is suspended in a three-dimensional space that surrounds the listener. When it gets loud, it gets necessarily so, but the production doesn’t make excessive use of loudness (despite what the dynamic range numbers want to tell you). This is probably one of the few albums that I know of where the harder edge of CD-quality files can be used to its benefit. However, I’m still excited to hear the vinyl when it comes out this summer. I ordered the limited-edition colored vinyl with alternate cover, but hopefully the standard black vinyl variant will be available in stores come late August-early September (both variants have since disappeared from the Golf Wang website). Until then, you can stream it or buy the 44.1/24 files if you wish to pay $18 for them (I didn’t as I’ve already spent lots of money on this album and associated merch). I’ll write an update on the sound when I get my physical LP, but no matter what, IGOR album will continue to be great and maybe, as time goes on, even better!

(Malachi Lui is an AnalogPlanet contributing editor, music lover, record collector, audiophile, avid Kanye fan, and a host of AnalogPlanet Radio. Follow him on Twitter @MalachiLui.)

Ken K's picture

Thank you for bringing us Malachi Lui.

What a great review!

analogdw's picture

I have mixed feelings about this review. Malachi can clearly write and is clearly passionate about his subject. Absolutely no argument there. But.... the name of this website is Analog Planet, but he hasn’t even heard the vinyl! I read these music reviews to learn equally about the quality of the music and the quality of the vinyl release. I was waiting the whole time to hear about the second thing, but we never got there. On any other site this is an excellent review, but on Analog Planet its only half a review.

MalachiLui's picture

the vinyl doesn't come out until August. when I initially wrote the review the standard LP was still available on the GOLF WANG website and then it was taken down during my editing stage. and like I said in the last part of the review, I'll give an update on the vinyl SQ when I get it in. plus I wanted to tell everybody how amazing this album is so they might be more excited for the LP edition. it's not a review I wanted to wait on either - I started it May 17 when "IGOR" dropped. I also had a hoard of people begging me for this review on twitter right after I teased it.

but if you really want me to review it in an analog format for now, you are more than welcome to demand a review of a homemade "IGOR" cassette. joking of course!

gorkuz's picture

Igor is pronounced ee-gor, not eye-gore as per "Young Frankenstein", thank you. Eye-gore is what you get from a poke in the eye from a sharp stick and that persistent mispronunciation ever since that classic movie, and people that just don't know.

(An) Igor

Tom L's picture

You'll look abnormal.

mmaterial1's picture

interesting musical experimental edginess.
reminiscent, to me at least, of Bjork's swell "Post" album.

Glotz's picture

Earfquake sounds pretty uninspired... Then again, I can't stand modern pop, nor rap. I sure hope ML hasn't smoking that... smoke. 11 is quite high (for what I ingested thus far).

Excellent review and adept reviewing skills, I was convinced until I actually heard the music... Which the best compliment you can pay to any reviewer!

MalachiLui's picture

I don’t smoke or vape ANYTHING! Hope that relieves you! Lol

However, I really can’t see the case for “EARFQUAKE” being “uninspired.” Seriously? I recommend you listen to “IGOR” all the way through several times before forming an opinion.

As for you not being able to stand modern pop and/or rap music; you need to listen to more of it. Hip-hop is a VERY diverse genre, with many subgenres. I strongly believe that you’ll find SOMETHING in there that you enjoy (or can at least tolerate).

Glotz's picture

Lol...I was referring to the smoke in the video. I vape and smoke like a fiend. Everything. Good on you.. Not a good look for anyone young.

Very true on listening to the entire album before passing judgment. All Hail Ivor! Wait... yep! I was referring to my viewing of the video. I got the psycho-soul feel of it, but I just wasn't moved like you were. Funny video and a solid song? Yes. LIstening on a youtube feed is not a passable source for listening to anything, really..

I've listened to the high points of rap and pop since Kool Moe Dee, Public Enemy and Snoop and so forth, but the Gorillaz latest 3 are about as far I have the cash to invest, my brother. (I just blew hundreds on Dylan's repress of Rolling Thunder Revue and every Neil Young album in the last year, the last 3 The Orb releases, Faces box set, VU box set... and I STILL missed The Black Crowes Lost Crowes two weeks ago! Lol...

Keep on keeping on ML! Your review writing is superlative; age-defying, swagger-wrecking excellence! Thank GAWD that MF is there to guide you like a mensch! (Just don't spoil yourself too much... You need to get married first!) Lol...

Thank you for speaking the truth as you hear it!

Michael Fremer's picture
Trust me: guidance with Malachi is a two way street. He gives as much of it to me as he gets from me. We've both grown over the past year thanks to this wondrous relationship.
MalachiLui's picture

Michael is correct... of course he is!

Glotz's picture

I learn from the young too.. To check our hearts, minds and souls now and then.

Anton D's picture

My son insists, emphatically, that people who are not familiar with this artist to start with his previous album, then listen to this one.

All in all, great review of a great album.

Tyler, Childish, and Kendrick are at the top of the current heap.

MalachiLui's picture

“Flower Boy” is amazing too and I recommend it to give context to Tyler’s discography and artistic evolution (“Wolf” and “Cherry Bomb” are good albums too, but without the maturity of the later stuff), but even “IGOR” is pretty far removed from “Flower Boy.” “Flower Boy” and “IGOR” are probably both in my top 15-20 albums of all time.

Yeah, Tyler, Kendrick, Childish Gambino, and I’d say Earl Sweatshirt, BROCKHAMPTON, and Kanye too (I prefer “new Kanye” and “Kanye/ye phase 3” over “old Kanye” overall) are the best hip-hop artists right now (I consider Frank Ocean to be more R&B than rap).

Anton D's picture

I know he raps some, but I consider Anderson Paak more R&B, as well.

I love Anderson and Frank!

Anderson's Oxnard and Ventura are great, to me.

mikenc's picture

Gave this a listen via youtube, honestly not a fan.

MalachiLui's picture

YT sound quality doesn't do the album justice... and I suggest listening more than once before forming an opinion.

Bob Henneberger's picture

honestly it sounds like Neptunes stuff from 20 years ago,, not a fan do you really like this stuff Malachi? you seem to have such good taste....

MalachiLui's picture

I genuinely think "IGOR" is one of the greatest albums of all time. Many people I know (and there are many others who'd also agree) with good taste in music agree, but I'd already formed my opinion on the album the night it dropped. (Tho I delved deeper into the meaning of the album than most of my friends.)

Trust me - in 10-20 years, "IGOR" will be on many GOAT albums lists. And then I can say "I was here first!" lol

But yeah, I think my love for this album is evident in the review. "IGOR" is one of my top 5 albums of all time rn and Tyler is one great album away from being cemented as one of the greatest artists of all time.

MalachiLui's picture

Pharrell is one of Tyler's biggest influences which is why that Neptunes comparison makes sense.

Jefke13's picture


I just want to say that you youngman are a naturel, for me to read a 'review', two pages long, about a rap artist i never even heard about in English which isn't my native language, i mean that's impressive.

Love the album by the way, and i understand most of what you write about the meaning of the songs. That in itself is not easy to do. But it really helps to understand and appreciate the album more.

Great stuff, really, thanks and keep reviewing albums on cd, vinyl, tape, minidisc... I don't care. It's all about the music!

Nevermind the old dudes that don't dig this stuff, i'm old dude myself, but the production, the lyrics, the way this artist has doubts about everything in his life, well great album and i rarely listen to rapmusic.

Best regards
Geoff from Belgium