Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com
Many rappers explore the bounds of what can be considered Hip Hop, especially today. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that on its face but many people who “analyze” music take that exploration and claim that said artist has evolved past rap and become some type of true artist. When artist start receiving that type of condescending attention there are two ways they can go, continue to become more esoteric and lose what made them special in the first place or they do the complete opposite and find their way back to the source like Tyler the Creator has done on his monumental album “Call Me If You Get Lost”.
This album is a love story on every sense of the phrase. While there much to discuss with the story being told on the album about a relationship with a friends girlfriend, but there is a way to interpret this project as a love letter to the Hip Hop of Tyler’s youth as well. Throughout the build up to the project Tyler talked a lot about being an outsider to most of mainstream black outlets and the album itself is highlighted with stories of his youth (notably his mom chasing a kid for picking him in the face). These stories of an outsider create a striking in the mind of the listener. Those elements along with the nostalgic feel of the blog era with the inclusion of DJ Drama create a feeling of longing for that time back, but never gets weighed down by looking through rose tinted glasses. The question it seems Tyler wants to ask the Hip Hop he remembers is “why didn’t you accept me then?” It’s a question that highlights how much of himself was built on the outside of popular culture. During his early career it was the outlandish things he did and said that brought him attention. It’s easy to look back at the period and some the truly terrible things he said and see it all as a response to being a perpetual outsider.
This project combines some the best elements of the past couple of Tyler’s albums. Hearing the musicality of his last release “Igor” mixed with the a renewed dedication to the art of rapping that put this project above and beyond it’s contemporaries. The samples that this album is laced with read like a music lovers dream from H- Town to Gravediggaz there is something for every ear to latch onto and love in this project.
What Tyler the Creator has done is go back and place himself in an era where nothing he has done or who he was would have been accepted. It’s a bit like revisionists history but is ironic in the sense that it the era he is looking to be apart birthed him anyway. Hip Hop has managed to survive without many of the constraints and stagnation of other genres because it was birth out of a feeling of change. Tyler captures this by adding elements both old and new and expressing them as different equally important ideas.
“Call Me If You Get Lost” stands as an achievement in Hip Hop history because it combined so much of the history of the genre with everything that Tyler has learned from making music for a decade. Why Hip Hop has survived past the 80s into the 2020s is because at it’s core it has no limits and it’s only concern is in it’s authenticity. With someone like Tyler being unapologetically themselves for the entirety of their career there shouldn’t be any more debate, Tyler is Hip Hop and Hip Hop is Tyler.