Tyler, (no)homo
Alexander Uttu
Call him, he got lost
No name (yet)
Elena Pavliuchik
Let's glean topinambur
Tyler, the Creator is an American rapper and designer, as well as a famous character of Twitter messes because of his sexist and homophobic jokes. Tyler is an actual underdog: born in the middle of nowhere in California, raised without a father, changed schools, worked in FedEx and Starbucks for a long time — and then received a Grammy for the album he produced on his own. He moved to L.A., where he was a part of the Odd Future rapper collective. Their image is rather faceless, but still unconventional for the 2007 — casual teens in colorful clothes, no guns and without a single reference to dealing crack the other day. They shared their music through the Internet and didn't sign with record labels — MySpace-rap became the ancestor of the future Soundcloud rappers.

Bastard (2009), Tyler's debut mixtape, is monotonous horrorcore with simple beats sampled from 80s cinema. Horrorcore and other kinds of rap about violence and gore were rather fashionable at the moment — Necro, the genre icon, released his famous I Need Drugs a year later. Anyway, Tyler was far, far away from Necro — at that moment he was just 17 and he was mostly using the figure of the fictional therapist Dr. TC. Tyler rhymes like «I cut my wrist and play piano cause I'm so depressed. Somebody call the pastor, this bastard is so possessed,» which is not surprising taking into account his harsh childhood, but it doesn't make the album any better.

He became famous in 2011 after Goblin was released — still that angry rap, but with exciting beats and strong bass tracks in line with RZA and Wu-Tang. In the main single, «Yonkers,» Tyler disses hipsters like «I'm stabbing any blogging faggot hipster with a Pitchfork,» and in the very next line he is crying about his destiny like «Still suicidal I am // I'm Wolf, Tyler put this fucking knife in my hand.» The vibe of «I, like a wolf, am a mysterious loner who knows how to 'howl at the moon' from time to time..»[1]

This album reached the 5th place in Billboard USA, and after that crying about mental health and rapping about corpses is kinda silly. Tyler thought so, and his next album, Wolf (2013), is much more jazzy. Features from Pharrell Williams and Daft Punk and other influences made the music closer to Pitchfork pop that Tyler hated so much earlier.

Cherry Bomb (2015) is Tyler's first album where the first cool instrumentals appear — they perfectly fit to his bitter lyrics. By Flower boy (2017) Tyler started using pop and mainstream sounds, and his lyrical RnB album IGOR (2019) earned him his first Grammy. Now Tyler has strikingly styling clips and a clothing brand, but it has become impossible to distinguish him from other famous rappers.

The new CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST (2021) is full of soul and RnB, much like the previous album. Autotuned howlings like in WUSYANAME are mixed up with more aggressive tracks like LUMBERJACK, with an endless «n*gga-n*gga» on repeat. Either way, both types make the listener sleepy. The best track in the album turns out to be WILSHIRE rhymes n bars only — obviously nothing like MF DOOM, but it'll do. Tyler is a great producer, amazing clipmaker, and cool designer, but still a mediocre rapper.

In the era of the metamodern, memes are even more important than an artist's image and music. Just like Drake, Tyler is everything around him, not just his rap. Tyler, the Creator's brand includes a music festival, Camp Flog Gnaw, provocative clothes with Celtic crosses dyed in rainbow, post-ironic jokes on LGBTQ+ themes in Twitter, amazing music videos, ect. Excuse me for my plastic taste, but it seems to be taking over.

Anton Valsky
Translated by Evgenia Maximenko

In 2019, Tyler Okonma — a flamboyant provocateur known as Tyler, the Creator — released the album IGOR. Showcasing a different sound than he had come to be known for, it debuted at the top of the US Billboard 200, winning a Grammy for Best Rap Album and catapulting Tyler to celebrity status along the way. All this coming from an album least like the rest of his opus begs the question: what next? With his sixth album, Call Me if You Get Lost, Tyler gives the muddled answer that he is going to keep exploring new sounds while firmly staying true to himself.

Here, Tyler, the Creator uses the same techniques and ideas that brought IGOR its success: a focus on retro sound, R'n'B themes, alter-ego in colorful designer suits, and a love triangle story. However, Call Me if You Get Lost is not by any means an attempt to make another tender record about a heartbreak. On the contrary, it's an explosive and proud rap album. It starts off in concept as the story of an incredibly rich traveler named Tyler Baudelaire, but it pivots, making clear that the voice of this alter-ego is that of Tyler himself.

As would befit a poet, Baudelaire finds himself involved in a love affair, but thist plays a secondary role on the album. In most songs, Baudelaireproudly shows off, swimming in luxury, and summarizing his career achievements. All of this is colored by nostalgia, as he reminisces his way along the rocky road to financial, creative, and emotional independence. Lost among these overlapping themes, Baudelaire's character remains conspicuously obscured, and his journeys around the world mostly untold. But his romantic misadventures, by contrast, are clear and tightly packed into the monotonous eight-minute song WILSHIRE.

Like his previous albums, Call Me If You Get Lost has clear moments of experimentation. He explores vintage sound through sampling, recomposing jazz, soul, reggae, and even early 2000s R'n'B into hard-hitting hip-hop.

This time, however, his moments of deviation leave a mixed result. Call Me if You Get Lost exhausts with an intense stream of samples and beats. Abruptly short tracks constantly evolve until they switch suddenly into the next song, while Tyler and his many featured artists deliver rhythmically and intellectually dense flows. This hurricane of sounds and images moves at breakneck speed, leaving the album with no cohesive narrative.

The fragmentary construction of this album, however, always feels deliberate. Its compilation or playlist quality comes from the style of the early-2000s music sharing scene, where musicians put out tapes for the sake of getting their name out, without the expectation of going platinum. mixtape, Tyler's musical interpretation of this era is most clear in his collage-based approach to composition, but he also directly alludes to this underground mixtape culture with his featured artists. From DJ Drama's signature shouts and tags serving as short interludes between songs, to the verses by Pharrel Williams and Lil' Wayne, Call Me If You Get Lost places its tenets of inspiration on a pedestal. Expertly walking the line between remix and tribute, Tyler also raps over other artists' beats from that period, quoting emcees of the same vein along the way.

On one hand, this album is nostalgic, adventurous, and complex in its genuine representation of feelings and emotions. Paired withs visuals stylized as old technicolor footage, Tyler's vision is clear. On the other hand, though, none of these traits get a proper development. As a result, Call Me If You Get Lost never gets to the point of being the cohesive form of artistic expression that Tyler has come to be known for in his previous two albums.

Call Him, He's Lost
Although framed as a conceptual release, it is instead just a set of good songs without an overarching focus or purpose. It's a trade-off album to make peace between old and new fans, while satisfying everyone. From those who admire the once rude and ill-mannered underground Tyler, to the music nerds who analyze every bar on Genius, and the casual listeners who know him thanks to the charts, the Grammys, and his many sweet songs on the radio. Altogether, it feels like a case of trying to please too many audiences at once.

On Call Me If You Get Lost, Tyler, the Creator exercises everything that he has learned so far musically, and shows how he has progressed from a provocative and angry kid to a mature 30-year-old artist at the top of his game. But his cathartic expressions of self-consciousness, pride, wealth, and success have not helped him heal his sadness. He knows that ultimately, none of his listeners can relate neither to the joy of his luxury, nor his loneliness. Lost, fans call Tyler Baudelaire's number just to find out that he is also lost, but, unlike them, he has no one to call.

Alexander Uttu
Slava KPSS is a rapper who seeks to joke around during his rap battles. He popularized this method of including farcical gags in his performances on the stage of the Russian rap-game. This explains how he won his most popular battle with another rapper, Oxxxymiron: an artist who, like Slava, through being playful, understands which of his punch lines will provoke a reaction from their audience, and what those reactions will be.

Joking in a rap battle is a certain technique which allows listeners to «get» insight into a rapper's true intentions. On the contrary, rappers who lack this playful approach towards the process of creation, maintaining strict seriousness in expressing themselves, cannot establish the same kind of influence on their audience. As a result of this approach, Slava KPSS has gone all the way through the rap-game of 2010's. Starting as a simple underground rapper who made cheap sounding music in «a garage», he now has become a star. Moreover, he has become the kind of star who, despite all his fame, did not become a prisoner of other people's expectations.

Slava KPSS distinguishes himself from other rappers through his diversity. His style is constantly in flux, as he can draw attention to his mastery of intricate rhyming techniques, and then suddenly shift to a different delivery, a different theme, juxtaposing these elements effortlessly. As his songs progress, rhyme schemes and thematic ideas reappear in fragments, creating a cyclical and self-referential listening experience. This ability gives him the freedom to fully explore his art form — he's always changing and trying to be different, while firmly establishing himself inside the youthful and dynamic hip-hop culture.

His battle-rap alter ego, Gnoyny, often contradicts himself while battling, though this is slightly unusual, as a battle rapper usually seeks not to contradict himself. Slava does the same. He completely understands how to use what he has already said to his advantage, but, instead of taking time to explicate or soften this impact of his words, he deliberately runs through all the contradictions that he makes., He emobodies this outside of his art when, for example, he starts leading the mass-culture show «Success», while still being an underground rapper himself.

It may look like he is constantly changing his opinions, but Slava has an airtight alibi, since he has never held any specific opinion at all. He rejected any position pertaining to all possible issues, in order to be capable of battling and doing whatever else he wants to. While the rapper Husky has been busy with self-expression, and Oxxxymiron was polemicizing about books he has read, Slava KPSS was cunning and deceiving, sneaking away from any expectations.

Slava's discography is extensive: he has recorded more than 1000 tracks outside of his albums, collaborations, and his 57 Ezhemesyachnie projects, which can be translated literally as «every month-ish». All of this has given him the reputation of a person who creates obsessively. Barely three hours after the release of Morgenshtern's album, MILLION DOLLAR: HAPPINESS, Slava dropped a five minute long diss track, where he accused the rapper of plagiarising his original flow in one of tracks off the album. Another example is his diss to Yuri Dud, one of Russia's best known YouTubers from the 2010s, which Slava recorded in half an hour.

Despite his collection of alter egos, it would be both complicated and incorrect to divide his art into components. The work in his opus is like a matryoshka doll: when you think that you've opened it, there's another one inside, and another inside of that. For example, his track VLADIMIR PUTIN — ironic to an extent — builds off Socialochka (Social little thing), written two years prior. Additionally, his older track Cupids can be seens as a step towards The Monster That Ruined the World and Slava's later lyrics in general.

In his art Slava is consistent yet intuitive. His elaboration of themes can be traced from album to album, but at the same time this perspective must be considered with consideration to an absence of any predetermined, targeted focus.

By being stylistically fluid, Slava KPSS protects his freedom of expression from other people's expectations. He decides upon something not by considering his audience or planning ahead, but through instinct. These instincts often contradict each other, but the end product is an opus that is a true representation of his intention.

In his more serious albums, The Sun of The Dead (2017) and The Monster That Ruined the World (2020), the tracks add up to one big text with an extensive system of images and references. An acknowledgement of death, of a personality shaped by trauma, as well as the kind of loss that is inevitable when one acquires star status — these are all themes that permeate both albums.

The Monster That Ruined the World is different however due to how it closes the distance between artist and listener, bringing the audience into the work. It is an album about a breakup, which is simultaneously the most relatable, and cathartic experience. This choice of theme resolves any issues a listener may have with his lyrics — in contrast to Slava's usual detachment from his listener — as it is often difficult for them to relate to the unique individual experiences of the artist.

Slava turns the moments of his life more into a metaphor of loss rather than the subject of a narration. This metaphor is personal to him, but can also be seen as general, which opens the space for a listener to truly relate to his work.

Listening to sad rap about a breakup is often a guilty pleasure. Its listener is vulnerable and ready to empathize, and Slava, when he writes sad lyrics about this breakup, opens himself up as no less vulnerable than them. He is not the first one in Russian rap who has publicly bared his soul, but he is the first who has proposed to do the same to his listeners.

The genius of The Monster is Slava's ability to be intimate with his listeners through common, familiar images, and the experience of loss itself. He builds many bridges, made of resonant and universal themes, and they reach a listener standing pensively on the shore. A normal guy who smokes weed and can't give his girlfriend what she wants, like in the song Small Houses by the Sea, or the person who has nostalgia about the past, and is dealing with depressive, or suicidal thoughts, like in In the Khrushev and Brezhnev Project Houses.

Slava chooses the most banal themes possible, and he manages to make his albums successful and popular. His creative path is a constant practice of interaction with his audience both online and in person. Through this, he not only creates diverse hip-hop, with thousands of texts and articles written about it, but also makes his own reviews on topics unrelated to his art.[1]

After all this time spent honing his craft, this practice has beared fruit, allowing him to be successful in his field. His methodology is applicable to any course of action, whether it is rap, stand-up, or directing a TV series. This is because he is the kind of artist who has already understood the point of it all. He is the kind of artist who has a statement about everything, and who just needs to hit the right target.

Nonetheless, it's funny that anyone who successfully creates something, devoting attention to the emotions, opinions and experiences of his listener, is commonly called a genius nowadays. Listeners, viewers and readers are yearning for creators' emotions so much that they pay for it with the attention and admiration as if they were seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. But later on, they sober up and become disappointed.

Fortunately, such creators usually have enough internal independence, honesty, and buzz from the process itself to just continue working.

I would not have written this text without the help of Kostya Lebedev a.k.a. Gadenysh («Bastard») Keanu and Verena Podolskaya, thanks to them.

Arkady Thorov
Translated by Polina Demenko
Russian rappers
For example, he made some reviews on syrki, popular and cheap Russian sweets, made of cottage cheese and sugar.
«I am no Ovsyankin, no Speransky, no Maxim Tesli,
I am no Ivan, no Vanya Smech, I am not especially famous.
What have I done? Time will tell:
"What you did is beating those dckheads in battles"»

Slava KPSS, Zamay «Пусть говорят-2» («Let Them Speak p.2»)
Let's Glean Topinambur
Postmodernist rap is about making fun of anything, isn't it? Isn't it about dissing everything, ridiculing serious art forms? Didn't Slava KPSS win his battle with Oxxxymiron this way? Vyacheslav Karelin (Mashnov) has attracted a fair number of very particular associations: post-irony, rap battles, disses, inflammatory statements. He's never serious. And yet, this analysis of his art lacks one important aspect — that is, a deeper understanding of his earnest, more conceptual work.

After a battle, Slava makes one successful diss after another, putting out several releases. In them, the rapper changes depending on the genre, bringing opposites together. For instance, the track «Панки Хой, Горшок Живой» follows the aesthetics of punk rock and garage music; at the same time, his recent EP «Lil Buter» employs autotune, cliche love lines, and the chorus from the song «Солнце» («The Sun») by Elena Tyerleeva. In short, it sounds like cloud rap.

In his livestream with Zamay, Slava KPSS said: «Lil Buter» is not a rational work, it's naive and sincere». And yet, before the EP was released, Slava told The Flow: «I find the idea of sincerity very annoying. Still, he who hath ears to hear, let him hear.» It's hard to keep track of his opinions.

Many would say that releasing autotuned lovesick rap was just him pulling our leg again. Others might believe the real joke is wearing a 70s punk-rock outfit and singing «punk rock is shit». Or maybe releasing a 101-track long album with Zamay was a joke?

Reviewing his more popular, «hit» work might lead to one idea — that Slava defies everything, that he ridicules any serious attempt to decipher his art. He isn't trying to say anything, in fact, he just plays a no-win game with the listener. In this game, the one who is serious is the loser. Slava himself describes this worldview in his track «Фиксики» (Fixers): «You're lying, you rascal, and you make fun of the whole world».

He continues to make fun of everything in his recent underground project «Gleb Minekhin&Raul Nanayan». The duo's latest album is called «Гейгород» (Gaygorod: The City of Gays). At first, it reads as a roast of LGBTQ+ ideas. Is it though? The title is a call-back to Oxxxymiron's track «Горгород» (Gorgorod), which is full of patriarchal stereotypes — so maybe he actually roasts OxxxyMiron for glorifying heterosexual romantic love. Another release, by Valentin Dyadka and POVALISHIN DIVISION «The Ocean of Apologies», he also disses feminist agenda. The tracks on this album sound like prayers to God.

So is it about roasting everything or isn't it? We could say that Slava KPSS refuses to follow any rules, but this does not hold water for his lesser known projects. Calling it facetious would just be confirming the image of the «good old battle rapper Slava» we already have, instead of actually listening.

If we look closely at the band «Ежемесячные» («Monthlies»), we'd see many serious, not at all funny statements. Slava KPSS said that almost everything this band releases is freestyling. They have 57 releases in total, the latest one from April 30th 2021 titled «Личное непубличное» («Personal, not Public»). Slava never claimed that he «was working hard and made something brilliant» about this one. Rather, he says: «It's banal nostalgia, cliche moments. It didn't cost me *** (anything), but I'm sharing it with you». The album is ever changing: it shifts its flow, plays with having a narrative and lacking it; the themes are inconsistent. Some tracks consist simply of direct quotes from other artists about the group superimposed over a beat For Slava, «Monthlies» is «immersing oneself in the moment, and fixating your consciousness in it». Each and every release is masterful juggling. In this project, just like in many others, Slava doesn't care about one important element of for-profit art: being accessible to a wide audience. It's deeply underground and strictly «for the inner circle».

His experimental band «Солома» («Straw») diverts from post-irony and roasts even further. Calling it «facetious» or «ironic» would be deeply reductive. One of the group's first releases carries with it a manifesto — everyone has the right to make art. «Straw»'s releases are lo-fi by design. Those who are trying to be professional have to care about the quality of sound; «Soloma» does not. It doesn't have any catchy tunes. The lyrics are recorded as a spur of the moment, often on the first take. «It's creepy, uncomfortable music», Slava himself says.

Their album «Квартирник в 222» («House Show at 222») and «Чудовище, погубившее мир» («The Monster That Ruined The World») explores break ups. It's all hysterical shouts, sincere lyrics and a lack of rhyme or rhythm. This psychedelic sound is how «Straw» deconstructs pain. The idea of being broken and ruined comes through not only in the lyrics, butin the sound itself: in the deteriorated quality, in the hysterical, screaming voice. «This isn't a fun song, you can't dance to it at parties. The consumerist generation doesn't want that».

It seems in this album Slava dissects everything he has used in his work. In «Straw»'s lyrics, he doesn't hide behind irony, and rhymes transform into barely noticeable similarities between neighbouring words; music is dissonant. Here, satire goes hand-in-hand with seriousness, even dramatism (as in «Божьи люди» (God's people), for example).

Their next album «Письмо Незнакомки» («Letters from a Strange Girl») is even more complex, thus harder to listen to. The lyrics are stream-of-consciousness monotonous speech, with a background of disturbing music. It's hard to tell who is the author — maybe it was Slava, maybe some girl who sent her drafts into his DM. It's 21 tracks, but it reads as a single stream of consciousness.

Slava defies the genres not just to roast them, but to take the constraints off of his thought process. He tries to break free from reproducing himself on a surface level, from his particular tricks and his comfort zone. Roasts are just the most obvious example of it, there are countless others.

In «Monthlies», he drops pre-written lyrics in favor of freestyling. His earlier albums had a certain unity of ideas in them and referenced literary classics — like «Солнце Мертвых» («The Sun of the Dead»). Now it's more eclectic, as in «Оттенки Барда» («The Shades of the Bard»). Slava mixes feminism with appeals to God, while earnest and lyrical Buter Brodsky transforms into autotuned, full of cloud rap stereotypes «Lil Buter». In the last album of «Soloma», Slava bids farewell to the idea of authorship itself by not writing any lyrics at all.

It would be reductive to say that Slava KPSS is just a trickster who makes fun of the mainstream and earnestness in art. And yet, he does deconstruct artworks, both his own and that of others. Nothing is safe from his experimentations: he juggles topics, rhythms and rhymes. His narrator will never be understood — he can be ironic, or conceptual, provocative, or sincere.

These ever-shifting ideas might seem like nihilism and provocation, yet it's also a way to create, discover, present new art forms.

By Elena Pavlyuchik
translated by Marina Bazarnaya

Roughly translates as "Punks Oi, The Pot Lives" The word "Gorshok" ("Pot") is a nickname for Mikhail Gorshnev, the leader of one of the classic russian rock band "Alice". He is a cult figure for many who love punk rock. The phrase "Gorshok is alive" in Slava's song means punk rock is not dead, as many may claim.
Russian animated tv series about magical creatures that fix stuff (Fiksiki: Fixers). In this track, Fiksiki exist in Slava's mind and cannot fix his worldview.
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