In the past, Tyler, the Creator has made it clear that his favorite album by Eminem, the man he once referred to as his atheist God, is Relapse, the dark, dense comeback record that preceded the chart-topping Recovery. Wolf, the producer/rapper/clothing designer/cockroach-munching troublemaker’s third full-length, inherits the Shady influence that marked its predecessors, but it also looks back past Relapse to earlier entries in the older rapper’s discography, The Marshall Mathers LP in particular: Just as “Domo23″ takes superfluous shots at the pop stars of the moment (“purchasing weapons, naming them and aiming them in One Direction”), “IFHY” relates a “Kim”-style love/hate relationship, its title abbreviating a hook that the New York Times would be forced to describe as unprintable. “Colossus” even narrates a fan’s encounter with his 22-year-old role model, his desperate monologue inspiring in Tyler the same mixture of honor and disgust that Stan’s letters once inspired in Eminem.
Behind the boards for all 17 the album tracks, Tyler continues to prefer minor chords sustained over boom-bap beats. Posse banger “Trashwang” stands out for its double-time use of guns-as-drums (“I want the black kids to like me for this one,” he says on the intro) and “Tamale” pairs a syncopated beat with yelps from Tallulah Belle (previously best known for dating OF-affiliate Lucas Vercetti 18 years after emerging from the womb of Demi Moore), but the record’s most ambitious track might be the seven-minute “PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer,” which attempts to graft three song fragments (the second featuring Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, the third Frank Ocean) into a unified whole. The pieces never quite come together, but if there’s anything to learn from those early Eminem records, it’s that they usually don’t.