Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Tyler, the Creator – A Boy is a Gun

I’m not going to top Hypebeast Stevie Wonder…


Julian Axelrod: A lot of ink’s been spilled about Tyler’s “mature” phase, but I think the beauty of his transition from enfant terrible to hypebeast Stevie Wonder is that he’s inched the bratty pettiness of his early work into a more refined, authentic vein that still pulses with provocation. In a way, spilling 90s mixtape gunshots over a queer lounge singer’s lament is more shocking and exciting than anything off Bastard.

Thomas Inskeep: From the year’s best hip hop albums comes a glorious single about queer male love, of which I can’t get enough. Tyler’s self-production sounds like Kanye x Solange — even sampling the Ponderosa Twins Plus One, just as Kanye did on “Bound 2.” And whatcha know, that’s Solange on backing vocals! Not only does this sound great, though — it matters. Hearing a male rapper talk about how he’s head over heels for another guy, from a #1 album? Big deal. Fortunately it’s also superb.

Ian Mathers: A downright plush backing for a song about the way it feels when you’re in romantic enough turmoil (or tumultuous enough romance) that your mind is going a million miles a second and you can’t settle on even a set of coherent feelings.

Alfred Soto: Tyler hasn’t gotten nicer since positioning himself as a queer avatar; the use of soul samples, a move of surprising conservatism, is his only concession to respectability. As a flash move, “A Boy is a Gun” is a tonic, but not meaning his homocidal intentions doesn’t assuage their malevolence either.

Tim de Reuse: A tune about the pains of being vulnerable to your boyfriend, where half the textual content is a chant of “Don’t, don’t shoot me down?” For sure, I relate — and Tyler’s arrangements are as sonically pleasing as ever — but the take-away is disappointingly simple.

Kylo Nocom: As if every idea of what confident Kanye-esque maximalism could do for pop came to fruition, with the caveat of the chorus basically being a jumpscare.

Joshua Lu: Gun metaphors routinely feel unearned, with many an artist invoking one without fully considering the cultural significance behind this weapon, especially in the current year. It’s to the song’s benefit that Tyler, the Creator sidesteps the simile as he co-opts the idiom in the title; a boy isn’t like a gun, he is one, as if Tyler’s fully accepting of the implications this comparison begets. “A Boy is a Gun” blends violence and love starting from the opening: “You so motherfuckin’ dangerous,” he gushes sweetly, tenderly, right after a gunshot fires off, and his ability to switch between an affectionate and a harsh delivery with all of the ease of pulling a trigger heightens the instrumental’s unevenness. It’s a song designed to keep you on edge, perpetually unsure of whether there’s a tender chord or an explosive lyric waiting at the end of the beat.

Reader average: [7.75] (4 votes)

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