With Call Me If You Get Lost, Tyler loses his spark in an album that is just more of the same — but worse.
Let’s first address what Call Me If You Get Lost isn’t. It isn’t a mixtape — though the instant shouting from DJ Drama throughout might have you thinking otherwise — or even much of a concept album: while there’s certainly a strong concept unifying the project’s broader artistic vision, calling the collection of songs here an “album” feels misleading. It’s too cursory, too jittery, too stitched-together to fit neatly into that comfortable prestige label bestowed upon assemblages of recorded music — which, fittingly enough, is the same conundrum that concerns Tyler, the Creator at this point in his career, now six records deep and feeling increasingly restricted by the limitations the general listening public wants to impose on him. He’s garnered acclaim, but has been accused of selling out; he starts singing on records and then gets mad at the Grammys for placing him in the Best Rap Album category.
So this rise in cultural stature hasn’t been entirely without Tyler’s own personal motivations involved — coinciding with his own artistic maturation expressed to varying degrees of success across 2017’s Flower Boy and 2019’s IGOR — but it has certainly put him in something of an uncertain standing within the broader spectrum of hip-hop. So perhaps a mixtape-esque venture is the best call at this juncture for something akin to a musical reset, a return to one’s roots in a low-stakes effort that can reap plenty of reward. And indeed, it has so far (Pusha-T bestowed Tyler with the coveted AOTY award on “Tell the Vision”), but by way of continuing the same esteem-chasing methods Tyler’s previous outings engaged with, making the affair something of a null and void experience. It so desperately wants to act like a proud sign of creative freedom when it’s more a signpost of what’s come before and what to expect in the future, or a holding pattern before the next big genre switch-up.
To put it bluntly, let’s now get out of the way of what Call Me If You Get Lost is: super try-hard when it tries to come off as nonchalant. It’s the type of collection that thinks casually putting a snapping Lil Wayne verse on top of a jazzy, elegant flute solo — an arty pastiche masquerading as some random deep dive, with a feature that embodies this type of ethos — is something that would realistically be on a Gangsta Grillz mixtape. The other guests here feel equally as misappropriated, like Detroit’s own gremlin 42 Dugg hoping on the silly, WWE-intro “LEMONHEAD” for some gritty veracity or Youngboy singing over an H-Town sample, both serving stark reminders of just how insular Tyler’s sound and style have become when he tries meshing them with anyone else. He’s become so idiosyncratic that it’s now practically impossible to get excited by “JUGGERNAUT,” which has this annoying bait-and-switch opening and grating chorus that prevents Lil Uzi Vert or Pharell Williams from ever making the track truly spark.
Tyler’s production continues the lo-fi streak started with IGOR, and his deep love and passion for compressed synthesizers persist, though this is hardly much of a sonic evolution on a project that screams “arrested development” at every turn; if anything, he heavily regresses when forced to confront anything within reality. Once out of his comfort zone and carefully constructed Wes Anderson-wannabe world, he stumbles: On “RUNITUP,” his imparting message of “be yourself” feels painfully simplistic, which is at least more tolerable than the naive calls for unity exhibited in “MANIFESTO” or the casual misogyny that plagues the back-end of the record (guess some people never do change). Again, it’s Tyler stretching himself too thin while trying to appear off the cuff; he’s attempting to accommodate every facet of his ever-growing fanbase and reputation in one fell swoop, and instead, awkwardly flounders over atonal beats. Call it conceitedness, or call it eccentricism; either way, Call Me If You Get Lost is hardly the type of album to inspire much confidence or even much enthusiasm in a career that seems ready to collapse under the weight of its own haughtiness.
Published as part of Album Roundup — June 2021 | Part 4.