Flower Boy T and Me

I overplay this album. I annoy people with this album. I’m obsessed with this album.

September 2013 I was leaving soccer practice in the car of a minor friend heading to my not yet separated family home, “I’m a fucking walking paradox, no I’m not, Threesomes with a fucking triceratops.” The shitty New York beat of “Yonkers” was playing over his cars speakers.

Almost four years later and that was probably my most intimate experience with Tyler, The Creator. I never listened to the rest of Wolf, never listened to Cherry Bomb, why? The same reason people don’t listen to any music, I didn’t think it would be worth the time.

Fast forward to this past summer, it’s almost the end of July, and I’m starving for some new music. I’ve beaten all the songs of Funk Wav Bounces to death and everything besides “Rollin” is starting to drive me crazy. In comes Flower Boy to save the day.

Talk about some fucking angst. “Foreword” introduces Tyler’s inner turmoil that serves as the base of the rest of the album. Tyler contemplates the idea of running away from himself and never returning. Is this an allusion to suicide? A literal statement of taking one of his beloved cars and “never coming back”? Either way, this was not at all what I was expecting from him based on my preconceived notions of Tyler as an artist.

A seamless transition into my second favorite track of the album follows “Foreword” into “When This Flower Blooms.” I could write a paragraph about each individual track, as there isn’t a song on this album I don’t like, but that’s not why I wanted to write this.

Flower Boy feels like it came at the perfect time in my life. This summer my mental health has been better than it has since I knew what mental health even was. A multitude of contributing factors including a new comfy friend group, an increased self-confidence, and a feeling that I no longer bury my feelings lead me to have a dramatic decrease in negative mental experiences. Flower Boy served as a sort of confirmation to these feelings.

This summer I took two separate road trips, one to New England, and the other to LA. While seeing friends and attending an enchanting music festival on the east coast was a wonderful time, the journey to and from LA felt like some sort of cathartic expedition of growth. This specific road trip was when I pummeled Flower Boy to its listening limits.

Tyler was narrating aspects of his life that mirrored mine to at some points an uncanny level. This summer I felt like I mentally came to terms with a plethora of aspects about myself. The only way to grow is to understand first, right? Tyler seemed to also come to terms with aspects of himself as well during the creation of this album. It’s not as though these aspects of Tyler or myself are negative or that I thought of them negatively, it just feels different to simply acknowledge something as opposed to completely owning and embracing it.

Something I used to be much more concerned about was the idea of my masculinity. It wasn’t necessarily that I felt the need to be masculine, but that I was afraid of other boys judging my level of masculinity which would cause me to lose “face” in certain social groups. Over time I’ve become less and less concerned with this phenomenon, mostly because I spend my time with much different people than I used to. I always thought of Tyler as a figure of hypermasculinity, as I feel most rappers are looked at in that light.

Hearing the lyrics of this album blew me away. Not only did Tyler “come out” to the public on this album, but he also emptied out his emotions. He’s sappy, he’s nostalgic, he’s optimistic, and almost everything in between on Flower Boy. It was so refreshing to hear someone like Tyler talk about love in a poetic way on songs like “See You Again” and “Garden Shed.” Yet he doesn’t trap his emotions into this artistic bubble. Right after “See You Again” comes “Who Dat Boy”, the banger of the album. The song more accurately mirrored my preconceived notions of Tyler. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard such contrasting styles of songs on the same album right after one another talking about relatively the same thing - love.

I may not be as worried about being masculine as I used to be, but it still finds its way into my mind sometimes. I’m still a male, and that won’t change. Even as I felt myself evolving as a person this summer I’d find myself confused about my own identity. Can I be both feminine and masculine? Can I see both sides? Flower Boy helped answer that for me. Yes.

If Tyler can follow “See You Again” with “Who Dat Boy” than I can paint my nails on Tuesday and play pickup football on Wednesday.

As I continued on my way to Los Angeles I was entering the final stage of my metaphorical cocoon. We had only hurdled the first hill with a view of the city and I had already fallen in love. As I settled into the city I settled into myself. The five days I spent there were some of the most comfortable days of my life. A baseline anxiety I’ve had since I was a kid felt dramatically at ease. I continued overplaying Flower Boy during my time spent there. “Garden Shed” in particular mirrored my mood during most moments.

In LA it felt okay to act both feminine and masculine. Everyone seemed to be participating in that mindset or at the very least was okay with that being the mindset of the city.

Tyler, Frank Ocean, and the rest of the now loosely stitched together California based group “Odd Future” seem to be at the center of this new movement of using music to help remove gender from identity. While now, partially through their efforts, I feel much more comfortable acting in ways that would be categorized within both genders, the ideal future would be where actions and ideas wouldn’t be attached to any gender. I want my kids to buy a new pink dress for barbie, or a new battle station for G.I. Joe not because they were told to by a commercial or an adult that that’s what their supposed to want, but because that’s what they inherently want to do. Flower Boy made me feel much more comfortable with feeling this way. If Tyler can communicate these kind of ideas through his art, than maybe we can too?