Tyler, The Creator’s Debut “Goblin” Turns 12

Twelve years after the release of Tyler, the Creator’s ‘Goblin,’ we’re taking a look back on the album’s influence on his career and his fanbase.

BYCaleb Hardy
Tyler, The Creator’s Debut “Goblin” Turns 12

Tyler, the Creator has always been enamored with the messy corners of the world. Whether he's picking up supposedly repulsive insects or dressing up as the outcasted character Igor, the LA-born artist has always resonated with the shunned away aspects of society. Take Igor, a concept rooted in an oddball character who acted as an assistant to Gothic villains in The Ghost of Frankenstein. He's also taken a liking to The Grinch, an iconic villain whose menacing outer personality masks an innate desire to be accepted by those around him. These characters are a purposeful reflection of how Tyler, the Creator views himself.

These anti-hero concepts originated with Tyler, the Creator's Goblin. Released 12 years ago on May 11, his journey from the grumbling flows of the project to the pop or soul-infused soundscapes of Flower Boy or Call Me If You Get Lost has been wild. The outcasted themes of Goblin coincided with the narrative surrounding Odd Future. The boisterous group of teenagers was nearing its peak by the summer of 2011. Tyler, the Creator approached the record with a nihilistic viewpoint. He's pointing fingers at traditional society through derogatory lyricism, which would notably get him banned from the United Kingdom.

Goblin Solidified Tyler's Success

The hallmark song off of Goblin is, of course, "Yonkers." The track that would finally eclipse Tyler into the mainstream spotlight, its New York-influenced beat overtook the hip-hop world. The music video mirrors the thematic structure of the overall album, as Tyler can be seen eating a cockroach (and then proceeding to throw up). The music video is utterly repulsive yet somehow wholly magnetic. It parallels the world Tyler, the Creator built in his early years. His outlandish personality garnered a worldwide fanbase enamored with Odd Future's calculated chaos.

Of course, "Yonkers" isn't the sole notable track of Tyler, the Creator's debut album. "She" features future star vocalist Frank Ocean, a symbolic prelude of Tyler's future ventures away from the world of grimy hip-hop. Tyler and Hodgy went live on The Jimmy Fallon Show to perform "Sandwitches," shocking the audience with their uncompromising bravado in what is an Odd Future anthem. There are also more experimental cuts, such as "Analog," a 3-minute house-induced experience. While Goblin is a struggle to listen through in one sitting, it chronicles Tyler's wide array of emotions as a confused 20-year-old.

Tyler Experienced Growing Pains on Goblin

Since Goblin's release, fans have had plenty of discourse on where the album lands in the context of his body of work. The bleakness and endless quality of the record have many arguing that its lack of cohesiveness makes it Tyler, the Creator's worst album to date. Others argue that Goblin's messiness is a brilliant reflection of his mental headspace. Tyler darts from being deeply depressed to a sudden state of manic happiness. Goblin is a personal therapy session that Tyler, the Creator doesn't prefer to reflect on as a fully grown man in his 30s. However, it's a valuable insight into the rappers' growth on a personal and creative level.

Essentially, Goblin is 82 minutes of growing pains. There isn't a happy ending or even a satisfying conclusion. In fact, he seems just as lost on "Golden" as he did on title track. The album was the crux between a wild skateboarder and a tantalizing artist. Tyler himself hasn't always been fond of the record. In an interview with GQ Style in 2018, he conceded, "I think Goblin is horrible. The only songs I would keep from Goblin are 'Yonkers,' 'She,' 'Nightmare,' 'Tron Cat,' 'Fish,' 'Analog,' and 'Au79.'" While he's since expressed a greater appreciation for the album on social media, his relative disdain for the record speaks volumes about his maturation as an artist.

Goblin Arrived At The Perfect Time

US rapper Tyler, the Creator poses in the press room with the award for Best Rap Album for "Igor" during the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

His next album, Wolf, presented a much more composed and introspective Tyler. Rather than solely lashing out at the world, he's painfully blatant about his need to address his personal trauma. "Answer" is an in-depth analysis of his relationship with his father (or lack thereof). "IFHY" sees Tyler utterly lovesick, as he's fully infatuated with a lost lover. These emotionally complex songs are rooted in Goblin. He was able to build on those narratives more accurately on future records.

Goblin contributed to the normalization of individuality that Odd Future promoted. With many of its members on the album, Tyler, the Creator's debut studio album was a fitting counterpart to the group's overarching message. Even more fittingly, Tyler was detained by Los Angeles police for public disturbance while promoting the album. Essentially, the record released right Odd Future was all over the Internet. Frank Ocean would release his debut album, Nostalgia, Ultra, a week later. Goblin was yet another anchor that riled up their teenage fanbase. The wild collection of fans wearing Thrasher and Vans would also mature with Tyler into his late 20s.


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