“Travelin’ the world/Passport stamped up/It’s Tyler Baudelaire, nigga.” Taken from the outro of Call Me If You Get Lost’s opening track, the booming voices of DJ Drama and Tyler, The Creator proclaim three short clauses that are the essence of the album. This essence is wrapped in the dual metaphor of traveling and yet another new addition to Tyler’s arsenal of characters. His seventh studio album, Call Me If You Get Lost, is a sprawling musical mosaic that emphasizes the non-linearity of growth, prioritizes careful reflection, and finds Tyler operating at the height of his production abilities. The record features a genius convergence of rap’s brightest new stars and most storied iconoclasts; contributions from DJ Drama, Lil Wayne, Pharrell Williams, Lil Uzi Vert, 42 Dugg, YoungBoy Never Broke Again, Ty Dolla $ign, and more help add new shades to the already layered album.
Following up Igor was never going to be an easy task. The album was Tyler’s first to hit #1 on the Billboard 200, and it also earned him his first Grammy Award when he won Best Rap Album at the 2020 ceremony. In addition, there were the fans that felt that Tyler had abandoned rap music with Igor‘s more apparent pop tendencies and large amounts of singing. From “Sir Baudelaire,” the opening track, Tyler delves into hip-hop with pure ferocity. Similar to Kid Capri on Kendrick Lamar’s seminal DAMN, DJ Drama’s voice rings out over the majority of the album recalling his classic Gangsta Grillz mixtapes. Functioning as a guide, hype man, and confidant, DJ Drama’s voice is at once a comforting omen and a signal of the wild ride that Call Me If You Get Lost will turn out to be. Sonically, Call Me If You Get Lost is in line with Igor; jazz and lounge music influence the majority of the album’s soundscape, but there are still moments of trap and more hard-hitting industrial production. Although the album may sound like a natural progression from the sonic mood established on Igor, Tyler’s lyrics and approach to rapping recall his earlier work. There’s the menacing guttural flow from albums like Goblin and Bastard, but the lyrics and themes of those albums are the subjects of Tyler’s reflections on Call Me If You Get Lost. At the end of the plucky “Corso,” Tyler remarks “I don’t even like using the word ‘bitch’/It just sounded cool.” It’s an off-hand moment that signals a major shift from an artist whose earlier work was steeped in dark humor, horrorcore, and lyrics that are currently the subject of intense scrutinization because of how vile they were. In some ways, the Tyler of old is still present on this album. Call Me If You Get Lost’s lead single, “Lumberjack” samples “2 Cups of Blood” from the horrorcore rap group Gravediggaz. The influence of that group is contained to the music because, lyrically, Tyler flips the sample into one of the more traditionally structured songs on the album along with a standard success and wealth theme. Between heavy percussion, rock tendencies, and a DMX-esque growl to his voice, “Lumberjack” is the perfect culmination of Tyler’s influences.
As for the other pre-album single, “Wusyaname,” it’s one of the album’s crowning achievements. As Tyler continues his musical evolution, he brings along other rappers and pushes them to conquer new sounds and deliver grade A verses. “Wusyaname” finds Tyler linking up with YoungBoy Never Broke Again and Ty Dolla $ign on a brief, but impactful, track that is as soulful as it is flirtatious. Ty Dolla $ign has, of course, been the secret weapon on terrific collaborations with SZA, H.E.R., and Ariana Grande, so the real shocker here is hearing NBA YoungBoy on something other than a grimy trap beat. His voice works with the ethereal production particularly well. It’s a lovestruck number that marks a moment of relative innocence on an album drenched in maturation. “Wusyaname” also functions as the sonic counterpart to the preceding track “Lemonhead,” another collaboration with a new school star. 42 Dugg assists Tyler on a track that opens with grand horns that soon morph into a sinister instrumental. Dugg’s trademark melodic flow plays well against the more villainous vocal approach Tyler takes. On Call Me If You Get Lost, brass symbolizes the opulence of Tyler Baudelaire. “Runitup” and “Safari” both uses horns throughout their durations, but “Runitup,” in particular, strikes an incredible balance between the grandness of brass instruments and the comparative sparseness of the rest of the production. Tyler Baudelaire, the character Tyler assumes for Call Me If You Get Lost, is a reference to the French poet Charles Baudelaire — a writer whose work was banned because of its “indecency” and explicitness. Tyler Baudelaire translates opulence through hooks about wealth, multi-textured production, and lyrics that range from fleeting romance to ruminations on “cancel culture.” On Call Me If You Get Lost, Tyler’s past doesn’t haunt him. Instead, he wields his past as lens through which he can reflect on his own personal evolution. On “Manifesto,” Tyler looks back at his most heinous moments (“I was a teener, tweetin’ Selena crazy shit/Didn’t wanna offend her, apologize when I seen her”) and comments on the cyclical dissatisfaction of the “culture” (“I’m probably a coon, and your standard’s based on this evidence/Am I doin’ enough or not doin’ enough?/I’m tryna run with the baton, but see, my shoe’s in the mud”). Ultimately, Tyler calls for freedom and takes responsibility for his past. This is what Call Me If You Get Lost is all about. If anything, the album’s title is a message from Tyler Baudelaire to Tyler, The Creator. Sometimes on our journey through life, we can get lost in ourselves and lost in the expectations that people place on us. It’s up to us, and us alone, to recenter and refocus.
Whether it’s the contemplative love letter of “Wilshire” or the lengthy starry-eyed ode to a capella and soul that is “Sweet / I Thought You Wanted To Dance,” Call Me If You Get Lost covers a lot of thematic ground. Although there’s a new character and a choir of voices other than Tyler’s that populate the record, Tyler is still the leader of this world that he’s created. He’s grown up, but he hasn’t ignored or discarded the parts of him that he’s grown out of. It’s this dedication to building on the foundation of his past instead of magically assuming a new identity that makes Call Me If You Get Lost so visionary and enrapturing.
Key Tracks: “LEMONHEAD” | “RUNITUP” | “MANIFESTO” | “WUSYANAME” | “RISE”