Even at ten years’ distance, the nature of Odd Future’s 2011 gatecrashing of the mainstream still feels like a fever dream; nobody since has staged quite such a hostile takeover, with everything from Tyler’s stripped-back and shocking ‘Yonkers’ video to his performance of ‘Sandwitches’ on Jimmy Fallon with Hodgy Beats, scored through with a thrilling sense of unpredictability. By the time the rapper’s solo debut dropped, ‘GOBLIN’ served as the culmination of one of the most thrilling upendings of the musical rulebook in recent history, and one that excited and frustrated in equal measure - as much now as it did then.
There are moments of towering innovation across the record - the manner in which raw minimalism meets slick production on ‘Yonkers’ and ‘AU79’, for instance, or the swirling meeting of menace and beauty that came to characterise so many of the album’s instrumentals. There’s also the creeping sense, however, that early-career Tyler leaned unnecessarily heavily into shock-tactic lyricism, with the dark dioramas he draws on ‘GOBLIN’ routinely unsettling; you wonder how much of it he would get away with today.
Released: 10th May 2011
Key Tracks: ‘She’, ‘Yonkers’, ‘Window’
Tell Your Mates: In ‘Yonkers’, Tyler professes to wanting to stab Bruno Mars in the oesophagus. Bruno’s response? “[Tyler] has to wait in line if he wants to stab me. He’s definitely not the first guy that’s said something like that to me and he’s not going to be the last.” Fair play, mate!
The record’s a stark reminder, too, of just how much talent existed in the Odd Future pool at the time. Frank Ocean, now THE pop enigma of his generation, makes a memorable contribution on ‘She’, his mellow vocals blended with a woozy beat that threatens to veer off the rails at any given minute, while the star-studded ‘Window’ does so much with so little, taking a basic but thickly atmospheric synth loop and using it as a backdrop over which Domo Genesis, Hodgy Beats and Mike G queue up to deliver softly sinister verses. By the time Tyler chips in with his own, the track’s quietly taken on a nightmarish air.
His lyricism on ‘GOBLIN’ remains a blend of cattle-prod provocation, flirtations with horrorcore, and a genuinely unsettling appetite for the macabre. It’s astonishing, now, to think that a rapper hailed as a queer icon for his insights on ‘Flower Boy’ and ‘Igor’ was once brushing off justified criticism from the likes of Tegan and Sara with the same homophobic slurs on social media that ‘GOBLIN’ itself is littered with. In 2018, the man himself claimed that he’d only keep seven of the record’s fifteen tracks, but to revise ‘GOBLIN’ retrospectively would be to do a disservice to its spirit - it remains a messy, discomfiting monument to mainstream subversion.
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