Label: Columbia Records
Released: June 25

Tyler, the Creator is a master of misdirection. For years, fans had whispered about how he was slowly moving away from rap (before releasing IGOR, Tyler himself even said, “Don’t go into this expecting a rap album”). Then, just as everyone expected him to dive even deeper into the sounds of R&B, funk, pop, and soul, Tyler took a U-turn. He dropped a rap album.

Call Me If You Get Lost isn’t just any rap album, though. It’s a project that landed with such force it had Pusha-T in the studio declaring it “album of the year, for now” just days after it dropped (it turns out he was right, with no need for the qualifier). It’s an album that opened the eyes of traditionalists who had once dismissed Tyler’s abilities as a lyricist (songs like “Wilshire” and “Massa” prove he can rap as well as anyone right now). It’s a record that successfully bottled up the magic of DJ Drama’s legendary mixtape run and updated it for 2021, reimagining the Gangsta Grillz aesthetic to fit snugly inside Tyler’s universe.

In Tyler’s career arc, CMIYGL is yet another artistic leap forward. Even if you have a personal preference for more melodic albums like IGOR, you have to admit that CMIYGL is the most technically impressive album he’s ever made. It features some of the best beats of Tyler’s career (do yourself a favor and go listen to “Lemonhead” and “Lumberjack” on a car stereo) and easily his best rapping. Unlike other standouts in his discography, it’s not a concept album, and yet it’s still very cohesive, cleverly making use of Drama’s ad-libs (and a loose travel theme) to tie each song together. Tyler will forever be a world-builder to his core.

In a way that few artists can, Tyler has a gift for pulling the very best out of an A-list cast of collaborators, while bringing them each to his world instead of contorting to theirs. On CMIYGL, he does this brilliantly, somehow making NBA YoungBoy sound at home on an R&B record (“Wusyaname”), getting Pharrell to rap in a way we rarely hear (“Juggernaut”), and pulling a year-defining performance out of Wayne in the midst of his own incredible run (“Hot Wind Blows”). 

Shortly after CMIYGL hit streaming services, Tyler hopped on Instagram Live and played back some of his favorite moments on the album. At one point, listening back to the drum break on “Massa,” he couldn’t help himself from yelling, “I’m so fucking good, dude, it’s so crazy!” He’s not wrong. Tyler is on a tear right now, and he knows it. This isn’t the time or the place to be humble—in fact, his boasts help give CMIYGL its charm. And that confidence is only propelling him forward, putting wind in his sails as he follows his most outlandish creative whims. CMIYGL is the second Tyler, the Creator album in three years to earn the No. 1 spot on a Complex Best Albums of the Year list, adding to a mounting pile of awards and recognitions. Tyler is already in rarified air at this point, and albums like Call Me If You Get Lost prove he’s a generational artist who just keeps getting better with time. —Eric Skelton