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Tyler, the Creator, Goblin (XL) 

This is an ugly album. From the opening, bleak beats of "Goblin" ("I'm fucked in the head / I lost my mind with my virginity") to the haunted, crackly synths of closer "Golden" ("Ending it is all I fucking think about"), Goblin is abject pessimism. The unbridled work of an irascible 20-year-old, Goblin deftly meshes truculent, naked rhythms and sybaritic, perverse and solipsistic raps.

Is Tyler homophobic? Misogynistic? Dangerous? The answer, across the board, is no. He is young, immature and talented. Wisely, Tyler has also adapted his caustic, acidic music persona onto his public persona (see his Twitter feed), making the sincere nature of his vitriol inscrutable.

Tyler's youth is Goblin's biggest setback. "Transylvania" is a child's silly prank—where lyrics exist only to remind you of all that Dracula can't do (oral sex, for instance)—that also contains enough wit and adroit production to portend more skill than it actually delivers. Elsewhere, Tyler's young mind is off-putting ("Rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome"), threatening ("Kill those kids with dads and moms") and annoying ("That was me who shoved a cock in your bitch").

Even when Goblin astounds, it still feels like death: Lurching and dense beats assault Tyler's barked, adenoidal raps. Standouts like the scratchy rant "Yonkers," the stuttering vamp "Sandwitches," and the hypnotic lullaby "Tron Cat" represent the best in grotty hip-hop.

Tyler's dedication to slaughtering every sacred cow suggests he is a genius, a savant or a moron—a paradox that will serve him as long as it remains tenable.

More by Michael Petitti

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