IGOR: A Complete Breakdown. Part 1: IGOR’S THEME
Tyler, the Creator’s sixth album, IGOR, is nothing short of a masterpiece. Read Joey’s breakdown of the first track.
Tyler, the Creator’s sixth album, IGOR, is nothing short of a masterpiece. Released on May 17th, 2019, the set of songs takes the listener on a journey alongside Tyler’s persona, dubbed “Igor”, as he deals with unrequited love, love triangles, uncertainty, and finally, self respect. This series of articles will go through every track featured on IGOR.
Tr. 1, IGOR’S THEME
The track was first teased on May 1st, 2019, when Tyler posted a fifty second clip to his YouTube channel, sharing the first moments of the album before they were known to be the first. Naturally, the video showcases the twenty-four second distorted synthetic bass sound that sets the groundwork for our setting in this track: Igor’s head.
The main definition of the word “theme” is “the subject of a talk, a piece of writing, a person’s thoughts, or an exhibition; a topic.” In this case, the use of this word in the song’s title is to put one under the impression that they are in Igor’s mind experiencing his thoughts. In the album’s trek of a narrative, introducing the protagonist before anything else is a great approach to keep everything consistent that follows on the record.
Tyler has explained that IGOR’S THEME was initially intended to be an instrumental track until rapper Lil Uzi Vert contributed.
I was in the studio with Uzi hangin’ […]. I couldn’t come up with words but I had this melody […] and then he takes that melody and just adds words and sings it right.
While some may discount the lyrics from the narrative due to their spontaneity, Tyler has also stated that these featured lyrics “worked out so perfectly”.
After 24 seconds of crunchy, semi-tonal synth surrounding the listener, the racing drum break of Head West’s Attention (featured on their 1970 debut album, sampled by Gorillaz, and John Cena among other artists) pushes the bass along, greeting listeners with various cryptic samples that we encounter further down the road.
The first few words we hear from the tune are a distorted “Running” and “He’s Coming”, sounding as if it’s a warning. Next, comes the aforementioned hook sung by rapper Lil Uzi Vert:
“Ridin’ round town they gon’ feel this one“
It’s reasonable to say these lyrics did end up working perfectly. Upon release of the album, Tyler put instructions for listening to IGOR on Twitter, stating that this album was not like his older projects and that the best way to listen would be:
“all the way through, no skips. Front to back. No distractions either… Some go on walks, some drive, some lay in bed and sponge it all up.“
Lil Uzi’s lyrics reinforce this point by referring to the listener as “they”. He’s saying that the upcoming journey is an emotional one, and that we, the listeners, are going to feel it.
The song continues to unveil, revealing a new vocal sample that will be encountered again down the line: “Got my eyes open”. The hook is repeated with a full ensemble of backup vocalists—Anthony Evans, Amanda Brown, and Tiffany Stevenson. The bass stops playing to give Tyler’s impressive piano playing the spotlight. The hook is repeated once more before giving way to another instrumental break featuring a vocal sample of Scatin by artist Dâm-Funk off of his 2015 record, Invite The Light. Here, we are introduced to another common element throughout our quest: arpeggiated synth. In this case, this same arpeggiated synth returns to close the track later on.
Tyler has Tweeted that his favorite moment on this track is “at 2:44, when it’s synth galore and the low end is at its lowest.” This breakdown demonstrates the dynamic range of IGOR and how easily something unexpected can happen within a song or it’s structure. In some cases, this album comes off with the feeling of a progressive-rap genre, with some parts happening an odd number of times or only once. In its final moments, the piano strikes an unresolved chord and a familiar arpeggiated synth returns to act as a terminal from track one to two, as the transitional periods in the record frequently do.
As an album opener, IGOR’S THEME seems angry, dark, and implicit when it comes to introducing the album, whereas previous album openers in Tyler’s discography, most notably Foreword (Flower Boy, 2017), and DEATHCAMP (Cherry Bomb, 2015) have had more of an explicit approach to welcoming the listener to their respective albums. Later on in the IGOR storyline, we’ll find that this same darkness tends to surface in most of the tracks on the album—most notably as the bitter side of Igor’s lyrics and instrumental style. Another recurrence throughout the album is the use of a distorted bass sound. Every track on this record has a gritty low end, making the production quite remarkable.
Later, read an article on the album’s lead single: EARFQUAKE [sic]. Track two of the record gives the listener the second half of this story’s prologue before dropping listeners directly in to the action.
Listen to IGOR’S THEME on Spotify. Also, listen to Tyler, the Creator’s Beats 1 interview or Broken Record discussion.
Read Joey’s other IGOR breakdowns here.
Joey is a striving musician as well as a journalist. His main focus is on the breaking down of popular albums and the in-depth analysis that it can offer. Check out his complete breakdown series of articles.