Tyga is having one of those rare bursts of creativity in music. It’s reminiscent of Kanye when he put out My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy concurrently with the GOOD Fridays sessions, or Bruce Springsteen’s wealth of material that came out of the Darkness on the Edge Town recordings.
Well, okay, maybe Careless World, the Well Done 3 mixtape and now Hotel California won’t go down in history as a landmark moment in the history of popular music, but Tyga is putting in work. You can’t take that away from him. Three lengthy releases in little more than a year is an impressive output.
He doesn’t lack for new material on Hotel California, with 18 full-fledged tracks and only one track carrying over from the mixtape. He does, however, seem to have taken a step back from the surprisingly well-rounded Careless World. He’s also missing some of the energy and fun of Well Done 3.
He comes out of the gate unabashed on “500 Degrees” featuring Lil Wayne, who at this point just needs to lie down. It’s been a long time since his presence has adding anything of value to a track other than his name, including his own material. Tyga leaves no doubt, however, of his extravagant lifestyle with one over-the-top boast after another:
“T-raww, fuck y’all, money tall, dick large/Tiger in my backyard/bitcheses on my futon…Thrilla manila, I buy straight from the dealer/I’m politickin’ in Paris, I’m buying statues and pillars/All from the Louvre…mosaics from the museum…”
The money, the cars, the women, the clothes, the art pieces – Tyga leaves no doubt through the album that he’s bathing in these status symbols.
The next track, “Dope,” raises your hopes to the highest level. A sinister cocktail of bassline, synth and sample propel Tyga and Rick Ross to their bests. Ross sounds uncharacteristically nimble, though not out of character: “I done seen it all but it’s back to these broads.” Ah, the grind of being a Don.
The rest of Hotel California’s seemingly endless first half is illustrative of a major problem in rap right now. A minimalism so tinny and deadening it comes off as hollow and nearly depressing. It’s a sound personified by everyone from Rick Ross to Weezy to 2 Chainz – an almost anti-quality aesthetic with no depth, vibrancy or musicality. Its end can’t come soon enough.
“Get Loose” makes you feel anything but with its series of beeps and handclaps, and bone-headed, repetitive lyrics: “Bitch ‘cause I’m loose off the goose, goose/Loose off the goose, goose/Real shit, I ain’t never been a liar.”
The lead single “Molly” is a catchy, but murky, dark ode to a purer form of ecstasy. “For the Road” is one of the few tender moments on Hotel California, featuring Chris Brown of all people. “Show You” features the awful autotune stylings of Future and “It Neva Rains” is corny Cali sentiment, using the same effects we heard on “California Love” nearly 20 years ago now. Will West Coast rap ever let go of its undying affection for Roger Troutman’s Electro Harmonix?
Tyga seemed to be aiming to create as many versions of “Faded” and “Rack City” as he could muster on this latest record.
However, just when you’re ready to write Tyga off for his crass banality and low-brow instincts, he somehow manages to find his footing. In the final tracks, he presents a picture of the young, rich and reckless, but also the vulnerable.
On “Enemies,” he’s tormented by a secret love affair: “I wanna tell the world about you, but it’s like we’re sworn secrecy/Why do we sacrifice growing up to fall in love so fast, hope we don’t become enemies.” But later he declares, “Lies, you can’t take it, cheated before, but not much lately/Lately I’ve been so into this shit, love is amazing.”
“Drive Fast, Live Young” forgoes the clanky production quality of much of Hotel California for more of an epic scale. “Palm Trees” captures the California feel much better than the derivative “It Neva Rains,” and Tyga gives new insight to his high rolling lifestyle: “All-white neighborhood, I feel alone/8 bedrooms, let my thoughts roam.”
Fame comes at a price and the 23-year-old Tyga seems to actually realize that, even if he will dedicate track after blusterous track to denying it.
“Dad’s Letter” is even more revelatory as he imagines what he would say to his missing-in-action father: “Growing up all I wanted was a father figure/Me and mom alone every dinner…”
Hotel California is far more uneven than Careless World, but there’s just enough here to get us into the summer. You may not find much of it is very good, you may be turned off by its simplicity and profanity, but you’ll bang it anyway. It’s another interesting chapter in Tyga’s young but extremely prolific and still promising career.