Puh – remember NOISE UPON A TIME two months ago? We went sooooo far back in time that we needed a little break to get to our newest episode. This time, you can only state: Well, well, well, how the turntables. We are visiting 2009, which isn’t that far away, but still is 14 years ago. 14 YEARS! Barack Obama became the first Black US president, Captain Sully water landed his plane on the Hudson River, Bitcoin launched and Michael Jackson died. Wild year.

Tyler, The Creator – Bastard

released December 25, 2009, independently

revisited by David Rodriguez

Bastard is a remarkable project for a ton of reasons, chief among them is how much it doesn’t fit the artist that made it now. Released on Christmas Day of 2009, pretty much on the eve of a new decade, it saw a 17-year-old Tyler, The Creator say just about any and every horrendous thing possible to get a rise out of people. Those familiar with hardcore and horrorcore rap (hi) likely didn’t bat an eye. 4chan kids (hi again) found its edginess endearing. Parents? Well, they hated it. Boomer-ass Theresa May in the UK even banned Tyler as a person from visiting the country from 2015 to around 2019.

While I don’t seek to make any excuses for anything Tyler says on Bastard, it’s important to at least acknowledge the context in which they’re presented relative to where Tyler is now, a decidedly not-as-edgy or outright offensive person. Plus, I’ll be one to level with you, I did not really have a problem with what he was rapping about when I discovered the project in late 2010. Having just turned 21, I was young, finding entertainment among the most ignorant and edgy places possible. I feel like it was almost a rite of passage for millennial boys and young men – do you like Eminem a little too much or get into more sonically extreme music based mostly on murder and/or Satan? Which way, Western man?

It’s amateurish, yes, but it was also a fissure in the earth that would soon be widened by Odd Future (Wolf Gang Kill Them All), the collective this project effectively gave rise to. Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, Syd tha Kyd, Domo Genesis, Jasper Dolphin, and Travis ‘Taco’ Bennett all got their starts in addition to Tyler with Bastard and subsequent projects like The Odd Future Tape Vol. 2, Tyler albums Goblin and Wolf, Frank’s nostalgia, ULTRA, Earl’s Earl tape and debut LP Doris, the sketch show Loiter Squad (which is still very funny) – the genesis of it all was Bastard’s underground success.

Using FL Studio, Tyler self-produced every song on Bastard. Balls deep in the ‘blog era’ of rap by this point, there was a wild commodification happening in hip-hop where the catchiest song won. It was more important in the mainstream and underground alike to get the next hot song to chart to sell ringtones with (we used to pay for riiiiiiingtooooooones, brooooooo). A dichotomy seemed to form: mainstream cash chasing which took a number of forms, or go the alternative route, somewhat literally. At this time, more than ever, this was this accepted and elevated alternative rap subgenre that garnered a lot of attention with artists like Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, and M.I.A.. This was beyond the proper indie or underground labels we’ve thrown around for decades, and Tyler fit squarely into this latter alternative camp, though his DIY aesthetic lent an even deeper energy to it all.

Listening to the beats on Bastard nowadays is a wild endeavor. From the beautifully sparse title track with its refrained piano lines and fleeting synths, to the knocking bass and warmer tones of “Slow It Down”, there’s a lot of variety even though they’re all built with the sonic equivalent of Lego. That is to say, they’re simple, effective, but show limitations with the sound of the time and especially now. This isn’t a bad thing – if you’ve never heard this tape before, it’s likely to be a bit abrasive, but I’d challenge newcomers to not be affected by the sample of Cortex’s “Huit Octobre 1971” (yes, the very same song MF DOOM famously sampled in “One Beer”) or the sensual tenderness that’s found in “VCR” before it switches beats to the more hazy, splashy “Wheels” on the same track. Here, it’s a bit more somber, more in line with the original song’s tempo, and that fits the tape’s profoundly dark and violent themes.

On Bastard, Tyler – a fictionalized version of him anyway – is locked in a session with a therapist called Dr. TC, a bit of a recurring theme with Tyler’s first three major projects. The title track is the intro to this concept and it’s still one of his best songs ever made. Tyler’s frank and graphic, to the point where, if this was real, it’d likely elicit a call to authorities, but it’s not all shock value. Buried in the stream of consciousness are some gems that give great insight into Tyler’s life and vulnerabilities:

‘My mother raised me, a single parent so it’s apparent
That I got love for my mother, none of you other fuckers

‘No to drugs, I never spark it,
I used to be bullied for honor classes
By those that were slow as molasses

‘I created OF ‘cause I feel we’re more talented
Than 40-year-old rappers talking ‘bout Gucci
When they have kids they haven’t seen in years
Impressin’ their peers

‘This confused boy, I wanna hug, oy

‘My goal in life is a Grammy, hopefully mom’ll attend the
Ceremony with all my homies’

That final one is especially heartwarming because Tyler’s won a couple Grammys since then – and yes, his mom was there.

Much of the rest of Bastard ranges from profound to blatantly, purposefully offensive. Lots of fantisized rape and abuse against women, casual homophobia, and, America’s favorite, murder. Tyler being 16 and 17 when he wrote much of this music is likely concerning to any reasonable human, but knowing how I acted and what I said when I was in my teens, it makes sense. It wasn’t okay then, it’s not okay now, but I’m not about to chastise Tyler for doing something I did myself well into my 20s, even if it’s cringe-worthy to me now. Maybe that’s why it was so impactful to me at the time – long had I outgrown the provocative rhymes of Eminem, and while Cannibal Corpse and other extreme metal bands were doing their thing on me at the time as well, Tyler’s approach was a wonderfully refreshing take on it all.

The best part is tracking Tyler’s growth since Bastard, as a musician and a person. All that homophobic shit he was talking? Effectively gone since his Cherry Bomb-ish area, and since then we’ve gotten little flashes of his personal life as a bisexual man with some interviews and lyrical references in songs. If nothing else, that makes the slurs he said more reclamatory, but I don’t need to be making excuses for it – you either are okay with it or you’re not. It is what it is.

Musically, it’s wild to go from Bastard to CALL ME IF YOU GET LOST, which is so much more opulent and bombastic, but still has that Tyler edge and charm. Or what about the track he produced for Maxo Kream’s “BIG PERSONA” on which he’s a guest rapper? Lyrically, he’s grown as well, and not just in the offensive sense. Tyler’s much more confident now – or at least has put in the time to earn it more – talking his shit, living his life, and loving whoever he wants. His songs range from weirdo bangers to emotional ballads, all along the spectrum quality being high. He met his hero, Pharrell Williams, and has worked with him a number of times since. Dude has a whole fucking album featuring DJ Drama – if that isn’t hip-hop cred, I don’t know what is. But Tyler’s more than rap and hip-hop, just like Bastard was more than it appeared to be at first glance. He’s one of the most outrageously glowed-up artists of the last decade and the best part is he’s still going gloriously. Hell yeah.

Bastard is 2009’s most important album to me personally and musically speaking. Hindsight simultaneously treats this album well and accosts it for its sophomoric and immature attitude, but it’s important to see things in the context in which they were made sometimes. If you’ll allow me one corny line: you just had to be there I guess. Doesn’t mean you have to like it; in fact, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t at all, but this was a spark to me and contemporary music as a whole. We’re just now seeing a new cohort of popular artists take shape who were influenced massively by Tyler, The Creator’s work, and that’s a beautiful thing.

YOB – The Great Cessation

released July 14, 2009, via Profound Lore

revisited by Jake Walters

YOB is a band that I don’t talk about enough. Today, I look to remedy that through gushing about their 2009 album, The Great Cessation, arguably my favorite LP from this Oregon-based doom band. As an act that constantly finds new ways to interpret the idea of ‘doom metal’, YOB has always been a fascination with me. As I have said many times, this isn’t a band that really fits within the bounds of stoner, death, or any other subgenre of the doom family. Sure the protracted and slow-paced song structures fit the bill, but lyrically and emotionally there’s not always a lot of despair on display. Oftentimes there’s hope and catharsis, quite the antithesis of doom on an ideological front. This is mostly true for YOB beyond this album, as here there is doom lurking around every corner which makes this YOB’s most oppressive album. The Great Cessation came along right as the band was making the turn from a more traditional doom framing into what would eventually become the act that brought us Clearing the Path to Ascend and Our Raw Heart where a fuller range of emotions are felt. When it comes to The Great Cessation, however, strap in because it might get rough.

It’s impossible to talk about YOB without discussing the band leader and all around heavy metal messiah, Mike Scheidt. I have lent plenty of personal anecdotes about my experiences watching Mike play live, his interaction with fans, and his radiant personality, so I’ll leave those off for now and stick to some more tangible aspects of what he brings to this band. His roaring, booming voice might be at its strongest on The Great Cessation with bellowing howls, gravely chants, and an aged timbre that feels well beyond his years. The album opens with the colossal riffs that lurch into the opening track “Burning The Altar” and while this song is amazing in its own right, it also helps calibrate the listener to the scale of this album. This and the songs that follow are not in a hurry to arrive at their conclusion but choose rather to take a more subtle approach and seep slowly into the listener through repetition and negative space. What is not lost in this scale, however, is the attention to every detail. This is not broad stroke metal that overwhelms with abandon. This is metal that is overwhelming because no detail goes unchecked, it fills every space, capitalizes on every emotion.

“Silence of Heaven” – while being an immediately perfect track title – is awash in feedback and restraint before launching into the deep creating waves that tower over the listener. When the waves recede, you’re alone on an island waiting for the tide to come back and carry you back out to sea. This track fills every space imaginable before scaling back to the point that feels nigh to abandonment and then waves return to carry you back into the briney murk to be pushed hither and yonder as if subject to the whims of Thalassa herself.  I could write pages about each song but suffice it to say that this album gives each track the space that it needs to fully realize the ideas that it is intended to get across. The conclusion is especially apt in this department. The title track and 20-minute opus is the capstone to this behemoth of a record that finds ways to tease out every aspect of YOB’s sound and push them further than they had gone before. The building up and tearing down, the relief and the fear, the calm and the storm: it’s all here.

The Great Cessation will forever be my favorite YOB album and while the themes and tone of the band have shifted over the years – a change that I fully embrace – this album stands as the towering monolith of their career in my eyes and each listen reveals the album to be the kind of emotional expression that many bands hope to create but few can.

Mastodon – Crack The Skye

released March 24, 2009, via Reprise Records/Sire Records/Relapse Records

revisited by Landon Turlock

It’s 2009. I’m 15. I’m gravitating towards heavier and more progressive music, dipping my toes into thrash, metalcore, doom, and progressive metal. I get most of my music recommendations from Guitar World magazine. They cover a band I’ve heard of before, but never really checked out. They’re promoting a concept album about Rasputin and astral travel and a tribute to the drummer’s sister who passed away at 14. They also mentioned playing banjo on a progressive metal record.

I was intrigued, and I bought it at a CD store back when that was a thing. The artwork sold me even more.

I had never heard anything like that record – Mastodon’s Crack the Skye – before. It was grungy. It was doomy. It was technical. It was progressive. It was epic. It was intimate.

You don’t get much of a more impressive opening pair of songs on an album than “Oblivion” and “Divinations.” “Oblivion” sounds absolutely massive and apocalyptic, and its production feels gritty and alive while still articulate. This grimy, stoner-esque take on progressive metal was one that I had never heard before with a more polished introduction to the genre from Dream Theater. The album opened my eyes to the possibilities and range of progressive metal. “Divinations” weaves Mastodon’s love for bluegrass and country elements into their signature sound seamlessly, while still being quite earcatching.

There’s a lot to say about the towering size of Crack the Skye, its ambitions, and its execution. The songs are huge and dense in terms of their lengths, layers, and complexity. It’s truly impressive how songs that could easily collapse in on themselves instead succeed. But what grounds these tracks, and helps prevent their implosion, to me, is their humanity. Sure, a song like “Oblivion” fits within the album’s psychedelic political concept, but a chorus like, ‘Fallen from grace ’cause I been away too long / Leaving you behind with my lonesome song / Now I’m lost in oblivion’ has a vulnerability and double meaning that feels rooted in loss and abandonment, perhaps commenting on Brann Dailor’s tribute to his deceased sister, Skye.

In the intermeddling 14 years, there have been times I’ve felt Mastodon has eclipsed Crack the Skye. But there is a staying power to this record that I rarely encounter in any discography, including Mastodon’s. Crack the Skye is personal, progressive, and psychedelic in a way that feels like a high water mark both for this band and the genre.

Kid Cudi – Man on the Moon: The End of Day

released September 15, 2009, via Dream On/GOOD/Universal/Motown

revisited by Alex Eubanks

Hearing Kid Cudi do his humming shit is just a transformative experience. At full power, Cudi’s hum is an instrument of the divine and he will have a dedicated fanbase for as long as he continues to make music solely because he’s got a 1-of-1 skill. Cudi hadn’t fully unlocked his peak humming powers on Man on the Moon: The End of Day so he only brings it out a few times on the project, mainly on “Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)”, “Alive”, and a few scattered moments but there are few more effective moments on a debut album than when he does.

Cudi delivers the bulk of his best tracks here. Cudi is extremely open and vulnerable on “Soundtrack 2 My Life” and he does a fantastic job introducing himself to listeners, seeing as “In My Dreams (Cudder Anthem)” is a bit more of an intro than a full track. “Simple As…” and “Make Her Say” are more traditional rap tracks than they are Cudi’s blend of rap/r&b/indie/humming but they go great. The Lady Gaga sample on “Make Her Say” is excellent and Cudi is so charismatic on both tracks he steals the show even with Common and Kanye West appearing.

“Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare)” is Cudi’s best song. MGMT and Ratatat delivered the best production on the album, Cudi delivers the best verses on the project, and he pairs it with the most memorable hook too.

While Kanye only produces one track, his 808’s influence is all on Man on the Moon – for once though, Kanye got beat at a sound. Cudi sounds vastly better than Kanye’s mechanical crooning does, and Cudi sounds much better with the non-hip/hop sounds he incorporates.

If I told you the “Up Up & Away” instrumental was actually a Cage the Elephant track you’d completely believe me, and Cudi sounds great on it (this is the part where I acknowledge that Speedin’ Bullet 2 Heaven exists). The production on some of the bassier tracks like “Alive (Nightmare)” is just as good and clearly went on to be a huge influence for some of Mac Miller and Earl Sweatshirt’s darker production work in the early 2010s. Dot da Genius perfectly complements Cudi on “Day ‘n’ Nite” to create the perfect intimate and trippy vibe that’s made the track one of Cudi’s best.

While they aren’t technically part of the album Man on the Moon has some of the best remixed tracks to ever exist and they really have given the album an extra life. The “Day ‘n’ Night” remix by Crookers and especially Steve Aoki’s version of “Pursuit of Happiness” are some of the most successful instances of electronic and rap crossing over and working. Doesn’t hurt that one of the best needle drops in film history utilizes the Aoki version of “Pursuit of Happiness”.

Cudi has never been known as a lyrical genius, but Man on the Moon has by far his strongest lyrical moments because of the level of openness he brings. The five-act concept album about dealing with drug addiction and fame is simple but effective, and almost certainly helped Cudi stay on focus lyrically which is something he’s had issues with in more recent years.

It’s also hard to understate how important Man on the Moon was for stoner rap. Rap and weed have always intermingled, but Cudi brought the combo to a new high only rivaled by some classic Snoop Dogg moments. Cudi’s impact was immediately felt with Mac and Wiz Khalifa blowing up within a year of Man on the Moon dropping, and weed-themed bangers began flooding the charts. If you ever encountered a pothead under the age of 25 circa 2010-15 you never needed many guesses to figure out their favorite artist.

With that said, this isn’t the first album in rap history, nor the last to use the themes of drug addiction/drug spiraling, nor the best. Just since Man on the Moon released Danny Brown’s frantic and batshit insane Atrocity Exhibition provides a much higher quality depiction of a drug spiral and in the case of Mac, the student clearly became the master.

There are some moments that haven’t exactly aged tremendously well. Having Common do the narration for the skits is a really awkward pairing and he just has a very skippable voice. It doesn’t help that Travis Scott heavily borrowed this concept on Rodeo and did a better job with it, and chose someone that fit better. Man on the Moon is also a bit frontloaded with some misses in the back half of the project. “Hyyerr” is carried by Chip tha Ripper, “Enter Galactic” is bad, and “Sky Might Fall” is a song I’ve always gone back and forth on liking.

Cudi had no issue following up his debut with an also great Man on the Moon Vol.2 but it sucks he never pulled it together again afterward. There are moments here and there on Indicud, Passion, Pain & Demon Slayin, and the short-lived Kids See Ghost hype but there’s also [REDACTED], Man on the Moon 3, and Satellite Flight. At least he can still hum.

Toni Meese

Toni Meese

I know more than you.

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