One of the reasons why I love this time of year is watching every music elitist out there sum up the best of 2011 with their own appraisal of new music that graced the year. As I was perusing the top countdowns (from Pitchfork to MTV), I noticed one disturbing trend: Tyler, the Creator in the top spots.
Although not always #1, the loud-mouthed leader of OFWGKTA made serious waves this year with the release of his album Goblin. If you’re a 16-year-old white male or particularly engaged in the indier-than-thou music world, you’ve known about Tyler’s unique, offensive, and brutish style since his self-released album Bastard. But for many of us, his fame really came into light when he won MTV’s Best New Artist for his song “Yonkers.” It’s cooler than cool to think of Tyler as the next great visionary, with provocative lyrics and a sound unlike anything else.
And before I start: yes, I “get” it. His overall sound is reminiscent of good old-school hip-hop, with no auto-tuning. I appreciate how real his music sounds without industry frills or needing a Nicki Minaj verse or two to get people to listen. That’s not why you should hate him.
What MTV (and what seems like a majority of the hip music critics out there) fails to find fault in is Tyler’s sickeningly violent persona steeped in his lyrics – which many in the industry praise obscenely for being so innovative and creative. “Although these lyrics are violent, that’s the point,” says Olivia Sledzik of The Blue and Grey. That seems to be the argument of many music reviewers, at least. The industry can’t seem to get enough of his edginess, dripping with violent homophobic and misogynistic lyrics. And when he’s not making a joke about killing himself, he’s rapping from a perspective of a rapist, or making jokes about rape and domestic violence in general.
His lyrics are at time cringe-worthy, with rhymes like “I’ll crash that fucking airplane that that fucking nigga B.o.B. is in / And stab Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus.” And while at times the hipsters of the world agree that auto-tuning and Top-40 jams are killing music as we know it, his overtly aggressive lyric – featured in the song that earned Tyler an MTV award in the first place – is deemed by the industry to be so raw and real that we should be praising his free speech, not demonizing it. Consider these telling lyrics from his eloquently titled “Bitch Suck Dick:”
Beat your bitch in her mouth just for talkin’ shit
You lurkin’ bitch? Well, I see that shit
Once again I gotta punch a bitch in her shit
I’m icy bitch, don’t look at my wrist
Because if you do, I might blind you bitch
It’s not just his lyrics – it’s his personality, too. His Twitter account is drenched in homophobic slurs such as “faggot” and “gay” (as an adjective). In any interview I have watched of him, such as this one in Interview magazine, Tyler drops the f-bomb like it’s his job.
I don’t think Tyler, the Creator is actually a bad guy. In one interview in particular, he even seems harmless: “Everyone thinks about dark shit, why when somebody fuckin’ says it is it such a big deal, you know?” His jokes about rape, he says, are supposed to be “a storyline.” “I’m writing this song from the mind of some fuckin’ serial killer from thirty years ago who’s a white male. Like, really? If they sit back and actually listen to the fuckin’ coolness and genius of it, like, shit, that’s what irks me.” He even compares his “art” to that of Quentin Tarantino, claiming that the violence in both Tarantino’s iconic films and his music that of the same genre of “art.”
Tyler also says that he’s not homophobic. “I just say ‘faggot’ and use ‘gay’ as an adjective to describe stupid shit.” He goes on to explain that things just do not offend him the way it might offend someone else, that he just “doesn’t give a shit.”
Perhaps the most public condemnation of Tyler’s music came from Sara Quin of the band Tegan and Sara. She wrote a very eloquent piece titled “A Call for Change,” saying that “In any other industry would I be expected to tolerate, overlook, and find deeper meaning in this kid’s sickening rhetoric? Why should I care about this music or its ‘brilliance’ when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible?” to which, Tyler responded with a simple Tweet: “If Tegan And Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up!”
And yet, this still is not why you should hate Tyler, the Creator.
To be perfectly honest, Tyler’s just a kid. He has no idea what impact his lyrics have on society, especially when his music is praised so openly by a plethora of young minds, listening to his songs as an example of how to think and act. Perhaps, you say, someone should combat this young and disturbed rapper’s culture of violence with words of wisdom; something like, “Now Tyler, even though the industry is praising your innovation, this gives you more power than you really know what to do with, and your violent, homophobic and misogynistic lyrics, even if they are with a twistedly ‘good’ intention, are perpetuating a culture which is accepting of these offenses and makes them seemingly okay to your fans, other listeners, and society as a whole.” But alas, Tyler would probably retort with a similarly juvenile comeback that he gave Sara Quin.
You shouldn’t hate Tyler, the Creator for being sexist, or homophobic, or violent because in the end, we as a society of listeners are merely making it okay for him to keep making music by accepting this culture of violence into our Top 50 Albums of the Year, et cetera. Tyler isn’t edgy, he isn’t fighting the system, he’s an obnoxious kid, who thinks making art consists of taking all of the confused feelings or jokes he and his friends think are clever and making music with them. In the end, we should hate ourselves for even paying attention to him.
Photo by mehan via Flickr.