Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tyler the Creator as Best New Artist

When you try to explain Rape Culture to people a lot of them don't really get it. Yeah, they'll give you a token head nod to let you know they're listening, but they don't actually agree with the basic idea of rape culture (that we live in a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women are treated as common and normal). They like to think that since they believe rape is serious, it must automatically be treated as such by everyone. Well, the very fact Tyler the Creator won Best New Artist at the MTV's Video Music Awards is a prime example of how minimizing rape and even rapping about actually raping people can be seen as "artistic" without any consideration to actual victims of rape and sexual assault.

Assmilk by Tyler the Creator:
[Earl]
Uhh, addicts arise, when I arrive
In this cracked crack fag back slap in disguise
Fat sack of knives in the passenger side, bitch
Reach for the door, get your access denied

[Tyler]
I'm not an asshole I just don't give a fuck a lot
The only time I do is when a bitch is screaming "Tyler, stop"
The big bad wolf to me you're just a minor fox
Red riding is getting some of this wolfly odder cock

[Earl]
We the niggas you scared of, like bad dentists
Flow is anthemic, dirty like it's plants in it
Sick, spit a pandemic, crack and cancer mixed with cannabis
To have a bitch, ready to stab a clit with some glass and shit

[Tyler]
Your whole gang will be diminished, Bunch got the Brady's in it
Spit sick shit like my saliva got the rabies in it
Fuck rap, I'll be a landlord so I can rape the tenants daughter
Leave my house with a new stomach, and a baby in it

[Earl]
Face it, me and Ace's is sick like malaria carriers
Jim Carrey her to the cemetery to bury her
Listen busters, scarier when I finger fuck her
After I dig her up and then eat her out with a bit of mustard

[Tyler]
Took karate, mommy told me "Tyler toughen up"
Rihanna haircut, somebody tell Chris Brown to fuck me up
Had to teach the bitch manners, now I gotta learn her
I'll beat the fuck out your bitch anonymous, Ike Turner

[Earl]
Over, sloppy seconds is my preference
Except for when I'm feeding on the flesh of a pedestrian
Nessy lock ma said stop Will he though? Probably not
Silly hoes lick my balls like FIFA lollipops

[Tyler]
Get the certain tingle, eating Haagen Dazs
With some soccer moms where they like to fucking sit and mingle
Watch an Animal Planet document on the Eagles
In the flyest '06 Supreme beanie, Siegel

[Earl]
Your grind's feeble, I'm regal, really, I'm Willy Smith
I am Legend, a snicker dick in a vanilly chick
Come take a stab at it faggot, I pre-ordered your casket
This is known as a classic, yeah that chapped lips crack shit

[Tyler]
Hat is always forest so the bitches call me Gump
But compliment her tits and then its off to hump her
Fuck her in a Hummer while I rape her then I put her in a slumber
It's not a figure of speech when I tell you that I dumped her

[Earl]
Known narcissists, sipping on arsenic
Carved carcasses in the garage, don't park in it
Hard as finding retarded kids at Harvard
It's Wolf Gang barking keep you up like car alarms and shit

[Tyler]
Over the edge, yeah I hide in a potato sack
Cause I'm cold as ice like Anasia when she fucking Traq
I'm the type to put you down to bring myself up
So when I rape a bitch I hold her down and get my best nut

[Earl]
The reincarnation of '98 Eminem
60 Crip and Grizzly and some RMK Denim
Pay attention I'm stabbing your women friends, like a gentlemen
Then dipping with the fucking pen to go sin again

[Tyler]
White girl, you can ask her what the dick be like
At monster madness doing drive by's on a fucking fixie bike
Fuck it moron, snorting oxycontin, wearing cotton
Oxymoron like buff faggots playing sissy dykes

[Earl]
This the shit that get cripple bitches to hop
Dirty crack pipes lit, bullshit to stop, halt
Boss broke, spouse choke, blouse open
Sly's little shop of horrors, now showing

[Tyler]
I hate gays, gangbangers and fucking jerkers
Unless it's gay gangbangers that's fucking jerkers
Whoa yo, yo.. no homo, I'm not gay, faggot
Odd Future Wolf Gang, Wu-Tang banging in your system
Probably banging in your sister with my children swimming in her system
Let me say this shit in slow-mo, homo
You don't fucking skate, take off that box logo
Did you also notice that line about Rihanna and Chris Brown? Real fucking classy right? Don't forget the mention of female genital mutilation, a few "faggots" so we know Tyler likes chicks, and even a mention of date rape since one rape is never enough apparently.

I know some people will think I'm overreacting by actually holding a performer accountable for his statements, but I don't understand why Tyler the Creator is getting a pass on this. Yeah, there's been a few articles questioning his lyrical content but most of them excuse Tyler's behavior by claiming it's just part of his "genius" or that he's too young to know better. To all those people, fuck you. Tyler has the right to rap about whatever he wants, but it's complete inanity that he actually won an award for the level of vitriol he spits out. While I realize there are many artists with misogynistic lyrics, Liza Roisman highlights my frustration with critics and fans who refuse to acknowledge the harmful effect these lyrics have by helping to normalize rape.

The Artistic Merit of Misogyny:
Understandably, given the cultural context, Tyler's main response to such criticism has been to argue that his lyrics are harmless and unremarkable, telling The Guardian for instance that "I usually just say what I'm feeling at the time, what I think is cool" and Tweeting that "It's Not That Serious." However, even if Tyler’s listeners do not take his words as direct license to enact sexual violence, these lyrics still contribute to a culture in which sexual violence is ignored, excused, and glorified. This is not to place the blame primarily on the artist: there is little utility in chiding him for his lyrics or attitude, regardless of how problematic they are. If Tyler is, as he claims, saying what he thinks is “cool”, then the people to blame for this album’s impact are the ones who, by embracing this album, publicly agree that sexual violence is, in fact, cool. The people who are responsible for normalizing these sentiments (or rather reinforcing their normalization, given how common glorified depictions of sexual violence are in pop culture) are the critics and listeners who have given this album a warm reception often without more than a cursory attempt to denounce its horrifying lyrics. The sexual violence against women at Odd Future concerts alone functions as proof that, regardless of the artist's intentions, publicly endorsing sexual violence does, unsurprisingly, create an atmosphere in which sexual violence is tolerated.

Additionally, even if, as Tyler claims, the more extreme elements of his lyrics are too absurd to be reenacted by most audience members, the casual misogyny surrounding his threats of violence is itself insidious. As reported in another article by The Guardian, when Syd da Kyd, another member of Odd Future, told her father that she was working with Tyler, the Creator, he commented that "'As a female, you're slapping a lot of women in the face,'" to which she replied, "That's what I do. I slap bitches." While I do not intend to undercut Syd da Kyd’s agency in crafting her own brand of misogyny, this anecdote usefully demonstrates what gets filtered through the denouncements of Odd Future’s misogynistic lyrics: even if Tyler is right in claiming that most people will not go home and practice murder or necrophilia as a result of his concerts, and even when critics do acknowledge that the violence he describes is extreme, the more subtle elements of sexual violence that he endorses remain untouched by criticism. If the problem with Tyler, the Creator is that he goes “too far”, how far is acceptable in the first place?
I don't think anything has artistic merit simply for being considered "shocking." And not to insult young people, but this is basically music for teenagers who think they have it harder than everyone else. Tyler himself has said, "I’m not homophobic. I just think 'faggot' hits and hurts people. It hits. And 'gay' just means you’re stupid. I don't know, we don’t think about it, we're just kids. We don’t think about that shit. But I don't hate gay people. I don't want anyone to think I’m homophobic." That alone shows a mean-spirited intent, even if it's not homophobic, and makes any claims to art pretty hallow. Sady Doyle wrote a post about not only Tyler and Odd Future's lyrics, but the way there live performances also involve harassment of women in the audience. So my question is, when is it real enough to matter?

Tyler, the Creator's Boy's Club
by Eric Harvey:
Judging either Odd Future or Lil B on purely moral terms isn't really adequate, though – and, in fact, is something of a red herring that precludes discussion of their art. What's interesting about their contrasting attitudes is how they affect the power of that art – and, in particular, why Tyler, the Creator, who relies so heavily on shock tactics, ultimately makes his music toothless. Fundamentally, for all the outrage and shock he garners from easily excited fans, his misanthropy is a cliche of angry male adolescence. He raps: "They claim the shit I say is just wrong/ Like nobody has those really dark thoughts when alone"; it's pretty much the Odd Future modus operandi in one couplet, but the problem is that so many "outsider" artists have affected transgression by telling the world about their dark thoughts that, wrong or right, it's become boring. Tyler doesn't transgress expectations; he follows a well-worn path of faux-rebellion trodden by everyone from the Sex Pistols to Eminem – and the alleged vulnerability Tyler reveals in rapping about his absent father is entirely part and parcel of this archetype.

Tyler's combination of dubious fantasies, anti-gay slurs and emo whining about his upbringing recalls Eminem which doesn't leave much room for shock. In 2011, this feels impotent and tedious. Odd Future's defenders in the media emphasize Tyler's technical skills – and it's true that his gift for assonance and internal rhymes is impressive. But his talent is only half the story: the shtick they use it for is played out. And it undermines the rest of his aesthetic: he demands our empathy at every turn for his own tough life, but is too limited an artist to show empathy for people who, with all due respect, suffer much more on a daily basis than growing up in a single-parent household. Tyler's model of male anger ends up feeling a lot more like male privilege – and as conservative and regressive as that implies. As the critic Ann Powers noted recently, "Maybe OFWGKTA raps about rape because none has ever known a victimized woman, so it seems comic book to them."
Tyler's definitely not the only artist to pen hateful lyrics, but he's by far one of the most self-aggrandizing. Oh but he's just so young! Um...he's twenty. As Jay Smooth pointed out the only reason we think he's young is cause he tries so hard to convince us of his immaturity. Oh but his songs are meant to be ironic! What? Where is there any compelling evidence that Tyler the Creator has actually thought deeply about any of his violent rhetoric? He said it himself, he doesn't think about it.They're just words! And here we get to the real point Tyler and his fans want to make. They're just words and since they're just words no one has to take responsibility for them.

Well fuck that and fuck Tyler the Creator.

10 comments:

  1. This came out much more ranty than I initially intended.

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  2. I just...

    Maybe I'm a prude, but I've never thought there was much lyrical genius behind spitting out a random string of obscenities seasoned with random mentions of name brands, drugs, sex, etc. I see nothing noteworthy about this kid, aside from the fact that perhaps he's trying to one-up Eminem on the shock factor.

    While he's entitled to rap about whatever he damn well pleases, his rapping isn't what shocks me about this whole thing. It's the fact that he won an award for it, which means that young people are eating this shit up. That's what's so sick about it. Good grief.

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  3. He says he doesnt think about the meaning of the words he uses.....

    "I’m not homophobic. I just think 'faggot' hits and hurts people. It hits. And 'gay' just means you’re stupid. I don't know, we don’t think about it, we're just kids. We don’t think about that shit."

    Well for someone to be artistic IMO you have to think about hat kind of thing!!! Its not artistic what he does... its juvenile. Rap as a meaningful art form has pretty much died a death.

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  4. I shared this on Facebook (hope that was alright... I really should have asked first. I apologize) and added this comment:

    Taking rhyming lyrics that glorify rape and putting them to a beat isn't "art." "They're just words"? Sorry. I've worked with youth who have taken those "words" and put them to use because they thought they were "cool". Free speech? Sure. Awarding this vitriol that promotes rape culture? I'll exercise my free speech and say it's shit in a somewhat lyrical form.

    *Shakes head* The thing that really gets me? I KNOW there are people on my friends list who will pipe up and say they love the song. It's amazing how something that makes me so angry can also break my damn heart.

    -SkyddsDrake

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  5. But...but..but he flat out says he hates gays. So he writes about hating gays and uses the terms fag and faggot in a derogatory way, and then turns around and says that he doesn't hate gays and he's not homophobic? That whole song, every single lyric, made me want to throw something at my monitor. I'll admit, I've never heard of this douche before. I don't know his so called music, and now I don't care to.

    The fact that he won Best New Artist makes me sad, really. I've felt that the quality of mainstream music has really gone downhill and this just solidifies that thought. Not only because of the quality of the lyrics but because of the acceptance of such lyrics.

    People should be outraged and they should be worried about the youth who listens to this garbage.

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  6. My 19 y/o little sister posted the word faggot on my 17 y/o little sister's Facebook wall. I had to tell her that the word faggot is just as insulting and inappropriate under all circumstances and the word nigger. She was very surprised when I told her that and didn't try to defend it's use. She also said she wouldn't use it again. I told her, she understood. Problem solved. She is younger than this Tyler character, so his excuse is faulty.

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  7. i actually don't think tyler the creator is homophobic. and at the risk of sounding supportive of his behavior, i do think it has something to do with age and environment. in my high school, most of the boys, and even some of the girls, are calling each other "faggot" and "nigger" and whatever. they're making rape jokes and rapping home-grown lyrics, trying to one-up each other in the cringe department. these are kids who have gay friends, kids who ARE gay. some ARE black. some kids have had sisters or mothers who were raped. some have friends who were raped. but when they say these things, just as tyler said, they don't think about it. its just something the current generation has been raised with and, while it's disgusting to make music revolving around such violence, i think it's jumping the gun a little to assume anyone in odd future discriminates against anybody based around the lyrics they write. maybe i'm biased, being a huge odd future fan, but there's my two cents. i did love your rant, alana :)

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  8. I couldn't even read more than five stanzas of that bullshit rap. This kid is completely missing the point, as is anyone who defends him. Come back when you can rap about in a more grown-up and classy manner, Tyler, and then maybe I'll let you have the words "the Creator" after your name.

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  9. Danny: Thanks for your comment. I know you're the odd one out but I do understand what you're saying. I don't think anyone who likes this kind of music is going to carry out any of the lyrics or should be automatically labeled homophobic. It would be insulting to say such a thing. But its also insulting trying to rationalize the total lack of personal responsibility people have for their words. This is where I'm so annoyed. Not because Tyler is trying to shock us or because teenagers say things without thinking about the weight of their words (this is not new). Words have power and people need to be reminded of this from time to time.

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  10. Also, I'm on vacation so I can't respond to all you but I've really enjoyed your comments. :)

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