Hey! Do you know who Tyler, the Creator is? No? Good for you. I wish I’d never heard of the little discharge-wad. But for those of unfamiliar: Consider all the [TRIGGER WARNINGS] that I basically don’t use a lot to be in full effect, and then think Eminem. And then do whatever it takes to stop you from thinking about Eminem — I like to punch a pillow! — and then understand that Tyler, the Creator of Odd Future is just the culture’s latest excuse to get all het up about how “provocative” and “edgy” it is to rap about how much you like to rape ladies (because that is a totally unpopular activity, not at all common in society today), and also, say “faggot” a lot (also uncommon, and without consequence), and also, o his genius! O, his technical mastery! O, he will save music from itself! Which might be true. I dunno. I was distracted by all the raping.
But, long story short, many of the critiques you will read of the Odd Future are summed up in this post from Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara:
When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry? When will they be treated with the same seriousness as racist and anti-Semitic offenses? While an artist who can barely get a sentence fragment out without using homophobic slurs is celebrated on the cover of every magazine, blog and newspaper, I’m disheartened that any self-respecting human being could stand in support with a message so vile.
As journalists and colleagues defend, excuse and congratulate ‘Tyler, the Creator,’ I find it impossible not to comment. 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?
It is not the best call-out of Tyler that you will ever read; nor is it the most nuanced. (The Oppression Olympics thing going on in the second sentence is like, OOF.) But it is the most prominent, and the one which put the most pressure on Tyler. The one to which he would be EXPECTED to respond, basically.
And respond he did!
“If Tegan And Sara Need Some Hard Dick, Hit Me Up,” Tweeted Tyler, the Creator.
Now: There are a few things I would like you to do with this Tweet. For one, I would like you to listen to it. No, really: Hold your ear up to the computer monitor. Turn the volume up as far as it can go. You got speakers? Plug those in, too. Really zone in. Squeeze your eyes shut. Click through to the original, and listen to that!
Now: Does this Tweet, as far as you can tell, make ANY MUSIC AT ALL? No? Phew! I thought I was alone, in not hearing music when I looked at this delightful Tweet from Tyler, the Creator!
And this means a few things. For example: That the “it’s all about the music” pose is a fucking lie. That all of the boys who are snickering at this, and/or applauding it (and oh, yes, there were plenty) are not enjoying the “music.” They’re enjoying the misogyny. They’re enjoying the suggestion that uppity women should have a dick shoved in them to shut them up. They’re enjoying the misogyny. Because this shit ain’t music. It’s a fucking Tweet. Tweets, it’s my understanding, are distinctively unmusical. And furthermore: That Tyler’s delightful “humor” is not the point. Because this shit ain’t delightful “humor.” It’s not unpredictable. It’s not innovative. It’s not, under any circumstances, edgy. Because I was looking through Ye Olde Ellen Willis archives last night, and look what I found:
In January 1968, Ellen Willis went to Washington to take part in a demonstration against the Vietnam war and for black liberation, which was staged to coincide with Richard Nixon’s inaugural as president. At the demonstration, women in the group had asked to make a statement about their subordinate position within the New Left and on behalf of their own liberation. When they tried to make what they described at a “moderate, pro-movement statement,” Willis reports, men in the audience “booed, laughed, cat-called and yelled enlightened remarks like ‘Take her off the stage and fuck her.'”
So, yeah. Tyler, the Creator: On the cutting edge of humor! In 1968. But this isn’t humor: Humor has an element of surprise at the core of it. This surprises no-one. This is just hatred, following the same script that hatred always has. Although, to be fair, Tegan and Sara Quin are lesbians. And I don’t think I’ve heard anyone suggest that lesbians could be straightened out with a good deep-dicking before! That is some for-real innovative shit, right there.
And that’s how this became The Week I Finally Lost My Shit About Odd Future. Because another thing I did, which I had been trying to avoid before, was to read some accounts of their live shows. One of the defenses of Odd Future, you see, is that it is “all an act,” and that they are “sweet kids” outside of their lyrics. You want to read about some shit that is definitively not their lyrics?
Tyler bounded into the crowd and everyone surged towards him, camera phones aloft. He returned to the stage as Syd killed the track, and announced that near the bar, he’d “bumped into a bitch and she got mad.”
“Bitch is a stripper!” he yelled, and lots of people cheered and laughed at the prospect of the bitch being a stripper. “Why come to an Odd Future show if you gon’ get mad?” he asked. “Pussy musta got like five licks. Bitch is a fuckin’ stripper, yo. You can go home if you don’t like it.”
Just after two in the morning, a blonde girl surfed her way onstage and kissed Tyler, who announced, “I might legit have herpes.” The crowd laughed and started a “show your titties” chant, and she refused, looking bashful. “Then get the fuck off the stage!” Tyler yelled.
AND! From the NEW FUCKING YORKER!
A young female fan took the stage, and the crowd called for her to get naked, until she protested that she had a boyfriend, at which point the crowd chanted, “Slut! Slut! Slut!”
And I didn’t know about it until this week. You know why I didn’t know about it? Because we were “discussing” “the” “music.” Because we were talking about “lyrical provocations.” Because we were phrasing shit in the very discreet and nuanced and sophisticated the way the New Yorker does — “[Earl], like Tyler, thinks sex and violence are funny, especially in combination” — instead of saying “these guys get on stage to talk about beating women up, raping them, and occasionally mutilating their clits with broken glass, and they think that’s okay and any woman who objects, especially if she’s a lesbian, should have a dick shoved in her.”
Because real-live girls were getting harassed, hurt, told that they only had value to the extent that everyone could see their fucking tits, told that they were just a pair of tits to jerk off on or a hole to fuck, unless they don’t want to fuck, in which case fuck ’em anyway, and bitch DON’T get fucking mad when I hurt you, FUCK YOU BITCH, your body is there for me to do what I want with, and the dudes? The white male blogger music dudes who were covering this? Who were hyping Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator? Who are hyping them still? It was happening IN FUCKING FRONT OF THEM. And it didn’t matter. It didn’t stop them for a fucking second.
It didn’t fucking matter. They didn’t think to factor it in. In point of fact, what much of the criticism about Odd Future has focused on is the idea that their live shows are the best part of what they do; the great, punk-rock, incendiary EXPERIENCE of Odd Future, is what gets discussed. And there are real girls getting harassed, IN FUCKING FRONT OF the white dudes who are writing paeans to and defenses of Odd Future, in front of the dudes who are praising Odd Future shows. And we need to be sophisticated. We need to talk “about” “the” “music.” We need to worry about whether we sound “screechy” or like “scolds,” don’t get too upset, don’t lose your shit, don’t act like this is some kind of litmus test for whether or not you can even vaguely respect a dude as a person. Well, dudes, I have a remarkable new theory for you: When it’s YOUR ass on the line, then YOU can tell ME how upset to fucking be about it, and how I should phrase that. Seriously. When Tyler is using you as a synonym for “worthless,” when Tyler wants to shove broken glass up your asshole, ring me up, and tell me how much I should care. I’ll listen, all you want, when you’re talking about the “sophistication” we should maintain in re: discussing whether or not your asshole deserves to have broken glass shoved up it. In the meantime?
Fuck “sophistication.” Fuck “distance” Fuck “irony.” And fuck Odd Future.