While Earl aka Thebe weathers the Odd Future hypestorm from a safe, voluntary distance, Tyler, The Creator sits in its epicenter. He’s a clever boy just out of his teens whose anti-everything rhetorical baseline is kindling to the adolescent id, who has released a knotty LP Goblin that is kindling to sharp think piece writers and Twitter hashtag enthusiasts. The Daily’s called the record “a test with no correct answer, a Rorschach blot that refuses to resolve”; @1000TimesYes characterized the album’s voice as saying “Yes I am, no I’m not. Yes I am, no I’m not. Yes I am, no I’m not.” For some the hatred, misogyny, and homophobia’s rampant excess transforms Tyler into something of a piss-taking caricature artist; for others, the vivid, insistent, repellent nature of his lyrical fantasies are inexcusable, by definition, and here, by execution. The discussion is tense, fascinating, exhausting. Tegan & Sara recently took to their site to offer some thoughts from outside the critical discourse, criticizing the discourse itself, expressing disappointment with the discussion and the treatment of his homophobic language. And Tyler replied. It’s all reprinted here:
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? There is much that upsets me in this world, and this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve drafted an open letter or complaint, but in the past I’ve found an opinion – some like-minded commentary – that let me rest assured that my outrage, my voice, had been accounted for. Not this time.
If any of the bands whose records are held in similar esteem as Goblin had lyrics littered with rape fantasies and slurs, would they be labeled hate mongers? I realize I could ask that question of DOZENS of other artists, but is Tyler exempt because people are afraid of the backlash? The inevitable claim that detractors are being racist, or the brush-off that not “getting it” would indicate that you’re “old” (or a faggot)? Because, the more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular. Who sticks up for women and gay people now? It seems entirely uncool to do so in the indie rock world, and I’ll argue that point with ANYONE.
No genre is without its controversial and offensive characters- I’m not naive. I’ve asked myself a thousand times why this is pushing me over the edge. Maybe it’s the access to him (his grotesque twitter, etc). Maybe it’s because I’m a human being, both a girl and a lesbian. Maybe it’s because my mom has spent her whole adult life working with teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault. Maybe it’s because in this case I don’t think race or class actually has anything to do with his hateful message but has EVERYTHING to do with why everyone refuses to admonish him for that message.
It is not without great hesitation and hand wringing that I enter into the discourse about Tyler, the media who glorifies and excuses misogyny and homophobia, and the community of artists that doesn’t seem remotely bothered by it. I can only hope that someone reading this might be inspired to speak out. At the very least, I will know that my voice is on record.
…is unfortunate, and true to script.