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July 21, 2013 12:49 PM   Subscribe

The story behind Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. posted by ellieBOA (39 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Longform journalism is a good look for Buzzfeed, but, as with a lot of star-making-machinery things, I'm not sure this article gives the actual artists enough credit.
posted by box at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Interesting article and thanks for posting it. Have been enjoying Odd Future.

This sticks out to me though:

On Jan. 16, 2010, the music video for a song called “French,” by an artist named Tyler, the Creator, was uploaded to the YouTube account OFWGKTA.

Seven seconds in, Tyler pukes. In stark, apocalyptic black and white, a young girl fights off the male rappers; a handgun is thrust into Tyler’s neck; kids spray-paint walls and signs. Someone jumps out of a car. It’s striking, to say the least, and the charisma of Tyler overwhelms every other aspect of the song and the video. He’s impossible not to look at; when the short video ends, you want to look at him more.

Everything about the video screams rampant DIY-ism, down to the erratic handheld camera work and the skateboarding kids.


It just doesn't, you can watch it here and to me everything about it screams some level of professional production. DIY videos are instantly recognisable because they're badly cut, have a grainy feel and are generally bad at tying the music and the images together. I also doubt, though I don't know, that Tyler was directing so even if he came up with what to film ('guys let's have me vomit!') there's someone with a good eye behind the camera.

So I'm not sure about this article, kinda buying into the myth of genius creatives standing out by their own talents while at the same time showing the business that needs to happen to make artists big. Because if this was the first video then Odd Future was already at least kind of a thing, being produced to some extent, before the Odd Couple got involved. It's just a better story to make them completely obscure but brilliant and then happened upon.

Just occurred to me: how much harder it is now to tell the industry chestnut of 'exec happening upon artist as they play in bar' in the age of internet. Though now I'm just being cynical.
posted by litleozy at 1:41 PM on July 21, 2013


I work in the world of artist management; it's been very cool to see how Kelly & Christian do their thing. Being able to let (talented) kids be kids while pushing them forward is huge, esp. given the context and just how abrasive OF's aesthetic can be.

"He just wanted his friend back. That was the goal for us. Fuck everything else" is such an insanely huge statement given how some managers and hangers-on operate within the industry. Others would've spun the Earl angle SO differently.

If you want a great counter to this success story, James Brooks from Elite Gymnastics wrote an excellent post earlier this week about how smarmy some of the industry is. You can check it here.
posted by raihan_ at 1:53 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The New Yorker article on Earl Sweatshirt linked by Buzzfeed is fascinating.
posted by ellieBOA at 2:09 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the third read of this, a new meaning shook loose. If Jay Z transformed hip-hop with multi-channel marketing and brand extensions, Odd Future is taking entrepreneurship to the subsequent level, which is truly beyond any main channels.

We've been watching their use of pop up shops with patient curiosity. Their energy is magnetic, and it seems that fans attach to their identity as people first, and their output second.

There is a key – yet very nuanced – difference from Jay Z (and Fifty Cent). People buy into Jay Z's image, rather than his real persona. He and Fifty Cent are (said to be) masters of negotiation and business strategy. They control the rights to their work, employ expert brand strategists, and weave together different product lines to create horizontal empires. Yet, at the end of the day, consumers are still purchasing entertainment products. No one expects that Jay Z espouses the violence in his songs in his personal life. It's theatrical – and very effective. Yet, it also seems like the ultimate mastery of the old rules.

Odd Future seems decidedly different. Rather than mastering an image, and using the machinery of industry to promote and share it, there seems to be little distance between the individuals' real personalities and the product. It's not entertainment as much as it is an identity of authenticity. An inversion of the previous methodology. Whereas the success of crafted identities gave rise to the real-life personas of Jay Z and Fifty Cent, with Odd Future, the real-life personas are the resulting identities.

This is aligned with a trend that has been marinading for sometime in my mind, without a concrete expression or understanding of its relevance. After reading this piece, there is now the first inkling of that trend, which is devoid of channels. Perhaps it's a cultural singularity, or sorts, there the distance between the creator and the consumer is so thin that it becomes intertwined so that consumption itself is part of the creative process – a virtuous and (potentially) continuous circle. The artists in essence do not sit on a throne creating identities for audiences to consume, but rather identities are created and consumed simultaneously and in real-time.

Only a flat network topology as we have now with the proliferation of P2P media makes this possible, yet it also illustrates with Lil B (#girltime, for example).

I'm not exactly sure what this means or if it's even slightly coherent, but there is something extremely striking about the OFWGKTA story – that it sits at the intersection of technology and culture. Perhaps it is one of the first examples of such adept and fluid use of technological channels, that the channels become invisible and irrelevant, for it exists everywhere.

Lately, when looking at mobile technology and the impact of high-speed, high-quality media on culture itself, it occasionally occurs that what we have today is the very primitive form of what is to soon arrive. What seems advanced and state-of-the-art at the moment is but the most basic foundation for what is coming... and perhaps the Odd Future are one of the vanguards of the next wave of storytelling – and really how people interface and connect with expression itself.
posted by nickrussell at 2:45 PM on July 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


You may also be interested to hear the multi-album story arc of Tyler, The Creator's albums.
posted by Magnakai at 3:28 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


They are simply post Internet.

When Puff Daddy first espoused what became known as Shiny Suit Theory it was an era when artists had to get radio play, and get CDs on shelves or they languished in the underground and stayed a hometown hero. Rappers of that era still focus on traditional distribution channels ,and Grammy wins, sometimes to their own detriment.

50 had significant mixtape output before he ever found success. He has 10 official mixtapes and like 4 studio albums. His "unreleased studio album" Power of the Dollar gave us the classic song How To Rob, which was even on a movie soundtrack. This guy just worked hard and caught a break.

There are legends that Lil Flip sold a million copies of one of his mixtapes. He never really found mainstream success.

Gucci Mane still operates like this. He puts out a couple mixtapes a year, year after year. I don't even know how he funds all this.

But now, The entire mixtape format is a quaint vestige of old distribution channels where it didn't make sense to release a song at a time.

We are now in an era where a rapper like lil b can be a hometown hero to YouTube. He can get worldwide distribution just by uploading shit and tweeting. He doesn't even need mixtapes, though he still releases them to get on datpiff, he can just upload random songs.

We actually see kinda of a clash of these two words when a rapper like Travis Scott or Trinidad James goes on Hot 97. Hot 97 had always been gatekeepers and they are becoming increasingly irrelevant. The DJs there can't believe that these guys somehow got record deals just uploading shit to YouTube. In the old days there would be no way without Hot 97 to give them exposure.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is a key – yet very nuanced – difference from Jay Z (and Fifty Cent). People buy into Jay Z's image, rather than his real persona

I think this is tempting to say but I have to point out his image today is very very different than when he started. His image today is about how many hundreds of millions he has and how he likes Picassos.

Odd Future seems decidedly different. Rather than mastering an image, and using the machinery of industry to promote and share it, there seems to be little distance between the individuals' real personalities and the product

I'm not so sure. This may be true but they have constructed elaborate alternate personas, for instance Tyler has Wolf and Sam. These personas play out a battle on the album Wolf.

Many rappers have these personas, most famously Eminem has Slim Shady. Nicki Minaj has dozens of them.

We've discussed the idea of the personal mythology in relation to rap before so there isn't much point to doing it again.

I'm not so sure Tyler rapping about raping and killing people is any different than Jay Z rapping about drug trafficking. In fact, Jay may actually have done it.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:49 PM on July 21, 2013


Btw. Earl dropped a new single a couple days back Hive
posted by Ad hominem at 6:03 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey Earl has a new song out called Hive the video is wonderfully creepy and off-kilter.
posted by chrchr at 6:24 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been one of the more vocal opponents to these kids on the Blue and elsewhere, and I read the article to see if it might change my mind or help me to understand them. Some very disorganized half-formed thoughts that ran through my head as I read it:

- When my younger brother was in high school, he ran with a group of skater dudes who tried to start a hardcore band. Because they were so ~edgy they frequently wrote songs about raping and torturing girls, and their hatred of women extended to the way they behaved towards me. Knowing that my mother saw me as the responsible older sister who'd catch shit if Mom came home to a dirty house, they would frequently blow snot rockets on the kitchen floor, wipe themselves with paper towels and then clog the toilet, puke in the kitchen sink, etc., and then laugh when I had to clean it up. I tend to feel really tired -- like, not offended, or not just offended -- by their music because I identify with the older siblings who had to deal with their shenanigans before they were famous.

- Hardcore and rap are apples and oranges, but my brother's band was probably of the same quality that OFetc are. The lyrics were shocking, but after a while they came off as a crass way to get attention, and they tried to be innovative musically but their reach exceeded their grasp and they sounded amateurish. When I've listened to OF, I find their beats and production lacking. The highs have that warbly, trebly sound that sounds like it's in the red, and the bass sounds like it shorted out in the mix. And for all the attention that Tyler and Earl's rap skills get, they have flow like cement trucks. (My boyfriend works at a library in South Boston and downloaded one of the mix tapes to put on a listening station. I listened to it with the sense that I was probably going to find it offensive, but the aggressive high end made my fillings rattle before I even got to the objectionable lyrical content.)

- From my perspective, it's important to see these guys not only in the context of contemporary hip hop, but also in the context of Vice magazine and Terry Richardson -- the culture in which (in OF's case) sexism and homophobia are okay because they're being ironic and they don't really mean what they're saying. And besides, there's a lesbian and a bisexual man in their crew, which obviously makes their over-the-top shocking lyrical content okay. I'm just so bored with misogyny and homophobia as a way of appearing transgressive.

It also bums me out that these kids get all the attention when artists like Jean Grae and La Mala and, yes, Ana Tijoux are doing more innovative things with hip hop. But that's another rant for another time.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:25 PM on July 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


FWIW I think they are maturing. I don't think Wolf had any rape lines on it. I may be wrong, but I don't remember any.

Obviously they are not the only rappers to use violence against women in their lyrics, but it strikes me as particularly dumb when they do it. Because it is so tryhard "hahahah can't you take a joke"

When someone along the lines of Brotha Lynch Hung does it he does it in the context of being completely unredemably evil. It ain't great, but might as well get mad at Human Centipede.

When lil b does his "slap a bitch" lines I guess that is just what he calls making sweet sweet love, but everyone loves that guy so I guess he gets a pass.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:58 PM on July 21, 2013


I don't think that the sexism or homophobia in Tyler or Earl's music is okay, but I also don't believe that music has to be okay in that sense to be good.

Also, not that it's the last word or anything, but critics mostly disagree with you. The O.F. beats are avant garde and interesting to me, and Earl's flow is like supervolcano lava. Tyler's writing has a lot more going on than just shock. I'm sorry that your brother was a dick. Tyler's probably a dick too, but it's obvious to me that he's absurdly talented.

Also, I'm not trying to correct you or anything. This is just to say that I disagree.

I think La Mala is terrific but I haven't heard her new thing. Anna Tijoux does nothing at all for me sorry but you should check out Angel Haze.
posted by chrchr at 8:00 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like Tyler's beats on wolf, especially Jamba. I also think his lyrics are good when he's honest and not doing shock punch lines. IDK about Earl being like lava, he just sounds high to me. On Hive I think Vince Staples stands out but he sounds like some kinda triple OG in a 19 year old body.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:10 PM on July 21, 2013


In short, I agree with everyone.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:12 PM on July 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


to me, this track (the internet - give it time) is a key part of the OF puzzle. if you absolutely hate everything that the collective stands for, this is the track you listen to. Syd is on vocals, Tyler contributes to production (along w/ Jet Age member Matt Martian) & Mike Einziger from Incubus plays guitar.
posted by raihan_ at 9:34 PM on July 21, 2013


I freakin' love the Internet EP (and Frank Ocean is my favorite of the OF acts)
posted by chrchr at 10:22 PM on July 21, 2013


I don't think that the sexism or homophobia in Tyler or Earl's music is okay, but I also don't believe that music has to be okay in that sense to be good.

So-- you're saying you have the privilege to enjoy this music because the sexism and homophobia is not something which personally affects you, right? Because I just want to clarify this statement. The sexism and homophobia in OFWGKTA is not something what I can just... set aside, you know? It's about me. It's not entertaining. It reminds me that I feel threatened, sometimes, in the world. And what you are saying here reminds me of the old chestnut about Mrs. Lincoln otherwise enjoying the play. When I hear explicit misogyny and homophobia it tends to disrupt my ability to enjoy myself, no matter how "volcanic" the flow or excellent the beats.
posted by jokeefe at 10:30 PM on July 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think that's probably fair. Nobody should listen to anything they don't want to for whatever reason, and there are things I can hear as a white male and just be like "that's pretty unpleasant" that others may find that they have a more visceral reaction to. Granted.

I guess the only thing I'll say in Tyler's defense (and mine?) is that media that trades in explicit misogyny in one way or another is quite common and not all of it is judged as harshly as Tyler's work is. I'm thinking of mundane things like "Law & Order". I mean, a lot of his stuff deals with serial killer imagery, and where did he learn that? He's retreading stuff we've *all* seen in movies and TV. I'll watch for the outrage next time there's a thread about "Dexter".
posted by chrchr at 11:22 PM on July 21, 2013


On Law and Order, the people we identify with are the ones fighting the rapists and serial killers; besides which, the actors aren't the ones responsible for the script. Whereas on say a Tyler the Creator record, the person who wrote the whole thing is also the one performing it, and he's who we're supposed to identify with as fans, so it's easy to point and say "why are you saying all this fucked up shit?". Plus, his whole image depends on being authentic and real and unusually close to his fans, so there's an implication that the material on his albums is him sharing his deep feelings; if he is playing a persona, it's one he came up with on his own to express himself.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:01 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd been going back and forth about saying this, but these guys were one of the tipping points for me becoming more interested in Latin alternative rap (for want of a better phrase). This is not at all to say that the rap scenes in Central and South America are magical feminist lands where all people have respect for women: Omega and Daddy Yankee are pretty awful, and Tego Calderon has some really problematic material. What I am saying is that female MCs in Chile (say) or Seville seem to get equal air time and media attention as the guys, and they're writing interesting and important lyrics and doing innovative musical things.

And, yeah, I'll admit that one of the reasons why I talk about Ana Tijoux in particular in OF threads is because her album dropped stateside around the same time that Tyler's album came out. Her album was far more interesting musically and lyrically and as a cultural document, and it seemed like it got a little lost in the shuffle. Seeing a female MC who's doing good work more or less get ignored while a mildly talented guy who doesn't much care for the ladies did make me feel some despair for our culture.
but critics mostly disagree with you.
A lot of the same critics think that Chief Keef is doing groundbreaking work. Most of the music writers I know think the OF guys are kinda boring and benefited from coming up during a slow news cycle. YMMV.
I mean, a lot of his stuff deals with serial killer imagery, and where did he learn that? He's retreading stuff we've *all* seen in movies and TV.
I think a better parallel than Dexter or Law & Order for his work would be Bret Easton Ellis. Both writers have a greater sense of agency over their material than does Michael C. Hall, both of them write from the perspective of contemptible characters, and both writers share that love of the scatological and contempt towards women that their characters espouse. (Or their social media activities are an extension of their character's antics, more or less.)
posted by pxe2000 at 4:54 AM on July 22, 2013


Where are the purity tests during the Bruce Springsteen threads or the Rolling Stones threads?

Most of the world likes those guys despite Under My Thumb, and Fire.

A better comparison may be Eminem. As far as I'm concerned he takes the crown in over the top misogynist Lyrics for mainstream rap.

As for Tyler, and rap in general, being "real", you have to understand what "real" means in rap.

From a practical standpoint, Hyperbole and tall tales in general are a major part of rap. This is because part of rap is competition. Eminem showed that if you got nothing else to compete about, you can compete about how fucked up you are.

In turn, Eminem adopted those themes from other less well known rappers, like Esham and 3 six mafia.

So yeah, Tyler is part of one corner of the rap tradition. The theatrical, over the top, shock you, part.

Someone who comes from the Rap as reportage part is Chief Keef, I would bet just about everything he says in his songs are actual fact. So if you guys are into really real rap, you might like Keef.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:21 AM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where are the purity tests during the Bruce Springsteen threads or the Rolling Stones threads?

Most of the world likes those guys despite Under My Thumb, and Fire.
I don't listen to the Stones much (though, about that...). Springsteen is a little more complicated, not only for the lyrics to "Fire" but also for his frequent work with Clarence Clemons, whose record wasn't exactly spotless. That said, Springsteen didn't write that frequently about rape or domestic violence. He's also collaborated with female musicians and written songs about less fraught relationships. Tyler, on the other hand, has written pretty extensively on the subject of rape, sexual mutilation towards women, and gay bashing. Because of that, and because of the fetishistic detail with which Tyler has written about raping and killing women, that does tend to be the first thing many people think of when this subject comes up.
posted by pxe2000 at 12:16 PM on July 22, 2013


that does tend to be the first thing many people think of when this subject comes up.

Fair enough.

I think it is totally cool not to like him, or want to discuss the role his more objectionable lines plays a part in his music. These themes in rap, or society over all.

I don't think it is cool to talk about other commenter's privilege, even after they say they don't don't approve of his sexism and homophobia.

Tyler talks about many other things in an open and honest way. Some of us share common experiences with him, absentee fathers, sense of hopelessness, and for reasons other than privilege connect with him on those issues.

A lot of us were stupid teenagers, a lot of us said stupid things to lash out. Some of his lines are admittedly terrible, but they don't reflect the core of his being.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Or at least I hope they don't. We will see over time I guess.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:37 PM on July 22, 2013


Before i even start, i opened up this thread to make a post last night and ended up letting it sit all night, and all day just letting my thoughts marinate on this whole thing.

James Brooks from Elite Gymnastics wrote an excellent post earlier this week about how smarmy some of the industry is. You can check it here.

Wow, this is one of the better things i've read in a while. I've written several times before(for instance, previously). I especially like where it goes with relation to women in the industry and the fucked up treatment therein. In that category it's fucked up to pretty much modeling or hollywood levels if even 1/10th of what i've seen and heard is worthwhile as a basis to calibrate the gauge.

So looking at the whole thing from that angle, isn't it pretty fucked up that these guys are seen as, to quote what Ad Hominem said above, "hometown heroes" by the exact kinds of tumblr peeps who if you brought it up to them would instantly be hating on the bullshit(and especially the sexism and misogyny) in the music industry thinking they were doing it with the same sincerity as JB was in that post.

The problem i have with these guys is that they're celebrated for being "outside of the system" and underground and such, when their lyrics and what they're espousing them them is exactly the same kind of alienating shit that drives women away from the "system" and general culture of any music scene i've ever been around or even involved with in a tertiary manner.

I think that's why it pisses me off so much and hurts my soul to a degree. Everything i've seen of the people rooting for Tyler and OF are people who are disgusted, or if you described it to them would instantly be disgusted with the shit women put up with in the music industry. But as soon as you point out that Tylers stuff is constructively creating the same problem they get REALLY defensive and start saying shit like, well, what you said Ad Hominem with

Some of his lines are admittedly terrible, but they don't reflect the core of his being.

And fuck yea, people rail on the Stones and others for the same shit. Have you never heard them be called cock rockers? They practically invented that term. This is ignoring the fact that "well in a thread about artist A you're complaining about his behavior, but i didn't see you do it about artist B and C" is a pretty shitty argument that just deflects from the fact that the behavior is shitty.

For what it's worth, i'm actually willing to believe that these guys aren't shitheads and are just trying to be edgy or fucked up intentionally because they're not supposed to. I was in a band like this in my teens. I also posted on 4chan a lot, and generally did a lot of shitty things for their own sakes.

So yea, my focus has always been on everyones reaction and incredibly quick and virulent defense of their actions. Not what they themselves are doing. I wouldn't even care if people liked them if they weren't so adamant on bizarrely defending their fucked up shit.

And, mostly, if they'd just acknowledge for a bit that these guys are just making themselves another cog in the machine thats a huge wall to women being involved in music that basically just says "Be one of the guys and get over it, and accept your shitty treatment, or go home because music is lived by the ethos of rock star shit and unless you can play that game we don't want to hear your whining".

I'm really happy JB wrote that article, because it's really concisely covers a lot of thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for years. I've been involved in local music scenes that got to the point where we were packing small-medium venues regularly where there wasn't a single female artist. Plenty of fans, but no artists. And this type of cock rocking bullshit is a big part of the reason why.
posted by emptythought at 7:05 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I sympathize with a lot of your rant, emptythought. I said some of the same things in our last metafilter thread about how rap music is terrible and sexist and no one should ever listen to it. This is a thing I take seriously. I have personally tried to recruit women to rap.

With regard to the participation of women and LGBT in the music industry, I will respectfully submit that you're barking up the wrong tree with Odd Future. Frank Ocean's bisexuality is very well known and O.F. also features a woman fronted group in Syd the Kyd's The Internet. This is two artists out of I don't know how many, but in an industry that does an absolutely horrendous job of putting women and LGBT people in front of microphones, I think it's noteworthy. It ain't a hole in one, but it's way better than parr.

For real, I don't think anyone here is defending the homophobia and misogyny in Tyler's music. I'm not. I think it's pretty much indefensible. I am defending his art though. My stance is that the presence of problematic content in art doesn't make it worthless. Art can be violent and sexist and homophobic and still have tremendous value. I'm willing to bet that many of your favorite movies have a lot of sexism and racism and other kinds of troubling -isms. Everyone reading this thread enjoys problematic art. You just don't enjoy this problematic art.

I'm well aware that this stuff is sexist and misogynistic and homophobic. I know that because I listened to some of it just today. So, my favorite band sucks, and they're sexist too. Thanks. Now I know.
posted by chrchr at 8:23 PM on July 22, 2013


The thing that I find problematic in these discussions is that miraculously, there's a creative, talented teenage person of color speaking to a huge audience about all the weird things in his head, and all you can do is tell him to talk about something nicer, or say that his music sucks, or that he's probably a serial killer because he had the audacity to both write and perform such a character without carefully segregating the writing and acting roles. Seriously, Internet?
posted by chrchr at 8:31 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you want a great counter to this success story, James Brooks from Elite Gymnastics wrote an excellent post earlier this week about how smarmy some of the industry is. You can check it here.

That article is fantastic; thanks for the link.

I don't think it is cool to talk about other commenter's privilege, even after they say they don't don't approve of his sexism and homophobia.

But Ad hominem, that is what privilege is-- to be able to react to sexism and homophobia with disapproval instead of personal injury, and to disregard those things for the sake of enjoying the music anyway. It's not a choice many of us are capable of making. There are songs by the Stones that I love; but misogyny poisons others for me, and I'm not able to listen to them. That's the difference.
posted by jokeefe at 8:55 PM on July 22, 2013


My stance is that the presence of problematic content in art doesn't make it worthless. Art can be violent and sexist and homophobic and still have tremendous value. I'm willing to bet that many of your favorite movies have a lot of sexism and racism and other kinds of troubling -isms.

It's possible, but it's a really high hurdle to breach, you know? And it depends on so very much (how is the sexism, for example, handled? Is there criticism? Is it a matter of flawed characters or flawed writing? Etc.) and it depends on compensatory worth. For me, personally, any of the -isms, as you put it, can eliminate any interest a work of art has for me, so that argument doesn't really go anywhere in my case. And I do have to say:

The thing that I find problematic in these discussions is that miraculously, there's a creative, talented teenage person of color speaking to a huge audience about all the weird things in his head, and all you can do is tell him to talk about something nicer, or say that his music sucks, or that he's probably a serial killer because he had the audacity to both write and perform such a character without carefully segregating the writing and acting roles. Seriously, Internet?

Come on. I'm really tired of being asked to assume that rap lyrics are masks under which lie kinder, gentler personas, or that the whole thing is a joke. Because that's stale, and it's an excuse for ugliness, and it keeps on happening, year after year (I remember having this same conversation with my son 15 years ago). And I don't actually find it miraculous that there exist creative and talented young people of colour: they are legion. Only some of them turn misogyny and homophobia into a vocation.
posted by jokeefe at 9:03 PM on July 22, 2013


Right. So there's a level of acceptable discourse below which art is unworthy of attention. Does it seem to you that people from the periphery of society might have a harder time achieving that level, or maybe they might choose not to entirely? That is how it seems to me, and it seems to me that those kinds of voices are underrepresented in the mainstream media outside of rap.

This has nothing to do with talent or intelligence or education. It's just a thing of how people on the periphery sometimes choose to engage with the mainstream. If you limit yourself to only voices that say things that you find acceptable, you're missing out on hearing from people who have unique experience and access.

I don't mean to make a comparison here, but I'm thinking of Rachel Jeantel. Whatever else is going on there, the experts who watched the trial said that just the way she spoke made her not a credible witness, and justice was not served.
posted by chrchr at 9:33 PM on July 22, 2013


I been thinking about this all day, and why I give so many rappers a pass and whether I should continue to defend them.

There are very few ways for people outside of the dominant straight white male culture to communicate with theselves and the culture at large without outside interference. Some of what is going to be said is going to be shitty.

We have "tone argument" discussions all the time. That a "tone argument" is simply a barrier to communication. Be nicer or I won't listen to you. Or even, if you listen you must agree with even the shitty things being said. We have agreed, I think, not to engage in that.

But what if your tone is heaping injury on another group that is traditionally oppressed? What if it is not aimed at the dominant culture? Are we right to ignore them? Should we work extra hard, as I tend to do, to figure out why they are saying what they are saying? How do we balance concerns.

I'm not asking anyone not to be offended, I'm not telling anyone listen to OF or you are a racist, I'm not even defending Tyler's sexist and homophobic rhetoric. What I am saying is it is possible to listen without sharing all his views. Just as it is possible to read the SCUM manifesto without believing in cutting up men. I am also asking not to shut down conversations about why Tyler, or anyone else, is saying what they are saying.I may be the crazy one but I don't believe he is just a sexist the same way I dont believe feminists are just man haters.

So that is why I defend rappers.

On the other hand, they seem to cause so much distress, and I want to give women's voices equal weight, that maybe I shouldn't.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:39 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're invoking Rachel Jeantel because I don't enjoy listening to lyrics which centre on misogyny? Seriously?

This has nothing to do with talent or intelligence or education. It's just a thing of how people on the periphery sometimes choose to engage with the mainstream. If you limit yourself to only voices that say things that you find acceptable, you're missing out on hearing from people who have unique experience and access.

I'm sure you don't intend to imply it (I hope you don't), but my lack of interest in listening to Odd Future does not mean I'm coming from a position of racial or class bias. It means I'm coming from a position of really not wanting to listen to stuff that's woman or gay hating. It doesn't mean I'm going to be ignorant of marginalized voices; there are many other venues and other musicians in the world besides Odd Future and Earl Sweatshirt. And it strikes me that your argument could be directed to those young men as well: they're depriving themselves of other viewpoints, too.

Being older, female, bisexual, a single mother, etc., means I experienced marginalization myself, you know.
posted by jokeefe at 10:06 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Totally not. Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt. I don't care if you listen to Odd Future or not. There's lots of stuff I don't enjoy listening to, for whatever reason. Nobody should listen to anything they don't want to listen to. I said that above. I'm explaining why I think this music is valuable to those of us who want to hear it in spite of the problematic content. I'm responding to you saying that I'm making an "excuse for ugliness". I don't excuse the ugliness and I don't think it should be excused.

My argument absolutely does apply to young men. That there are few women making rap music robs all of us of important perspectives, and I think women being a larger part of the conversation would go a long way to addressing the kind of casual misogyny that is prevalent in rap.

I invoked Rachel Jeantel as an example of someone whose manner of speaking, use of language, general presentation, tone -- to use Ad hominem's word -- and use of an ethnic slur, prevented her from being heard. I specifically chose Jeantel because it's easy to see how the way she spoke allowed the jury to ignore what she had to say. Similarly, Tyler's choice to say a bunch of reprehensible things makes it easy to dismiss his work, but I am arguing that he also has some valuable testimony.

Also, Ad hominem just summed this up expertly and with a lot more insight.
posted by chrchr at 11:16 PM on July 22, 2013


I think we're kind of arguing past each other here.
posted by jokeefe at 12:55 AM on July 23, 2013


With regard to the participation of women and LGBT in the music industry, I will respectfully submit that you're barking up the wrong tree with Odd Future. Frank Ocean's bisexuality is very well known and O.F. also features a woman fronted group in Syd the Kyd's The Internet. This is two artists out of I don't know how many, but in an industry that does an absolutely horrendous job of putting women and LGBT people in front of microphones, I think it's noteworthy. It ain't a hole in one, but it's way better than parr.

While i get what you're saying, and think it's good that they're using their notoriety to jetpack their even-more-marginalized friends in to the public eye... this is basically an advanced and weasely version of the "But i have gay/women/etc friends who are fine with it so it makes the shitty things i say ok!". Do you not see what i'm getting at here?

For real, I don't think anyone here is defending the homophobia and misogyny in Tyler's music. I'm not. I think it's pretty much indefensible. I am defending his art though. My stance is that the presence of problematic content in art doesn't make it worthless. Art can be violent and sexist and homophobic and still have tremendous value. I'm willing to bet that many of your favorite movies have a lot of sexism and racism and other kinds of troubling -isms. Everyone reading this thread enjoys problematic art. You just don't enjoy this problematic art.

Yea, and this is what i hear every time. The thing is, what's going on here(and what i've seen happen since they first started getting serious internet fame) Is people saying that, and then presenting some kind of argument that's essentially saying in a very weasely something along the lines of what was happening in the amanda palmer thread.

No one here is saying that fucked up content in art somehow destroys or removes it's value. What we are saying is that you can't just wave aside the fact that it(or it's creator!) has problematic elements and attempt to silence anyone who makes any attempt to associate the two.

You're doing this thing i've seen a bajillion times, where you create some unassailable tower of "art" that is somehow going to be toppled if people are somehow "not seeing the forrest for the trees" by being upset with some of the content.(or sometimes, the actions of the artist, although not so much in this case).

You get even more in to this kind of weird weasely shit here:
The thing that I find problematic in these discussions is that miraculously, there's a creative, talented teenage person of color speaking to a huge audience about all the weird things in his head, and all you can do is tell him to talk about something nicer, or say that his music sucks, or that he's probably a serial killer because he had the audacity to both write and perform such a character without carefully segregating the writing and acting roles. Seriously, Internet?

Can you save the "how DARE you, SHAME ON YOU" shit for somewhere else please? Somehow, this is something i see a lot around both Tyler/OF and AP discussions.

This is such an incredibly tiresome argument here. It implies that anyone who is upset with this is making some shitty tone argument, is trying to silence a person of color(gasp!), and also gets in to putting words in peoples mouths territory with the serial killer thing.

It's like some liberal internet discussion shutdown tactic bingo. stop.

I get that you're probably pissed here, but... yea... ugh.

First of all, every time someone says that someone is saying something shitty and upsetting it isn't a tone argument. I have yet to see anyone asking him write his lyrics or create his music in a different way or to a different standard. I don't even think i've heard anyone say that more people would listen to or agree with him if he did so, because, you know, he's not making an argument or speaking in that kind of way here. He's making art. You can't really make a fucking tone argument against art. The most i've even see anyone do is say that more women might be interested in, or at least not upset by his work if he wasn't including some of the content he has in the past. There's a big difference between the "sit down and speak calmly boy" shit you seem to be implying, and what's essentially "more people might be able to enjoy your cookies if they didn't have peanuts in them". Music is a consumable, not a discussion(I'm not saying at all that it can't be a jumping off point for discussion, but it's consumed, not interactive media unless you're at certain live shows)

Second, which i kinda rubbed into a bit on #1, is that i think it's pretty fucked up to deflector shield away people who have any issues with the content of some of his stuff with the i-am-rubber-and-you-are-glue superslam of trying to turn this in to some kind of "race is at play here" thing. I actually think that's an element of why this is so accepted. Too many tumblr internet liberals are afraid to not be down with OF even if the lyrics make them go o_0 because not only is OF and him internet popular and "relevant", but they're afraid of getting attacked by the exact tactic you just used of getting painted in to some kind of bullshit color of "oh, how dare you tell a young black man how to express himself". It's a complete derail and shifts the entire discussion far enough away that the entire original point gets lost. You get to smokescreen yours over the top while simultaneously trying to(and possibly succeeding) in making it look like their issue was somehow some dog whistle shit. This is really shitty. Discuss the discussion, not the other persons possible internal motivations and character/integrity. Jesus.

Finally, no one is saying he's a serial killer or must be some super fucked up person. Many of us, myself included remember the fucked up things we'd say and do especially if we were artsy types in our late teens. All we're saying is that he's saying upsetting shit. Not that he's violation some goddamn law of the universe, or that he shouldn't be allowed to, or that it's completely unrelatable and he must be like Dexter, or anything along those lines.

Reading your later comments here i'm not even sure if you want to have a serious discussion about this without trying to shove anyone who disagrees with you in to the mud or just tar them and go as far and fast as you can to make them look like The Bad Guy. But no one is saying a lot of what you're trying to imply they are here.

And for what it's worth, i completely understand how the Rachel Jeantel thing was topical, but it really just feels like pouring gasoline on the fire of what's been a very long ongoing and very heated debate on the internet. You're basically pulling another thing which has also been a giant ongoing debate into a collision with this one. This is generally a shitty idea if you're trying to have a serious discussion, or trying to avoid being seen as someone whose trying to stir shit.

I'm writing this assuming you're posting everything you've written in good faith, but it really does feel like you're twisting the throttle as far as it goes if you are.


But what if your tone is heaping injury on another group that is traditionally oppressed? What if it is not aimed at the dominant culture? Are we right to ignore them? Should we work extra hard, as I tend to do, to figure out why they are saying what they are saying? How do we balance concerns.

I'm not asking anyone not to be offended, I'm not telling anyone listen to OF or you are a racist, I'm not even defending Tyler's sexist and homophobic rhetoric. What I am saying is it is possible to listen without sharing all his views. Just as it is possible to read the SCUM manifesto without believing in cutting up men. I am also asking not to shut down conversations about why Tyler, or anyone else, is saying what they are saying.I may be the crazy one but I don't believe he is just a sexist the same way I dont believe feminists are just man haters.


I've seen this comparison made before, and it generally upsets me.

My basic question is... What makes this worth this extra 150% to sit there and think "hmm, interesting, i wonder why he's saying that" when it's literally the same type of garbage that has been coming out of the bilge of society for ages?

And, on the comparison with feminism, what makes this a Radical Act? SCUM manifesto type stuff was working against and counter to the majority at the time. It went pretty much as far opposite the status quo as it could. This, on the other hand is "radical" yes, but it's such in the sense that it's radical against modern youth culture that is trying fairly hard to be the opposite of the old status quo.

It feels stunty to me, like a kid showing up to his highschool graduation in a borat speedo slung over his shoulders.

Art can be whatever it wants, and it can be radical in whatever way its creator chooses for it to be. Sometimes even in unintended ways or after the fact. But i don't get why this is worthy of such a valiant defense.

It agree with all of what was said about communication of non straight white dudes. But we seem to be coming right back to what i was rolling my eyes at chrchr for doing.
posted by emptythought at 1:02 AM on July 23, 2013


I can't see into Tyler's heart but what I see is a society where kids like Tyler are shot in the street.

Their killers go free and get a pat on the back from half the country. They must have deserved it, must have done something. Must have attacked. Must be high. Must be up to no good.

I see kids taught not too be too scary. Don't move to quick. Dont skulk in the shadows. Don't talk back to police. Don't do any of these things or you might get shot.

Those same kids treated every day with suspicion. Watched in stores. Stopped and frisked

They think if you are going to treat me like a monster I'll act like a monster. Hell maybe I really am what people say. If you want a monster I'll be a monster.

Maybe not though. Maybe he is just a jerk.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:29 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd spoken to Ad hominem about this, but given the direction the conversation is going, it might be worth asking here as well:

Whenever there's a discussion of rape jokes here, the phrase "punching up" gets thrown around a lot. Don't make the joke about the woman who was sexually assaulted, make the joke about rape culture or about the rapist. Punch the person who's in power, not the person who was violated.

So where is the punching up going on here? I don't see Tyler and Earl as punching up. They're not making fun of the society in which women suffer judgment for getting raped, or gays get violently bashed and in some corners this is seen as okay.
what I see is a society where kids like Tyler are shot in the street.
This is a fair point, but the first place I indirectly heard about OF was Vice...a magazine and website that's known for racism and sexism. But they're hipsters who grew up in liberal families, so it's okay. And I understand where OF would be responding to our allegedly "post racial" times. At the same time, though, they're not going after the George Zimmermans of the world. They're symbolically going after people who are as vulnerable as they are -- women and (to some extent) gays.

With a lot of the MCs and crews who write material I find offensive, it seems like they come up organically through different scenes -- Eminem had a following in Detroit, NWA were big in Compton, etc., and people heard about them first through the hip hop media and urban radio stations. OF seems to have become prominent through media not associated with the rap scene. I was going to UMass Boston when OF first became popular, and the only people I ever saw wearing the "Free Earl" shirts were the white hipster-y types.

I still dislike them in general (though I enjoy a few Frank Ocean songs), but I'm also trying to make sense of my issues with them. If that's even coherent. And yes, I know my white privilege is coming through loud and clear in this comment.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:37 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


US Rapper Tyler The Creator unleashes a torrent of hate on Sydney activist.
posted by emptythought at 11:52 AM on August 15, 2013


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