Don’t Judge a Book by RAPE BITCHES KILL PEOPLE

My Friends,
   A few weeks back I was riding with my younger brother and as he was driving we were listening to the songs bumping the joints on his ipod.  One group he is really into of late is Odd Future,

and particularly their frontman, Tyler the Creator.

I was aware of the group prior to this motorcar ride but he played me some stuff I hadn’t heard.  Specifically we listened to a few tracks from Tyler’s most recent album, Goblin (2011).  The songs he played were received well by me; haunting, grimy beats complemented by thought-provoking, if explicit, lyrics.  All in all, I resolved to download the album when I got home.
   Now perhaps I am a bit jaded as a rap enthusiast; I have listened to Necro, Ill Bill, a ton of Eminem, Cage, Apathy, etc…, and any shock I may have had to Odd Future’s raw lyrics has effectively been used up by these predecessors and others.  However, I could see how the uninitiated might be a little taken aback at first. But really, only a little taken aback.  After all, they’re not saying anything that hasn’t been said before in a song and they are certainly not using words that everybody hasn’t used before.  I therefore find it a little disappointing that I heard about the group last spring due to the controversy surrounding them rather than because of the merits of their music.
   It seems we as a society can’t seem to leave the issue of content in music/movies/video games alone.  It seems ridiculous to me that people still feel that expressions of the culture precede the culture itself.  If you’re gonna criticize lyrical content you have to criticize the societal conditions which produced the discontent leading to such lyrics first.  But a bunch of foul-mouthed black kids make a much easier target than society at large, so all too often the suppression of offensive free speech is the cause championed by so-called “do-gooders.”
   However, the unfair persecution of those who use cuss-words in music is only half of the problem.  The other half of the problem is that the cuss words are the only thing critics hear.  Its like when rapper Cam’Ron was on The O’Reilly Factor and Bill O’Reilly introduced him as a rapper whose album was about “pimping & bitches.”

Also a Satan-worshipper it would seem

The album in question, Purple Haze, did have its share of explicit content but to say it was about pimping and bitches isn’t just reductive, its wrong.  Still, I understand that Bill O’Reilly is simply a troll to incite conservative America and bait the liberals, so he said what he said for calculated reasons.  However, other seemingly more enlightened individuals have also made the mistake of prejudging as well.
   Back in the early 2000s for example when Eminem’s Marxhall Mathers LP was at the peak of its populairty and the subject of many news reports, my father caught a radio report talking about the controversy surrounding the album.  Without actually listening to it he stopped us before leaving for school one day and asked us if we knew Eminem.  When we said “yes” he told us we were not to listen to him anymore.  Thankfully, this was never enforced but the fact that he presumed to tell us what to listen to infuriated me, and not least of all because he hadn’t listened to the album and didn’t know what Eminem was all about.

…he don’t know you like I know you Slim, noone does…

But more than infuriated I was embarrassed for him.  What he was betraying by saying this was complete ignorance and a willingness to be scared by reactionary fervor.  
   In any event, we went on listening to our music with impunity and some years later, my younger sister of all people played Eminem’s third album, The Eminem Show for him.  Specifically she played the track Hailie’s Song, which details Eminem’s long battle to get custody of his child.  As my dad had also been through a custody battle or two, the song resonated with him and he came to me some time later and told me that he had listened to Eminem and realized that he was just a guy and not the devil-incarnate.  All it took for him to come to this realization was to hear more than what was publicized on the news and to find a bit of the artist’s work which he could relate to.
   With regard to Odd Future, one of the song’s in their repertoire has a disclaimer/PSA before it urging white America not to take the song seriously or blame the group for anything negative that happens as a result of the listening to the song.  The song in question, Radicals, certainly sounds scary: ominous haunting beat, Tyler screaming the vocals and the other members screaming “KILL PEOPLE BURN SHIT FUCK SCHOOL” over the hook.  But after each round of the hook the beat drops out and Tyler talks to the listener giving advice, presumably the same advice he urged the listener not to follow during the disclaimer.  Some highlights are:
-“They want us to go to they schools and be fuckin miserable at they fuckin college studyin that fuckin bullshit.  Fuck that.”
-“Do what the fuck makes you happy.  Cause at the end who’s there? You!”
-“I’m not saying go out and do some stupid shit, commit crimes.”
-“Do what the fuck you want; stand for what the fuck you believe in and don’t let nobody tell you you can’t do what the fuck you want.”
-“Imma fuck a unicorn and fuck anybody who say I’m not.”
I think its ironic and appropriate that the disclaimer precedes such advice.  Ironic because the advice is positive, and appropriate because the advice is perhaps more subversive than all of their raps about murder, rape and torture.  Fortunately, the parents, politicians and pundits won’t hear this actual subversion because they’re too hung up on the use of the f-word.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo


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