A few weeks back I was riding with my younger brother and as he was driving we were
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.”
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.