If you have been paying attention to new music within the last few months, chances are you have most likely heard something about the endlessly hyped and controversial skateboarding hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (we‘ll use “Odd Future” for short). If not them, more notably, their scratchy low-voiced leader Tyler, the Creator, and his new album, GOBLIN. Members of the Odd Future crew have been releasing free mix-tapes and self-directed music videos that have reached millions of viewers on the web, making them viral sensations and cementing them as the true pioneers of underground hip-hop in the social media era. And if you have heard of them, or listened to GOBLIN, then you probably have some sort of opinion about them. It’s almost impossible not to. Their work demands a response. It’s pretty much either the fun or the problem surrounding their releases, as they constantly push the boundaries of what is offensive within their rhymes and violent narratives.

At the center of it all is Tyler, the Creator. An appropriate alias, Tyler acts as creative director for the Odd Future crew. Fashioning most of the beats appearing on their mix-tapes and directing many of their most popular YouTube clips, his fingerprints are all over the crime scene that has become their persistent web domination and steady rise to fame. The self-directed music video for the first single, “Yonkers,” off of his newest album, has reached over 12 million views on YouTube alone, and it’s subject matter is pretty much what Tyler and the Odd Future gang’s credo is in a nutshell: that nothing is sacred and the creepier the content is the better.

One of cryptic lyrics says that Tyler would “s––b Bruno Mars in his goddamn esophagus, and won’t stop until the cops come in.” If you haven’t seen it, it is almost as captivating as it is disturbing, with shock value that barely subsides even after multiple views. A simple play by play would not do it justice.
 The diabolic world of Tyler the Creator, who signed to XL records for a one album contract, has now been given a distributor outside of his normal DIY work ethic, with people actually reading about his new album in large popular music publications and a vast variety of web media outlets (eh-hem). As the world gets closer and closer to breaking him completely into the mainstream, there is one debate that has surrounded this collective and their eccentric leader: is their music worth all of the hype and praise surrounding them given their violent and offensive lyrical content? Should it be viewed as artistic expression, or should Tyler and the rest of Odd Future gang take responsibility for some of the deplorable narratives they create in GOBLIN, as well as other releases? 
 Not to sound like a cop out, but my honest opinion is that they should fall somewhere in between. Just as with any form of art, an artist should be able to explain what it is they have created if it has struck a nerve, but that artist also should never have to feel the need to retract something he or she has created due to offended parties. It is the artist’s expression, and the only boundaries that should stand in the way of the work should be his own personal reservations.

Even though there is constant depiction of rape, theft, murder and frequent usage of socially uncouth homophobic slurs on Tyler’s GOBLIN, the guy should be able to back up his work in an intelligent manner, right? To plead his case to the public that he has confused, fascinated and alienated all with one release. Or at least maybe that’s what should be happening. But saying something like, “R––e a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome” in the song “Tron Cat,” that might need a little explaining…

This has not been the case. Right after the release of GOBLIN, Tyler received some scathing criticism from Tegan and Sarah singer Tegan Quin on Twitter. In her post she slammed Tyler and his album’s overly homophobic lyrical content, as well as the journalists who sing him such lauded praises. Tegan wrote, “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 a racist or anti-semetic offense?” She concluded by adding, “As Journalists and colleagues defend, excuse and congratulate Tyler, the Creator I find it impossible not to comment.” 

To this, Tyler replied ever so eloquently, “If Tegan and Sarah need some hard dick, hit me up!” In pretty typical fashion, this is what we have come to expect from him. A response like this, however, brings up the question of whether or not he just treats the whole issue of offending people with lyrics as a joking matter or if he stands directly by his lyrics. I hope for his and our sake that this is just a phase for Tyler. He and most of the Odd Future are still under the legal drinking age, and even though the lyrics can be grotesque and cringe worthy at times, the production quality and cohesiveness of GOBLIN are something to behold. They have created something vibrant and new within hip-hop, a music form that needed a little assistance as of late (Kanye can’t do it all by himself!). But with every act of creation there is one process that should never be overlooked: Self editing.


  • Sydney Ramsden
    Sydney Ramsden on

    I don't actually listen to Tyler or Odd Future, but I remember reading about Tyler's Twitter feud with Tegan. After I read about their comments, I did some research on Tyler's lyrics and even read his Tweets, and both, in my opinion, are disgusting. I'm surprised people even listen to this stuff. But honestly, I think Tyler's approach to songwriting is mostly for attention. By writing his lyrics and tweets in such a graphic and deplorable manner, he's getting exactly the attention he wants as an artist, and is thus getting people to listen to his music. It's far from the optimal way to get attention, but at least he's getting it at all.

  • GabrielaTilevitz
    GabrielaTilevitz on

    My first introduction to Odd Future was Earl Sweatshirt. A friend of mine was playing his CD idly in the background one day. Normally I can never decipher lyrics to rap music unless I'm listening really hard, but Earl's lyrics were so grotesque they hit me hard. I was horrified by his music until I found out about his whole story. I think that Odd Future as a group represents themselves in their lyrics, which is what makes them so appealing to rap/hip-hop fans today. Aside from Kanye, they're the first group in a while that's doing something so out there and self-centered it kind of bothers you but you can't look away because it's intriguing. All hail Tyler the Creator.

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