Amid the ongoing internet brouhaha surrounding Tyler The Creator’s lyrical content, this article from the website Soundblab is the best I have read on the subject so far, and pretty accurately nails the problems I have with Tyler’s approach to writing about sex and abuse. Yeah, I get that he’s still a kid so hasn’t had a great deal of real life experience in these areas, but like so many of the other excuses brought up in this debate, that’s still pretty weak. Richard Morris writes:
Now, there are three arguments being put forward to explain, excuse and otherwise justify Tyler’s lyrical concerns. These arguments are the same ones which get put forward time and time again when hip hop artists produce dubious lyrics: he’s just reflecting his background; he just repeating what’s everywhere in hip hop culture; he’s playing with a persona. A moment’s reflection is all you need to work out that that last excuse can’t exist with the first two. Either Tyler is honestly reflecting where he comes from and the culture he’s surrounded by, or he’s concocted a character as satire or narrative aid. It can’t be both.
However, if you still want to buy into any or all of those arguments listed above, fine, but I have a question for you: where are all the songs by female artists about attacking and raping men? If that seems a ridiculous thing to ponder, ask yourself why. Why does it make sense for a man to rap about raping a woman but not the other way round? The answer, when you pick it apart, is probably that there would be no audience for those kind of songs. Similarly, there’s not much call for songs where gay artists have a go at straight people. No one would buy into that kind of stupid prejudice. Gay activists would condemn it as counter-productive.
Tyler, the Creator has identified an audience and, with the media’s help, he’s milking that for all it’s worth. That audience is primarily made up of white young men. A couple of weeks ago, Hamish MacBain took Tyler to task in the pages of NME, pointing out that Odd Future had bypassed the traditional hip hop audience, instead crossing over quickly to the kind of alternative music fans who read Pitchfork, the Guardian and, hey, Soundblab. It’s exactly these alternative, typically liberal-leaning fans who repeatedly let hip hop artists off the hook when it comes to misogynistic and homophobic lyrics.
For me the problem is not so much that these excuses are not applicable - it’s that twenty years after the release of Death Certificate we’re still having the exact same debate. We’ve not moved on. It’s disheartening to see that popular hip-hop has devolved into a negatized musical format whose primary function is to piss off suburban parents, and where shock tactics outweigh genuine insight. Much of the blame for this can be heaped on the feet of the media, but surely the music is just as much at fault too? Because to me Tyler’s lyrics do not feel in any way transgressive. Really, they don’t, they’re the same old thing I have heard countless times before. If you do think they are transgressive, then I would say you are part of a social group that has thankfully never been subject to the threat of rape or abuse. Tyler’s lyrics simply re-enforce the status quo, and as such they’re just boring.