By Olivia Sledzik
When it comes to being in the spotlight, celebrities have both fans and haters. Tyler, the Creator, certainly has both after winning Best New Artist at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards. At only 20 years old,Californianative Tyler Okonoma raps, writes songs, directs and films music videos, and is the leader of alternative hip-hop group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (known to fans as simply Odd Future).
His recent victory over fellow nominees Kreayshawn and Wiz Khalifa at the VMAS has sparked much conversation and controversy in the music industry as well as complaints from organizations like GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation). Before one automatically judgesTyleras a disrespectful, crude, and uneducated kid, however, we should actually read deeper into his lyrics and personality, for this young man is proving to be one of the most intricate rappers of his era.
Let’s start withTyler’s accomplishments and creativity. He has released two solo albums: “Bastard” in 2009, and “Goblin” in 2010. His most popular song, “Yonkers,” has at this moment over 22 million views on YouTube. Kanye West – who, as we all know, is the all-powerful when it comes to music videos -praises the video as the best of the year. The music video is dark, gritty, and intense, and it matches the mood of the song deliciously.
The beat isn’t just a regular beat; it has the continuing sound of what may be an engine failing to rev up, which makes it uncomfortable to listen to. The lyrics are vulgar and littered with profanity.
The cinematography, directed by Tyler himself, is simple in order to contrast with the complexity of the lyrics. Filmed using a black and white perspective control lens, it features Tyler sitting on a stool, handling and eating a cockroach, projectile vomiting, and hanging himself at the end.
The song begins with the lyrics “I’m a f—-n’ walkin’ paradox, no I’m not,” which is rapped alternately by his alter ego character Wolf Haley and Tyler himself. The entire song is them going back and forth, and other paradoxes. He refers to his rather strong distaste towards Bruno Mars (“And stab Bruno Mars in his god—- esophagus”) and B.O.B. (“I’ll crash that f—— airplane that f—-t n—- B.O.B. is in”) and the praise he received from online music magazine Pitchfork Media (“And beat up any blogging f—-t hipster with a Pitchfork”).
Although these lyrics are violent, that’s the point. Wolf Haley is a violent person, or shall we say, a “goblin.” He even refers to his feelings about never knowing his father, for whomTylerhas much disdain (“I just want to know if my father would ever like me.”) Tyler’s refreshing voice is not heavily auto-tuned. It’s deep, gravelly, and syrupy, as opposed to the whiney texture of pop-stars who are featured in rap songs.Tyler’s material is above that. He can get his art out there without having to rely on Rihanna in the chorus for publicity. I’m not sure how many 20-year-olds you know of who can delve that deep into their creative minds and come out with an explosion of intense sound and meaning, butTylerdoes it amazingly.
On the other hand,Tylerhas offended many people, including GLAAD. They claimTylerused the homophobic slur “f—-t” 213 times in “Goblin.” Members issued a statement saying that someone who uses such slurs so frequently should not have been nominated for such a noted award and that it sends a bad message to today’s youth. Parents and other family groups were taken aback byTyler’s acceptance speech in which he told “all the kids out there that [they] can do this s—.” They argue that his habitual use of profanity makes him a poor role model for teens.
While I do agree with GLAAD and other groups thatTylerneeds to cut back on his use of slurs, I can’t help but argue that this is the nature of his work. Some artists paint crude pictures or even make sculptures depicting rape. Writers craft stories about incest and violence. How is their material any different? Things like this need to be taken with a grain of salt. Who are we to place limits on creativity and expression of emotions? The phrase “Do as I say, not as I do,” can apply to this situation.Tylerhas no criminal record and works hard for what he wants. He has obvious goals and concrete future plans. I’d rather him be a role model than kids look up to his rival Bruno Mars, who once was in possession of cocaine.
You can take offense to anything in this world, but when you tell an artist to stop expressing themselves in their medium, then you’re violating their right to free speech. So, if you don’t likeTyler’s material, don’t listen to it. It’s that simple.