Raphael Saadiq, Christina Perri, and the Cars all released records this week, but for many teenage music fans, only one new record is worth talking about: Goblin by Tyler, the Creator, the relatively unknown rapper who’s the best of a pack of SoCal skater kids (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) making deliberately confrontational music because they think it’s funny. The group’s famous fans include Adele and Mos Def. And they’ll happily call out those who aren’t paying attention: on his single “Yonkers,” Tyler claims he’ll “stab Bruno Mars in his g**damn esophagus,” prompting the You Oughta Know favorite to quip to Spin that he “has to wait in line if he wants to stab me.” All this attention has led some to question the shock value of the sometimes-violent rhymes, especially on the subjects of women and homosexuality.
In The Guardian this week, Alex Macpherson compared Odd Future to Eminem, contrasting the gang quite unfavorably with the equally outré Berkeley rapper Lil B, who, though straight, plans to title his new album “I’m Gay.” And implicit commentary about the difference between the Bay Area and Los Angeles aside, Lil B is certainly a much more progressive artist and thinker.
That said, Tyler, The Creator is less like Eminem than first-record Beastie Boys, whose homophobic and misogynistic attitudes at the time continue to cause them shame 25 years later. Nitsuh Abebe has written quite a bit at New York Magazine‘s Vulture blog about Odd Future’s appeal, and Tyler, The Creator in particular; Abebe astutely chalks most of Tyler’s transgression to his being a teenage boy (well, twenty now).
But he’s not tapping into the same class-rage-as-white-male-power that Eminem used to traffic in. Eminem mocked the pop stars of his day in his early videos; Tyler tweeted with legitimate excitement when he met Justin Bieber. He also tweets surprisingly frequently about refusing to wipe his butt after using the restroom. Tyler, the Creator is just really immature.
But that doesn’t make calling B.O.B. a “f****t n***a” funny. Tyler, the Creator and the rest of Odd Future just need to learn how to remain resolutely goofy and anti-authoritarian without perpetuating the cultural oppression of authority. How about a live-in apprenticeship with the Beastie Boys? It’d sure make a good reality TV show.