The often misogynistic, homophobic combativeness of rap collective Odd Future continues to vex critics and artists alike. On Friday afternoon, Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara harshly castigated those who would praise Tyler, the Creator and/or misogynistic/homophobic music in general. Her short manifesto hints at a breadth and depth of thought on the subject of problematic art, as well as her own history in the music industry, though she unpacks little of what she suggests. She is particularly (and not necessarily unfairly) critical of what she sees as hypocrisy in the indie rock community (which, as Dr. Wendy Fonarow has argued, esteems itself as particularly forward-thinking): “The more I think about it, the more I think people don’t actually want to go up against this particular bully because he’s popular. Who sticks up for women and gay people now? It seems entirely uncool to do so in the indie rock world, and I’ll argue that point with ANYONE.” She also touches on issues that often get elided in these communities—those of race and of class (although her essay’s oblique implications about Odd Future’s class standing are belied by their fairly suburban upbringing).
Quin does have a point, although Odd Future was not the best artist upon whose back to build this argument; such a response is only more fodder for such a deliberately confrontational group. (Tyler’s obnoxious response to the piece on Twitter seems almost too obvious to mention.) Her mentions of the entertainment industry do ring particularly true for Tyler, et al.; as Kelefa Sanneh’s lengthy (and insightful) piece on the group in this week’s New Yorker notes, “Last summer, Odd Future acquired a pair of well-connected managers, Christian Clancy and Dave Airaudi, both veterans of Interscope Records.”
But just as the long-delayed discussion of indie rock’s class issues only became a matter of critical inquiry when Vampire Weekend‘s yacht-chic forced the issue, and in such a confrontational and complex way that a mere up-and-down vote would be impossible, this discussion of Odd Future’s lyrical content seems as destined to go nowhere as it was inevitable. If centered on Tyler, the Creator, discussion of Sara Quin’s piece will completely miss her larger point about the culture.
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