And Finally Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #63: Tegan & Sara v Tyler, The Creator

By | Published on Saturday 21 May 2011

Tyler The Creator

Hip hop collective Odd Future are a hot topic at the moment, thanks in no small way to the group’s Tyler, The Creator, who has come in for some criticism for the homophobia, misogyny and further misanthropy in his lyrics. All criticisms that have been thrown at hip hop for decades, of course, though of particular contention in this case is a line in his track ‘Tron Cat’ in which he jokes about raping a pregnant woman so he can claim he’s had a threesome.

Tyler doesn’t hold back with his lyrics, creating imagery that you’ll either see as extreme black humour or be completely appalled by. Maybe both. Tyler would argue it’s all fiction and you shouldn’t take it too seriously. I say ‘would’, he actually does, repeatedly, elsewhere in his lyrics. But it’s not necessarily a defence to just say “it’s all a joke” and refuse to engage with the debate.

However, he and Odd Future are still being lauded by many as the future of hip hop. They’ve certainly made a grand entrance, though whether they can sustain that further remains to be seen. There’s talent here, both musically and vocally, but acts who arrive on a wave of controversy don’t always hold their balance long enough to forge a career. Tyler clearly revels in shocking people, but when someone’s shocking for the sake of it all the time, they quickly become easy to ignore.

That said, he’s not being ignored right now. He’s giving interviews left, right and centre for his new album, ‘Goblin’, and all this controversy is currently serving him well. One person who’s hoping it won’t last is Sara Quin of Canadian twin sister duo Tegan & Sara. Last week, she posted an open letter on her band’s website to tell the world how offensive she finds Tyler, The Creator, taking more exception to people in the music industry who talk him up than the man himself, it seemed.

Quin wrote: “As journalists and colleagues defend, excuse and congratulate Tyler, The Creator, I find it impossible not to comment. In any other industry would I be expected to tolerate, overlook and find deeper meaning in this kid’s sickening rhetoric? Why should I care about this music or its ‘brilliance’ when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible? There is much that upsets me in this world, and this certainly isn’t the first time I’ve drafted an open letter or complaint, but in the past I’ve found an opinion – some like-minded commentary – that let me rest assured that my outrage, my voice, had been accounted for. Not this time”.

She added: “No genre is without its controversial and offensive characters – I’m not naive. I’ve asked myself a thousand times why this is pushing me over the edge. Maybe it’s the access to him (his grotesque Twitter, etc). Maybe it’s because I’m a human being, both a girl and a lesbian. Maybe it’s because my mom has spent her whole adult life working with teenage girls who were victims of sexual assault. Maybe it’s because in this case I don’t think race or class actually has anything to do with his hateful message but has EVERYTHING to do with why everyone refuses to admonish him for that message”.

Having considered this, Tyler responded via Twitter, saying: “If Tegan and Sara need some hard dick, hit me up!”

He’s quick with a punchline, sure. And he’s not worried about standard boundaries of taste and decency. But as US comedian Tom Scharpling said this week, it’s quite possible he’s just “Andrew Dice Clay with a skateboard”.