If you pay attention to music journalism or hang out with many 14-year-old white boys, you've probably heard of the shock rap group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. They're quite the sensation, and they're blowing everyone's minds with how amazingly raw and cutting edge and prolific they are. The average age of the members of this LA rap collective is under 19. Their frontman, Tyler, the Creator, has complete creative control on a label he shares with Radiohead. They've packed venues across the country with mostly white, mostly privileged boys who want to feel as dangerous as Odd Future's lyrics sound. They've been hailed "groundbreaking," the future of hip hop, and lauded by the likes of the New York Times. And they've done it all by singing about-wait for it- hating women!
It's not the kids of OFWGKTA's fault that grown up journalists have fallen for their edgy troll act, but it is their fault that they're incoherent loudmouths who can't back up their lyrics with any semblance of coherence. Here's a sample-
I'm loud as fuck, I'm ignorant
Beat your bitch in her mouth just for talkin' shit
You lurkin' bitch? Well, I see that shit
Once again I gotta punch a bitch in her shit
I'm icy bitch, don't look at my wrist
Because if you do, I might blind you bitch
A couple of months ago, indie darlings Tegan and Sara issued a heartfelt and well reasoned anti-misogyny letter directed toward Odd Future. And Tyler, the Creator, being a child, responded on Twitter that if the sisters, both lesbians, needed some hard dick, they could hit him up. (Most lesbians, being sensible shoppers, prefer to get their hard dicks in bulk from Costco. Saves a bunch of money and fits nicely in the back of a Subaru hatchback.) That's about as groundbreaking as the shit that was carved on the desks in the back row of my high school study hall.
However, just because it's obnoxious and they don't really mean it, doesn't mean that the message isn't harmful. When they were booked at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, people were understandably surprised. Whether it deserves it or not, Pitchfork's got the reputation of being a hipster countercultural mecca, and, in a political environment where hating women seems de rigeur, it seems that the countercultural event of the summer would book bands that didn't advocate rape and bitch-slapping.
Their inclusion on the Pitchfork bill spurred Coleen Norton, Prevention and Education Manager at Between Friends Chicago and other advocates to take action. Rather than picketing the concert with signs, which would have provided Tyler and his band of Angry Lost Boys with the scary foil they so wanted to confront, they handed out fans and distributed information to those interested in learning about the services the organization provides. Norton considers their efforts a success. She says,
We passed out 7,000 fans throughout the weekend and were constantly getting thanked by people for being there. We really didn't get any negative feedback from anyone who came up to our booth or table. We had some great conversations with people about their lives, their work, and also about how they felt music and violence have an impact on their lives (good or bad). We ran out of sign-up sheets because so many people wanted to get more info about our organizations' services and volunteer opportunities. It was pretty obvious to us after speaking to so many that there was discomfort felt at the fest while Odd Future was playing. Some folks who had never heard of them walked up to our table after their set to voice that discomfort.
Curiously, the kids of Odd Future brought Colleen and friends a peace offering on the morning of the group's set on Sunday: cupcakes. Of course, once they got on stage, they advised the anti-domestic violence advocates, which they called "protesters," to suck their dicks. And the crowd went nuts! Norton wasn't bothered. She seems to give the group the benefit of the doubt:
I genuinely don't think they were trying to be bullies. They're probably good kids. I'm not going to overanalyze what the meaning behind the cupcakes were, but a lot of people did tell me their opinions about what they thought. Some people said "oh that was super nice of them. They were trying to show peace." And then there was the other end of the spectrum where someone said she thought it was similar to the cycle of violence where the abuser gives flowers after a big fight. So everyone can have their opinion about that because they didn't actually say anything to us other than that they are not mean. I think they recognize that they were getting a lot of publicity drawing attention to the violent imagery in their music so they were trying to balance that image. I'm fine with that because, as we've been saying all along, our goal was to provide resources and talk to people about their experiences. Our goal has never been to get anyone to stop playing their music.
Chalk it up to children not knowing any better. Ladies and gentlemen, the future of hip hop!
Look, Odd Future WTF BBQ or what the fuck ever they call themselves can rap whatever they want- it's a free country and everyone has the right to express themselves...just as I have the right to judge the way that they choose to express themselves. They're treading on well-worn territory here and yet somehow manage to be both boring and obnoxious simultaneously, like a little boy who keeps flipping you off from the back window of a school bus that's going just slow enough to make you late to work.
Why do we keep falling for this old, tired trap? What sort of bizarre cultural amnesia infects us so that we forget every two years that someone literally just wrote a hit song about beating up a woman? Most people wouldn't defend the music of a white power group or someone who sang about raping little boys, and even Eminem got in trouble for his homophobic lyrics.
What does it say about our society that women and the feminine are the last acceptable target group for overt hate in popular music?
Image via AP