Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Odd Future Rap About Rape, and I Don't Like It

I reviewed Tyler the Creator's Bastard for RapReviews this week. I was excited to hear it, given the rave reviews I had heard of Tyler and his crew, Odd Future. I had the title track on my iPod from someone's year-end list, and I enjoyed it. Tyler was creative, twisted, and dark, and his beats stood out.

And then the rape talk began. To quote my review quoting Tyler, he repeatedly brags about being a rapist, dropping lines like "When I rape a bitch, I hold her down and get my best nut" and "Leave a bitch breathless/ but what the bitch don't know /is that I'm a motherfucking sellout and a rapist" and "you call that shit rape but I think that rape's fun." Those are only three of many references.

In two words, fuck that. I'm not listening to that shit, I'm not giving it a pass, and I'm not signing off on it. I didn't fuck with Eminem when he was rapping about killing his baby momma, and I sure as fuck am not going to listen to a bunch of kids who grew up on Em and decided to go one worse.

It's ironic that the hipster community (coughPitchforkcough) have totally bought into Odd Future, with the standard disclaimer that, yah, it's disturbing, but isn't rap music, like, supposed to be shocking? It makes me question the relationship that us white fans have with hip-hop. What does it mean that we enjoy listening to young black men boast about being the worst stereotypes of their race? What does it mean that we will listen to a young black man rapping about subjects that we would find totally unacceptable if sung by a white artist? That we need the music to be gritty and grimey and ultraviolent in order to get off on it or feel that it is "real"?

And before people start saying, "it's a joke! Lighten up!" here's the deal: some things aren't funny, motherfucker. Imagine a male comedian coming on stage making jokes about raping women. It doesn't work. And it doesn't work because it is attached to a real threat, a real problem, real trauma, real pain. Women get raped all the time. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, there were 250,000 sexual assault victims in the U.S. in 2007. That means that someone you know has been sexually assaulted. So making music that makes light of that, that encourages it, that brags about it, is totally unacceptable. It's a line you can't cross.

I don't expect popular musicians to have the same beliefs, morals, and ethics as myself. I don't demand that all artists I listen to share my liberal beliefs. I can accept that a lot of artists I like are probably assholes.But I also draw the line somewhere, and rapping about rape is one of those lines.

For the record, I also can't bring myself to listen to "The Chronic" because all the songs that aren't pathologically misogynistic are about black people killing other black people. I don't listen to much gangsta rap at all. Reading the daily homicide bulletins about young men of color gunned down on a daily basis has made gangsta braggadocio seem pretty unappetizing. I've been listening to Big L a lot lately, and the fact that he was gunned down makes his violent raps seem less palatable. It's like knowing that the guy who is singing about drinking died of liver failure. Only much more tragic.

Tyler and the Odd Future make interesting music, but they need to realize that some things are taboo for a reason, and being an unconscionable asshole isn't the same as being edgy.

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