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25 Responses

  1. Ben
    Ben May 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    The article misstates the plot of “Luper” in a way that, I think, obscures the actual content. The final verse isn’t a shift in the narrative, but rather a change in the way the narrator reacts to his situation: Earl realizes that his plea for affection is not only futile but will never even be heard, so he uses the remaining verse to vent his anger in the form of a vicious fantasy.

  2. B Michael
    B Michael May 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm |

    Ben:
    The article misstates the plot of “Luper” in a way that, I think, obscures the actual content. The final verse isn’t a shift in the narrative, but rather a change in the way the narrator reacts to his situation: Earl realizes that his plea for affection is not only futile but will never even be heard, so he uses the remaining verse to vent his anger in the form of a vicious fantasy.

    Yeah I think that’s not wrong at all. I think the narrative shifts–whether the narrator’s emotional weather clouds or what–in a way that expresses his powerlessness. There are presages of the final verse, though. I don’t think I obscured the content, since I quoted 80% of the song.

  3. Natalie
    Natalie May 10, 2011 at 1:49 pm |

    Awesome piece!

    As an Always Sunny fan and a Kanye fan I am often troubled by liking things that I think make fun awful ways of thought even while those things are loved unironically by people who think awful things.

    Like, after the announcement that bin Laden had been killed I found it incredibly ridiculous that all over my facebook and in public spaces in the fucking capital people were singing “America, Fuck Yeah!” a song that makes fun of the kind of jingoism that was actually happening. Irony fail!

    I guess in part it comes down to the idea that seeing lyrics that say “I like to rape and kidnap girls” is only ironic if you can know, 100% that the person saying that does not like to rape and/or kidnap girls. And considering that at least one out of four girls gets raped by someone it’s hard to extend that kind of benefit of the doubt to anyone, much less someone who is literally saying “I want to rape girls.”

  4. soveryunhip
    soveryunhip May 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    This post is really well-written and thoughtful and I’m glad you wrote it!

    That said… dude, maybe he really does like raping girls. I’m not sure why people are giving musicians so much benefit of the doubt just because their music sounds good. The Misfits make awesome punk music. They’re also lady-haters.

  5. Laura
    Laura May 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    I don’t have a lot to say beyond: thank you for this post. I’m a big fan of indie music, and my music nerdom at sxsw this year was continuously interrupted by hearing people talk up Odd Future, without even mentioning the misogyny and homophobia.

    I do wonder how many people are “into” OF without actually having listened to the lyrics. For example, I know at the Fader Fort at sxsw (#hipsterreference), Matt & Kim were talking about how great OF were (who had just played before them). Maybe I’m assuming people that make non-shitty music must be non-shitty people, but I have a hard time believing Matt & Kim are 100% in support of the lyrics. I think a lot of people hear the hype and think it sounds cool, without actually paying attention to the content. Or maybe I just hope that’s the case…

  6. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 8:31 pm |

    This post is really well-written and thoughtful and I’m glad you wrote it!

    Ditto!

    I do wonder how many people are “into” OF without actually having listened to the lyrics. …I think a lot of people hear the hype and think it sounds cool, without actually paying attention to the content. Or maybe I just hope that’s the case…

    I’m old, so I’ve been aware of OF for about three days. I like almost all that I’ve heard of OF but I like a lot of music that doesn’t at all jive with my politics (see The Misfits as mentioned above, or, say, The Stranglers, Big Black, Eazy-E et al, most everything from the Golden Era of rap, and/or the majority of my mp3 collection, CDs, and yes, every last piece of vinyl). A lot of people either reserve a corner of their brain to NOT dissect the problematic lyrics in said lyrics or they think the lyrics are coming from some jaded, ironic narrator, or they accept said lyrics outright in full. I worry more about the latter two.

  7. Matt Cornell
    Matt Cornell May 11, 2011 at 4:37 am |

    I would guess that a lot of OF’s white, politically liberal fans find some voyeuristic pleasure in having their own internalized homophobia and sexism safely displaced onto the (young, Black) Other, who simply “doesn’t know any better.” This way they can enjoy Tyler’s music while tsk tsking (and handwringing about) his misogyny. Outsider art is often framed in this same way. The enlightened fan knows better– his enjoyment of the art product is more refined even– than that of the artist. It’s the ultimate position of privilege.

  8. James Landrum
    James Landrum May 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    In the same way that gangsta rap of the early 90s exposed the gritty, violent underbelly of society through lyrics about crime, Odd Future is exposing the gritty, violent underbelly of our subconscious. Yes, some people do have rape fantasies, some of those people go and write songs about it. The conversation that follows, albeit quite interesting, often ignores or misinterprets the artists’ intentions or messages. Yet even when it’s spelled out for you in explicit language, i.e. “It’s fucking fiction,” the artist gets criticized for it.

    In short, you sound like the same old white dudes complaining about violence in rap in the 90s.

  9. James Landrum
    James Landrum May 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    Follow-up:

    If you pay attention to most of Tyler’s more realistic songs about girls, you find he’s mostly just pining after them, and not getting any. See: “Sarah,” “She,” “Her.” The truth about Tyler is that he’s really bad with girls, and extremely self-deprecating about it. The only reason he resorts to rape fantasies is because he’s unlucky with girls, or because, frankly, the girls he likes treat him like shit.

    1. Jill
      Jill May 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm | *

      If you pay attention to most of Tyler’s more realistic songs about girls, you find he’s mostly just pining after them, and not getting any. See: “Sarah,” “She,” “Her.” The truth about Tyler is that he’s really bad with girls, and extremely self-deprecating about it. The only reason he resorts to rape fantasies is because he’s unlucky with girls, or because, frankly, the girls he likes treat him like shit.

      Yeah, no. Lots of people are unlucky with girls, and they don’t broadcast their rape-and-torture fantasies to legions of adoring fans.

      Also, b michael isn’t wringing his hands over the HORRORS of Odd Future. It seems pretty clear that he’s a fan of the music, but that he has a problem with just accepting it at face value. And, you know, that’s the whole point of writing about art — to interrogate it and discuss not only what it says, but what it says about its audience. Saying that any criticism is akin to old white men complaining about “gangsta rap” is intellectually lazy, and kind of asinine.

  10. Florence
    Florence May 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    James Landrum: The only reason he resorts to rape fantasies is because he’s unlucky with girls, or because, frankly, the girls he likes treat him like shit.

    Mmm, no. I think I like b michael’s version of this narrator better: “he’s just experiencing that sort of typically fucked up adolescent way of liking someone and having them not like you, vacillating between hating her, loving her, and hating himself.” I don’t think it has much to do with the girls’ agency at all, and actually, I think it’s a pretty brilliant object lesson in adolescent psychology.

  11. B Michael
    B Michael May 12, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    James Landrum:
    Follow-up:

    If you pay attention to most of Tyler’s more realistic songs about girls, you find he’s mostly just pining after them, and not getting any.See: “Sarah,” “She,” “Her.”The truth about Tyler is that he’s really bad with girls, and extremely self-deprecating about it.The only reason he resorts to rape fantasies is because he’s unlucky with girls, or because, frankly, the girls he likes treat him like shit.

    I don’t disagree with you, necessarily, very much. (I say that a lot, though, so, you know, grain of salt.) I think he does resort to rape fantasies because he feels so powerless. And that’s why I think Goblin kind of sucks. It’s boring. It’s sub-Bright Eyes.

    I think, and I could be wrong, that whiny emo rap may be antithetical to your above point about OF being outsider art. I’ve tried thinking about them a lot qua outsider art, and I don’t think they are, just for that reason (first sentence in this paragraph).

  12. James Landrum
    James Landrum May 12, 2011 at 5:27 pm |

    To be clear, I never said anything about “outsider art,” a label I never found particularly useful or even comprehensible. And I especially would not apply it to Tyler, who is clearly more than proficient at the piano. I always thought the “outsider” label necessarily applied to one’s artistic status, rather than it just applying to anyone who is a weirdo. If that were the case, I think most artists would be considered “outsiders.”

    Jill: Yeah, no. Lots of people are unlucky with girls, and they don’t broadcast their rape-and-torture fantasies to legions of adoring fans.

    Also, b michael isn’t wringing his hands over the HORRORS of Odd Future. It seems pretty clear that he’s a fan of the music, but that he has a problem with just accepting it at face value. And, you know, that’s the whole point of writing about art — to interrogate it and discuss not only what it says, but what it says about its audience. Saying that any criticism is akin to old white men complaining about “gangsta rap” is intellectually lazy, and kind of asinine.

    Well, you got me. Although I will admit, I read a sort of tacit implication in this article, reinforced by your comment about questionable lyrics being “broadcast” to the general public, that the artist is to blame when people misinterpret their lyrics, which reminds me of all the terrified adults who wanted to point fingers at rap music as somehow responsible for the violence in society that the music merely reflects.

  13. James Landrum
    James Landrum May 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm |

    Florence: Mmm, no.I think I like b michael’s version of this narrator better: “he’s just experiencing that sort of typically fucked up adolescent way of liking someone and having them not like you, vacillating between hating her, loving her, and hating himself.”I don’t think it has much to do with the girls’ agency at all, and actually, I think it’s a pretty brilliant object lesson in adolescent psychology.

    Actually, I think I like that better as well.

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  15. Matt Cornell
    Matt Cornell May 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    B Michael: I don’t disagree with you, necessarily, very much. (I say that a lot, though, so, you know, grain of salt.) I think he does resort to rape fantasies because he feels so powerless. And that’s why I think Goblin kind of sucks. It’s boring. It’s sub-Bright Eyes.

    I think, and I could be wrong, that whiny emo rap may be antithetical to your above point about OF being outsider art. I’ve tried thinking about them a lot qua outsider art, and I don’t think they are, just for that reason (first sentence in this paragraph).

    My comment was the one which brought up outsider art. But I wasn’t applying the label to Odd Future, only suggesting that the discourse surrounding their work is similar. To whit: Tyler and his friends are young/primitive/not “PC.” They don’t know any better. We enlightened fans can enjoy their work, while disavowing the isms it might reflect within ourselves.

    The use of cultural capital to elevate something as artistically valuable while also elevating oneself above the artist, seems to be the ultimate position of privilege.

  16. Matt Cornell
    Matt Cornell May 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm |

    James Landrum:
    In the same way that gangsta rap of the early 90s exposed the gritty, violent underbelly of society through lyrics about crime, Odd Future is exposing the gritty, violent underbelly of our subconscious.Yes, some people do have rape fantasies, some of those people go and write songs about it.The conversation that follows, albeit quite interesting, often ignores or misinterprets the artists’ intentions or messages.Yet even when it’s spelled out for you in explicit language, i.e. “It’s fucking fiction,” the artist gets criticized for it.

    Yes, it’s fictional. But is Tyler still “playing a character” when he spouts homophobia and sexism in interviews and on his Twitter feed? Perhaps.

    But calling a public persona a “fiction” is merely descriptive, not qualitative. I have a friend who loves Vincent Gallo’s sexist, anti-semitic, right wing shtick. He often defends it by claiming that Gallo is doing “performance art” as if the label itself ends the discussion. Shouldn’t we also ask about the actual value and impact of that art? Whether it has anything meaningful to say or something to show us?

  17. B Michael
    B Michael May 12, 2011 at 9:35 pm |

    James Landrum:
    To be clear, I never said anything about “outsider art,” a label I never found particularly useful or even comprehensible.And I especially would not apply it to Tyler, who is clearly more than proficient at the piano.I always thought the “outsider” label necessarily applied to one’s artistic status, rather than it just applying to anyone who is a weirdo.If that were the case, I think most artists would be considered “outsiders.”

    Shoot. You’re right. I gave you too much credit. You’re the one who said the racist thing.

    I’m not white, though I cop to perhaps sounding “white.” (I’ll admit. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean.)

    And I was also imprecise. ‘Outsider art’ I think does generally pertain to people who make ‘primitive’ forms of art, ie, who aren’t technically trained. I actually (mistakenly) thought you were referring to Ann Powers’ argument about ‘violator art,’ which I linked to in the essay I wrote. I’m glad you pointed out to me how terrified I am of OF, since that was the subtext of what I wrote.

    The fact that Tyler quite hamfistedly disclaims his songs means that they’re more or less impeachable. “It’s fucking fiction.” Because no one has ever made an attempt at thinking critically about fiction.

  18. B Michael
    B Michael May 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm |

    Above, “impeachable” = “unimpeachable.”

  19. James Landrum
    James Landrum May 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    Okay, I take back the word “white.” My bad. Old black people blame hip-hop too. That’s why I changed it to “adults” later. You can call me a racist all you want, but the heart of what I was saying had nothing to do with race.

    And shit, I’m terrified of OF too (I can’t tell if you’re sarcastic about that). But more in an introspective way, i.e. I wonder just how much Wolf is in all of us. But that’s why I find this interpretation to be problematic, because you’re asking the wrong questions. You’re reading societal implications into raps that really look inward into the psyche rather than outward at society. It’s just not fair to compare DR and OF on their lyrical content when they’re talking about entirely different things.

    Look, I’m just always skeptical of the blame hip-hop crowd. And right now, it sounds like that’s where you’re standing. If I’m wrong in that, please correct me.

  20. James Landrum
    James Landrum May 12, 2011 at 10:22 pm |

    It’s even more unfair, however, to take away an artist’s power to create a persona, no matter how offensive it is to you. It is the core fallacy of the blame art crowd to dismiss their claims to fiction and satire, without which we’d have no Chaucer, Swift or Twain, no Nas, Tupac or Biggie.

  21. James Landrum
    James Landrum May 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    Is there really much of a difference between Tyler’s disclaimer and Twain’s?

    NOTICE

    Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.

  22. Jonathan
    Jonathan May 15, 2011 at 12:05 am |

    Could it possibly be that Odd future wants to piss people off just cause they enjoy making people squirm (like Jackass)? Or could it also be that they not only have been marginalized for being young and black in America but also by their peers for being interested into music and art that doesn’t go a long with a stereotype the media portrays young black americans subscribe too (if you watched some of tyler’s interviews you will hear him talking about that) which has made them angry, violent, and rebellious(Couples with ofcourse growing up with out fathers and in Tylers case apparently an abusive mother)? Although this doesn’t justify the glorification of rape what so ever I feel it should be asked when talking about the violence in odd future’s lyrics.

  23. UrbanNomad
    UrbanNomad May 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm |

    I too am a music writer who while having serious qualms about OF’s lyrics, enjoy their music and amazing energy while playing live. I reflect on my youth, when as a HUGE Wutang clan fan I un-ironically sang loud their mysoginistic, murderous lyrics. An avowed pacifist and lover of women, I now reflect on the Wu’s lyrics and cringe a bit. Most of OF’s fans like myself don’t rape, or even harbor desires to do so. They are kids who admire their fuck you attitude and the fact that they say exactly what floats off their brains. We all have violent fantasy moments where out of your control, a thought or image flashes in your mind that is horrific. As kids it’s even more active. OF taps into that reality with gusto, and thus kids are attracted to it, and older people/writers are attracted to it because the energy OF emits is one that they are even further removed from having access too. OF is therefore proxys for both old and young. There is alot of pressure for them to BE the future, weather they will be able to ever live up to this in the years to come will be the real test. Here is a clip I shot @ SXSW of probably one of the best OF performances ever (No shitting you).

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