Yesterday Sound Opinions music critic Jim DeRogatis posted on the WBEZ blog about the west coast rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Nothing new there. The group’s got a lot of press over the past year from a myriad of sources, discussing everything from live show antics to morally questionable lyrical content glorifying murder and rape with general misogynistic and homophobic overtones. Ok, whatever; this is hip-hop and they’re just teenagers. They’ve probably never actually done anything they rap about and they should be given credit for rapping with tongues firmly planted in cheek. I can be caught giving the camera a finger too at certain times and I listened to Guttermouth in high school. I don’t want to let them off the line that easily, but after reading a lot of these articles about them, I can’t conclude anything other than they’re just a sideshow that shouldn’t be given any real animosity for the innocuous Die Antwoord / Charlie Sheen meme that it is. If anything, they should be derided for just perpetuating the hip-hop trope of anger, hate and violence.
But you know what? It’s not that simple. It still bugged me that after I helped Pitchfork sell out their weekend passes for their festival without a single band being announced, that this was one of the initial groups on the bill. I didn’t give it much thought at first, and considering their excessive coverage of the collective, wasn’t that surprised. I had never really got into the music, one of the excluded from their repulsive lyrics (and generally just not really a hip-hop fan).
Apparently the same thing was bothering DeRo too. Luckily, his stature grants him better contacts and he was able to snag an interview with head Pitchforker Ryan Schreiber and president Chris Kaskie. The gist of the interview involves DeRogatis criticizing Pitchfork for not bringing the moral issue of the band to a head. Schreiber responds that they do cover the controversy in almost every feature on them. For my part, I could really only find two quotes that involve the moral question of the band from the same article. On Tyler, the Creator’s Bastard: “Morally, it's repugnant, but the pure shocking force of it is so raw and distilled that it carries a certain appeal of its own.” On Earl Sweatshirt’s Earl: “EARL, just 26 minutes long, is a dark fantasia of blood and rape and evil, and I absolutely hated it the first time I heard it. Now, months later, I still can't shake it, and I sort of love it.” In an entire article devoted to them last October, not one condemnation or questioning of the lyrical issues. (If anyone can find anything else, please comment; have been reading a lot of articles and may have overlooked some).
DeRogatis mentions that he attempted to contact the female performers at Pitchfork about being on a bill with Odd Future, but none have responded. To their credit, the group does have a female DJ pumping beats and she has never felt threatened: “Actions speak louder than words, and they treat me as an equal.”
I’m not trying to condemn Pitchfork. I’ve been a long herald of them even if I don’t always agree. I bought the tickets blindly because the festival has consistently been a great addition to the Chicago summer. I don’t think they are consciously trying to support such degenerate and maniacal behavior. While I don’t really find anything that appealing about Radical, this behind the scenes video with Tyler does showcase a certain talent and energy. Everyone always mentions his charisma as to their attraction with the collective. I don’t really get how that justifies why he raps about what he does, considering their MTV play that reaches a more impressionable audience. How many of the over 7.5 million viewers are the alienated, misunderstood high schoolers that don’t yet realize their outsiderness is only shaping great things to come? Videos like this can spurn an already confused teenage mind in a million ways, with the possibility for self-destruction always seeming the most attractive.
So: Sorry to end this with HROesque book circle questions, but I want to generate a discussion.
Do you find any redeemable qualities to OFWGKTA?
Do they deserve the hype?
Are they just a gimmick or is there some actual talent buried down there?
How do you feel about the largest music Internet publication supporting them?
How does describing a group as “the Internet trolls of rap” a compliment?
Is the music blogging community making too big of a deal about them (positively and negatively)?
If Pitchfork doesn’t actually condone these lyrics, then why even allow these ‘artists’ to reach a wider audience?
Can you really listen to hip-hop for ‘the music?’ Does anyone else think their beats aren’t really that good?
Is Jim DeRogatis just a cranky old white Midwesterner that doesn’t ‘get it?’
Should XL Records be condemned as well for signing Tyler, the Creator?
Am I just jealous of Tyler’s 163,000 Twitter followers?
Am I one of the hypocrites? Perhaps I’m one of the Odd Future critics that “take a casual interest in black men killing other black men on record on a regular basis with nary a cry of morality. But as soon as women or homosexuals become the target it's a talking point.”