We put up with their homophobic lyrics. We put up with their degradation of women. We put up with their self-hyped teenage bullshit because, that’s what it was: teenage bullshit. Odd Future, the rap group including superstars Tyler the Creator and Frank Ocean, is something of an anomaly in the progressive world of 2011. In a day and age when we’re taking great strides in terms of equality, there are some who’d like to settle back into the dark ages of racism.
Ironically, it’s not a group of white-trash, middle-America, neo-Nazis this time. It’s a group of black teenagers, who, in the face of decency, splatter their songs with slurs like “fag” and “bitch” over and over, effectively inciting backlash from much of the world.
But for some reason, the blogger/hipster/indie music world has put out with these dorkuses. Because, well, they’re really good. Especially for teenagers. So we told ourselves that this baseless hatred was a uneducated teenage thing. We convinced ourselves that it was just a big joke, and that they couldn’t be taken seriously because they were just kids; that their hatred and their offensive speech could be chalked up to the fact that they’re just a bunch of naive kids, unaware of the impact that their music has on others.
No more. No longer should we put up with this.
Yesteday, at the VooDoo Festival in New Orleans, Odd Future member Vyran Turner (aka “Left Brain”), slapped photographer Amy Harris. The band had been tormenting the few photographers that they themselves allowed in the pit, and at a certain point Mr. Turner decided to up the ante from just spraying water on the photographers, and reached down to slap Ms. Harris.
For me, this was the last straw. I was able to believe that these were just stupid kids, spewing hate-speak that they would never actualize in real life. I convinced myself that their gay-bashing, woman-degrading lyrics were merely hype and nothing more, and that while this doesn’t make what they’re doing ok, it also doesn’t physically harm anyone. But with this act of violence against a woman, this band has torn down the mask of irony and ignorance that their music once held up to protect itself, and has revealed themselves as truly hate-filled people, with intent to harm those they speak ill of.
Music is an art form. Sometimes it’s comforting. Sometimes it’s challenging. Sometimes we’re faced with something that makes us uncomfortable and we can then choose whether or not we want to make that music a part of our lives. Because it’s the insight that we draw from the art which compels us to return to it, to listen to it, to discuss it. But when art turns into violence, it changes something creative to something destructive, insight turns into ignorance, and beauty turns to hatred.
So, to Odd Future: Grow up. If you want to be taken seriously as violent punks, then you’ve succeeded. But if you want to be taken seriously as musicians and artists with something to share with the world, then you’re going to have to grow up. And if you can’t manage that, then you’ll never be remembered for the great songs you wrote – only for the violent hatred that you enacted. It’s your legacy; paint it as you will.