Man I tried to talk myself out of writing this. I even had another piece all lined up and ready to go. “Things That Don’t Suck isn’t a current event’s blog.” I said. “You never write about Hip Hop.” I said “Lighting up the blogosphere with undeserved think pieces is playing right into their hands.” I said. "You'll probably end up exposing them to people who wouldn't have heard of them." I said “Nobody gives a fuck what you think.” I said. All valid points and yet here I am. A Blog is a harsh mistress and part of that stems from the fact that everyonce in a while you just get an itch that will not go away until you hit the “Post” Button.
This all stems from Odd Future, The LA Hip Hop collective. Odd Future are your run of the mill perpetual shock value machine. Basically Hip Hop’s answer to Gwar. They opened their mainstream salvo with head honcho Tyler The Creator’s album Goblin. Which resulted in music critics acting out dazzling displays of pretzel logic in order to praise/excuse Tyler’s button pushing. A sight easily as nauseating as any of the choice imagery of rape fantasies and homophobia on Goblin.
This post isn’t so much a response to them as a response to what happened when Sara Quinn, of Tegan and Sara, posted a letter expressing her disgust at the critical hypocracy and double think that greeted the album. Calling the music press out on its implicit support of homophobia and misogyny. Signaling that the era where you could fill an album with slurs and then redeem yourself by hugging it out with Elton John on stage at The Grammys had come to an end. The response to which was basically a grumbled “Bitches always going to be complaining about something.”
That pisses me off.
Setting aside Sara’s (completely valid) argument, that use of language that would dub you a pariah in any other cicle, makes you an artist at Pitchfork. The fact is that Odd Future is unworthy of any kind of adulation in the first place.
This might seem a bit odd coming from me as I have given a firm recommendation to among other things Jhonen Vasquez, Bret Easton Ellis, Eli Roth, Clive Barker, John Waters, Lucio Fulci, Hunter Thompson, James Ellroy, Donald Goines, Jim Thompson, Battle Royale, Alejandro Jodorowsky Dario Argento, Russ Meyer, Rob Zombie, Street Art, Philip K. Dick, Alan Moore, Chuck Palaniuk, Frank Miller, Hanzo The Razor, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Brian De Palma, Mark Millar and Lars Von Trier.
By extension have given an implicit enthusiastic thumbs up to the depiction of soft core porn, prepubescent murderers, “torture porn”, a car battery hooked to a female torso, a man with a sausage tied to his dick running loose through the park, a tarantula eating the lips off of a woman, gore shots and slashings without number, a man using his penis as an instrument of torture, drugs, alcohol, S&M, a close up of Willem Dafoe’s penis ejaculating blood, and graphic puppet sex. That’s a harrowing list just to look at, let alone write. But I stand by it.
I think I have established myself as a confirmed defender of bad taste, shock for shock sake, anarchy, bad behavior, firmly raised middle fingers to propriety and the first amendment.
So let me make this as simple as possible. I believe that good taste is no excuse for censorship. I believe that madness, sickness, and hatred are all perfectly valid subjects for works of value. I believe that shitty people are a perfectly acceptable source for great art. I still believe that Odd Future are not worth anybody's time.
The problem with Odd Future isn’t that they go too far. It’s that they don’t go far enough. Read The Spin profile that first brought them to national attention. In which before a photo shoot Tyler hastily covers over the swastikas that had heretofore been part and parcel of the bands image. Because unlike the upside down crucifixes the band still features, Swastika’s don’t just piss people off, they piss the wrong people off. It’s a move that marks Tyler and crew for what they are, not creatures of expression. But sociopathic assholes looking to get rich. Knowing that if they push too hard, if they alienate instead of titillate they risk losing everything. That’s why the cowardly Tyler attacks gay people and women. He wants targets who (he thinks) won’t hit back.
When Eminem acted out the fantasy of murdering his wife in front of a country of listeners, it was the sound of the darkest sickest parts of his mind shoved blinking into the light. When John Waters had an asshole lip synch to Surfing Bird and his three hundred pound transvestite friend devour dog shit, it was because it was unthinkable in his nature not to do so. When Alan Moore wrote a book that featured beloved hallmarks of classic children's literature engaged in some truly nasty deviant sex, he did it because it was what he saw. Notice the common theme? None of these acts could give half a fuck about what other people would make of them. Obscenity is the thing that grows in the fetid part of your imagination. That can’t be contained by the bonds of normalcy and when it explodes it can make for some astonishing art.
Which is not what Odd Future offers. Odd Future offers empty calculation. because beneath all the bravado and taboo breaking, they are as a collective deeply afraid. They’re nothing new. They’re Marylin Manson with even less of a sense of humor.
And all the music geeks who’ve been fawning over them should fucking know better. A geek show is a geek show, but if you must pay for one at least let it be one where the blood in the geek’s mouth is real.
Many have written in defense of Odd Future that they “Don’t really mean it.” I agree, only I find that the ultimate condemnation of their work as opposed to any kind of a defense.