Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why I Don't Give A Shit About Odd Future and Neither Should You: Or The Editorial Absolutely Nobody Asked For


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. 


Anonymous said...

While all of this is valid and I agree with it, I'll go one further that there music would be more listenable if it were, you know, good at all.

If I'm going to listen to controversial hip hop, I'd hope it's at least thought provoking. Jedi Mind Tricks or Tech N9ne, something of that ilk. There's no substance of here. Hell, it's not even humorous the shit that Tyler and his little group are rapping about.

I don't think you should have trepidation posting stuff like this either, by the way. The blog is all yours, make it what you want it.

Bryce Wilson said...

Excellent point which I really should have addressed.

I thank you for your support, but that was exactly the question. Whether I wanted TTDS to be the type of blog that gives valuable bandwith to a trainwreck like Odd Future.

That said it was an itch that needed to be scratched.

le0pard13 said...

It's not my music, nor do I listen to this genre, but your points in your post are valid and cogent. The piece offered a slice of your mind that made for great reading. Thanks, Bryce.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your post, but I mostly disagree. In my opinion, you projected something onto Odd Future, then criticized them for not living up to your projection. I think this happens to artists all the time.

As far as I can tell, the only serious mission statement they've ever had is, "we're going to make music that we love, and have a shitload of fun in the process"

I would say they've been wildly successful at being exactly who they want to be, not as successful at being who you want them to be...which, to return to my original point, seems like a bullshit reason to criticize someone.

On a more agreeable note, I love most of the artists you mentioned in this post. :)

Darren said...

I find it more incredible that they weren't torn to bits for offering that excuse, rather than the fact they said it at all.

Then, as you said, "performing with Elton John" worked as a get-out-of-jail-free card in the past for homophobic artists, so it isn't as though (sadly) there isn't precedent.

Bryce Wilson said...

@ Anon: But that is the point. People should be accountable for what they say, and how they react to what people say. If it's all meant in fun that's doubly true. What I'm reacting to is the persona of Odd Future. It is a projection, but its the projection that they themselves have put up.

I think you're probably right, I think Odd Future started out as a bunch of kids trying to out Aristocrat one another (to borrow a phrase) and now suddenly they have expectations and they're caught in a feedback loop.

As I alluded this isn't much different from what someone like Gwar is doing. The difference is that no one is claiming that Gwar are musical geniuses and should get album of the year.

@ Darren: Well in all fairness Odd Future didn't so much offer that excuse as their defenders do. And to be quite frank I'm more baffled by their defenders then I am by the collective itself.

Mitchell Aubrey Dickenson said...

You people are stupid and i'm not suprised you say things like
"oh man they are all just hype, it's just a bunch of white kids in the suburbs lookin to piss off their parents" , "oh woopdy wop this and oh fuck them they only talk about rape and murder and violence" YOU ARE FUCKING DUMB! Have you not heard the end of "sandwiches?" it say's and i quote " We don't fucking make horrorcore you fucking idiot's listin deeper into the music before you put it in a box." It's not about going for shock value it's not about "yeah let's rebel and kill out parents fuck yeah" it's about expressing yourself and being who you are doing what you want to do no matter what anyone say's no matter if the bullies fuck with you or beat your ass, it's trying to tell you that whatever you are is perfect and don't let anyone tell you otherwise because if they try to then they are only confused about who they are and who they want to be so they make you feel bad about it so fuck all you critic's raveing about "oh they suck no lyrical value at all man" you are just mad that you are not them that the attention is not on you but on some lower to middle class black dude and also what the fuck does it matter if subruban white kids listin to odd future about 42% of kids these day's are bullied and only 4% of the time teacher and parents intervene or give a fuck at all. They are just looking for someone to look up to that isn't going to let them down or tell them that they have to just suffer through it until they get to collage or get a fucking job and will maybe still be bullied as a goddamn adult so fuck what anyone says about you have to either work 9-5 or go to collage or be famous do what youo what when you want be who the fuck you want to be and fuck everybody els who say's you can't im a goddamn house cat tyler the creator is a goddamn unicorn and noone can tell me im not.

Matt Gorman said...

Odd Future suck. Plain and Simple. While some of Tyler, the Creator's and Earl Sweatshirt's lyrics can, at times, be somewhat adept (generally they're pretty mediocre) both rappers have a pretty poor delivery (I suppose you could call it their "style" but it's garbage for the most part) and Tyler, while being touted as a great producer, in reality, makes pretty soupy, muffled garbage out of his tracks which make the songs even worse. In this era of mediocrity in the rap game, he's one of the worst offenders. But it's the praise that gets lauded upon said mediocrity by music critics and publications that continues to baffle me. Go listen to something actually fucking good like Run the Jewels and then come back and tell me that anyone in Odd Future has any real talent. I don't care so much about the controversial aspects in their lyrics just that they fucking suck. The videos are usually well done I will concur, but listen to the songs themselves without benefit of this added visual stimuli. They're all pretty damn lame.