"Do what the fuck you want. Stand for what the fuck you believe in, and don't let nobody tell you you can't do what the fuck you want," says Tyler the Creator on his second proper album, Goblin. Given his permission, what the fuck I want to do is post each instance of him saying "fag" or "faggot" on this record:
- In "Goblin" at 4:01 - "I'm not weird, you're just a faggot, shame on him"
- In "Goblin" at 4:07 - (In the pitched-down voice of his therapist alter ego) "But Tyler, you're going to have to cut down on that faggot word, that's very... that's a bad..."
- In "Goblin" at 4:14 - "I'm not homophobic, faggot"
- In "Yonkers" at 1:53 - "I'll crash that fucking airplane that that faggot nigga B.o.B. is in"
- In "Yonkers" at - "I'm stabbing any blogging faggot hipster with a pitchfork"
- In "Radicals" at 0:19 - "What the fuck I look like saying I'm sorry to a bunch of fucking fags who can't potentially harm me?"
- In "Radicals" at 1:55 - "Child support ain't come, that faggot still ain't bought me anything"
- In "Nightmare" at 4:41 - "You're on the side of faggots and cock-blockers / I'm on the side of bad-ass kids and top-notchers"
- In "Tron Cat" at 3:35 - "Rashes on my dick from licks of shish ka-Bob Sagets / In some Kanye West glasses screaming out, 'Fuck faggots' / Catch me in the attic taking pictures of my dad's dick/ Drop the beat hear to make it extra climactic"
- In "Her" at 2:03 - "Last time we called, she said her relationship was rocky / Now that Mr. Fag is gone, there's nothing that can stop me from bagging her…"
- In "Window" at 5:14 - (After another voice asks him, "Can we get backstage, man?") "No, faggot, it's sold out."
- In "Burger" at 3:23 - "Go to Jimmy Fallon, like, 'Faggot, when we performing?'"
- In "Steak Sauce" at 0:26 - "I'm going as hard as Bishop Eddie Long's john after I bought a Sidekick and sent that faggot some nice pics"
- In "Steak Sauce" at 3:13 - "Faggot ass keep hating"
This is to say nothing about his use of the word "dyke" ("If you disagree lick a couple pimple cover clits from some stripping lesbian dykes that fight niggas that like to rap about those dykes that fight niggas, all right..."), "retard," "chink," "wetback," and "nigga/-er." It's to say nothing of his frequently violent imagery of both the sexual and nonsexual kind. (It's also to say nothing about his swift sense of humor, his diabolical irony or his plodding sense of storytelling, which often amounts to high-school creative writing-level exercises.)
More than most of his contemporaries outside of the ballooning collective he heads, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, his lyrics rely in hate speech, and yet to my gay ears, they are less offensive than the casual F-bomb tossed out by, say, Rick Ross or T.I. The latter phenomenon is so matter-of-fact, it feels like it could easily bespeak an entire mindset that goes something like, "Well, of course gay people are inferior..." Tyler, on the other hand, comes from a place of defiance -- his words increasingly seem calculated to spite those who'd attempt to alter them. At the very least, he doesn't seem to take his music as seriously as the masses who've produced think pieces in its wake: "Nigga had the fuckin' nerve to call me immature. What the fuck he think I made Odd Future for? To wear fuckin' suits and make good decisions?" (So much for "I don't even want any of the opinions and reviews to jeopardize my natural way of doing music," though, since he bitches about Internet feedback all over the place.)
This isn't an excuse for his hate speech, but it is an explanation for it. Like the album that preceded it, Bastard, Goblin features a running exchange between Tyler and his Camille-like therapist, but what it really sounds like is a conversation between his id and superego. Transparently setting things in the realm of the id ("Random disclaimer: Hey don't do anything I do in this song, OK? It's fucking fiction. If anything happens, don't fuckin' blame me, white America. Fuck Bill O'Reilly.") is a bit of a cheat, like conjuring magic while writing a novel or using the it-was-all-a-dream convention -- it's such a cure-all that it leaves little liability on its creator. The fact of the matter is that even if Goblin's content is largely fiction, it is still real -- at least, as much as any thought that pops into a 20-year-old's head is real.
It's fascinating to be thrust into someone's darkness so fully, and Tyler/the rest of Odd Future's laser focus on their inner visions beg for insight beyond what a pseudo-therapist of Tyler's creation can achieve. This is why they've been so heavily written about -- their music isn't necessarily fun, but voyeurism and arm-chair psychology are. Tyler's beats are largely unsatisfying from a low-end perspective, at times giving off zero sub-bass or the tiniest of an 808 tinkle, but his sparse designs are unfailingly easy to parse out and thus explain (another thing that makes them so satisfying to write about). He may get the atmosphere right, but his music is unlikely to throw you into another world, wondering how it all came about. He leaves that to his lyrics, delivered by a seriously gorgeous voice that's all gravel and no affect, like cemetery paving. No one will ever mistake "Radicals" for "Fight the Power" ("Kill people, burn shit, fuck school...I'm fucking radical, I'm motherfucking radical"), especially Tyler, who's too self-involved at this point to write something altruistic, anyway.
Is he a homophobe? Maybe, but at least he's familiar with the label (that already places him light years beyond most of his contemporaries where expressed awareness is concerned). At least here, there's something more to chew on that isn't just flawed logic holding onto vague concepts ("the sanctity of marriage") over concrete equality. At least this isn't a drag show with an agenda, like that of the Westboro Baptist Church. At least it isn't just plain idiocy. Here we have someone who couldn't possibly understand the shame of being called a faggot when you are one, using the word for his own benefit ultimately (Odd Future without the hateful imagery would be like Cannibal Holocaust without the animal mutilation: largely ignored). He says he isn't homophobic, but then he says a lot of things. Leaving it up to us to sort it all out could be a cop-out, but it could just as easily be a sign of respect.