Tyler, The Creator’s Goblin, his first for-sale album, dropped Tuesday and it’s more than just a soundtrack for young misfits. The work is an example of how hype and overexposure can taint creativity.
In late 2010, the media frenzy surrounding a loose collective of Southern California misfits called Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, led by Tyler, began. OFWGKTA became one of the most talked about and documented rap groups in recent memory, even outpacing the popularity of Internet star, Lil B. There were gushing blog posts about how great OFWGKTA were, analytical pieces on the group’s cultural impact and “don’t take him seriously, he’s just a goofy kid” Tyler profiles.
The upside? A bunch of talented and disaffected skater kids are realizing their rock star dreams while some live vicariously through them, wishing they didn’t have to give a fuck either. The downside? All of the attention, accolades, criticism and analysis have adversely affected the group’s music. And in Tyler’s case, by addressing his critics throughout Goblin while complaining about the perils of his new-found fame, the album ceases to be about Tyler himself. Instead, we get a long letter to the public from a sensitive, artsy kid who does give a fuck about what we think of him, despite how adamantly he denies it.
On “Radicals,” a messy, angry anthem with the refrain “kill people, burn shit, fuck school,” Tyler’s message is rendered toothless by his disclaimer asking listeners not to “do anything I say in this song.” Conscientiousness is not hardcore punk. On the title track, Tyler not only takes on his current detractors, he launches a preemptive strike on a non-existent right wing backlash against his music.
While it’s likely that Tyler’s music will be Fox News fodder if he blows up, addressing the backlash before it’s even happened seems contrived and lends credence to those who believe he only says controversial things for shock value. If you’re a rapper aiming to be rebellious and provocative, saying “fuck Bill O’Reilly” misses the mark — especially when harmless artists like Ludacris have expressed the same sentiment.
Tyler does better when he’s senseless and/or self-effacing. On “Tron Cat,” we get the MC’s tightest flows laced with cannibalism, necrophilia, killing sprees and rape rap — all of the things that make the more morally-inclined among us apprehensive about embracing Odd Future. Though he does some of the aforementioned “I’m famous and it sucks” complaining on songs like “Nightmare,” his musings on suicide, alienation and family issues make Tyler’s perspective interesting. It’s these glimpses of honesty that will undoubtedly inspire an army of young people with similar issues to identify with the Odd Future frontman and make him their hero.
Goblin isn’t a perfect album by any means. Some of the music is amateurish because Tyler is basically self-taught amateur. The subject matter and rhymes are often immature because, well, Tyler’s immature and if you’re not young, angst-y and all for poetic license Goblin isn’t for you. But if there are still remnants of your emo, angry misfit days, then you might see some of yourself in Tyler’s album. And when you hear his retorts to critics, you’ll ignore them and just not give a fuck.
- Timmhotep Aku