Tyler the Creator ‘Goblin’ – Review

20 May

You probably know about the controversy surrounding Odd Future – you probably knew about the controversy before you actually heard the music. We all know the equation – controversy + hype + time = backlash, and the backlash against Tyler and Odd Future is now in full swing. I’m sure you will have an opinion on whether the collective’s use of homophobic, racist and misogynistic lyrics is justified, and I’m sure you will have an opinion on whether the hype is justified; personally I think it is. Also, I think that older critics are making waaaaaay too much of the subjects Tyler raps about. To be honest I’d be surprised if younger listeners, raised as we are on violent video games and easy internet access, will be too shocked or horrified by the subject matter on ‘Goblin’. We’ve become desensitized. To us it’s just entertainment, and we enjoy it in the same way we would enjoy Pulp Fiction or Grand Theft Auto; that’s a disturbing thought, but the fact is I’ve yet to actually speak to somebody who is seriously shocked by Tyler and his friends. We realize that Tyler isn’t really a rapist; he’s an excitable, frustrated, provocative teenager looking for attention and getting it in spades. He is pushing peoples buttons, and the more people react the more self-satisfied/angry he becomes.

That doesn’t mean this album is easy listening, far from it. Tyler raps about having a threesome with a pregnant mum and her unborn child. He raps about kidnapping teenage girls, raping them and recording it. He frequently calls people ‘faggots’, ‘bitches’, and, of course, ‘niggas’. At its worst this album is absolutely detestable, and not just on moral grounds but also on musical grounds (The song ‘Bitch Suck Dick’ is just about the most offensive, awful mess in every sense of the word). But one thing should be remembered; Tyler isn’t setting himself up as a shining light of society, the first line on the album is ‘I’m not a fucking role model’.

At one point Tyler tells the listener ‘You fuckers don’t have to listen…If someone gets blamed because some white kid had aimed his AK47 at 47 kids, I don’t want to see my name mentioned.’ His therapist/alter ego replies  ‘I don’t think anyone takes you seriously enough to believe you.’ It’s a fair point, who could take this stroppy teenager seriously? He is lashing out against everyone rather than a single target. I mean, if his sharp insults was aimed solely in the direction of the gay community or women for example, then that would surely be more telling, but Tyler doesn’t discriminate with his discrimination, he is just generally an angry, angry guy. If you can get past the controversy and embrace his anger then this is a captivating and extremely exciting listen.

Lets talk about the music, which is often ignored in the Odd Future debate, and personally I think it’s worth talking about. ‘Goblin’ sounds completely original and unique; admittedly I’m not connoisseur of cutting edge hip hop (although I have been acquainting myself with the popular hip hop blogs this week to get some context) but it certainly doesn’t sound like any record I’ve ever head. The beats fall over themselves, rapping breaks down mid flow, creepy effects distort the voices, songs regularly pass the six-minute mark, the cheapest and ugliest synths you could imagine litter the songs and you’ll probably feel dirty after listening – that’s the point. This is not meant to be an easy or pleasant listening experience, everything from the lyrics to the music is deliberately confrontational and uncomfortable. The music and the beats are just as ugly as the things Tyler is rapping about, but it’s utterly addictive in the same way that cheap fast food is.

On ‘Yonkers’ Tyler begins by telling us he’s ‘a fucking walking paradox…no I’m not.’ Such contradictions are a common occurrence on ‘Goblin’, for example,  ‘I’m not a homeaphobe…fagot.’ (Whilst we’re on the gay topic, it’s interesting to note that Tyler’s producer is a lesbian, and Tyler has appeared in drag during the promotion for the album – plus his constant references to rainbows and unicorns suggests he is very much in touch with his feminine side!). Like one of his heroes, Kanye West, Tyler knows he is a hypocrite and he embraces this fact. Because of this you never know which Tyler is going to show up; their’s furious, vindictive Tyler (‘Yonkers), the creepy stalker Tyler (‘Her’) or lonely and confused Tyler (‘Window’). In other words he’s a typical teenager, just one who has been given a creative outlet, and on ‘Analog’, possibly the album’s best song, this is exactly how he comes across, as a teenager looking for a good time. At this point I want to briefly mention Tyler’s voice, which is a huge part of  the appeal; it’s deep, gravelly and it sounds almost ancient in its depth and richness; It doesn’t sound like the voice of a teenager, and maybe that’s why people forget that he was just 19 when he wrote these songs.

Whilst ‘Goblin’ may be severely flawed as an album (it’s too long, too hit and miss, too repetitive etc), it establishes Tyler and Odd Future as true individuals, and even when it’s a mess it’s a captivating mess. It may be up and down in terms of quality but that’s always with the case with artists who strive so hard to be original and cutting edge, they always make mistakes along the way. But the mistakes are part of the Odd Future experience, and that’s how ‘Goblin’ and all of  Odd Future’s musical output should be digested, as part of the larger experience, along with the visual imagery, the tweets, the live performances, the crazy interviews etc; it all contributes to the package. It’s that experience, rather than this album alone, that will be remembered for decades to come – this is just the springboard.


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