by Wallace Wylie
Odd Future are the latest act to set the hype-machine into overdrive. Pitchfork loves them, Jimmy Fallon had some members of the group perform live on his show, and every other indie blog in North America is raving about them. One of the first things you’ll probably read about hip-hop collective Odd Future is that they rap about rape. We’re not just talking about the occasional rape reference to induce a sharp intake of breath; we’re talking continuous rape fantasies and graphic descriptions of sexual assault. Then there’s the homophobia. The word “faggot” is dropped continuously, relentlessly. The next thing you’ll probably notice is that these facts are mentioned more in passing, to clear the air before praise is heaped on the group. An LA Weekly article listed rape as one of the “weird” things they rap about. Weird? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard someone say, “This really weird thing happened to me on the way home last night. I got raped”. That’s probably because rape is a hateful, stomach-churning, violent crime that destroys lives and can lead to lifelong depression and suicide. Rape statistics in America indicate that 15%-20% of all females have been the victim of it.
Odd Future themselves appear not care about any of these things, indeed their defenders claim that the fact that they “don’t give a fuck” is what makes their whole output so exhilarating. Nobody seems to be asking the group to condemn misogyny or homophobia; nobody is questioning their gleeful recounting of female debasement and humiliation. Some of their biggest admirers, including the writer of the above-mentioned LA Weekly piece, are even female. What the hell is going on here?
It goes without saying that one cannot condemn hip-hop’s misogyny and violence without people invoking artists like Nick Cave or Johnny Cash in an attempt to show hypocrisy and racial bias in the writer’s viewpoint. This, however, is not a blanket condemnation of hip-hop. (Compared to Odd Future’s violent rape-porn fantasies Snoop Dogg sounds positively old-fashioned. At least it all sounded consensual!) This is a blanket condemnation of the spineless, pseudo-intellectual garbage that has followed in the wake of Odd Future’s rise to fame. The misogyny and homophobia on display in Odd Future’s output is sickening. I’m not sure how anyone could even think of playing it to a gay friend. Are they supposed to be open-minded and have a sense of humour about it?
As I’ve mentioned, though, the problem is not really Odd Future, it is the reaction of music writers. Be prepared to be amazed as you read article after article about the shocking nature of Odd Future’s lyrics, only to have the writer excuse them in some way, either by downplaying their hateful nature or by spinning some tortuous double-think about how Odd Future are exposing us to the very things we fear, about how their ability to shock provides some kind of sick but intoxicating adrenaline rush. Someone should introduce these people to the music of Skrewdriver. For those not in the know, Skrewdriver were a vile white-supremacist punk band. One wonders whether Pitchfork would find their shocking racism exhilarating. Do Skrewdriver have any people of colour defending them?