When you think back to the third-wave Odd Future hype cycle—the one where everybody started to catch on to what this Odd Future thing was, post-Fallon performance—I realized that there wasn’t really that much of a payoff involved in asking* that Odd Future’s place in discussions about misogyny and homophobia and supposedly “reckless” art be considered with any degree of nuance. Those requests were shouted down pretty quickly, as The Internet’s want to do to nuance.
[Typical Reactions: 1. “Why must Foster Kamer exist?” 2. “Either be a sensitive artist or a gleeful dick, but, please…don’t be both.” To be fair, (A) I reconsidered and dialed back my initial position on Odd Future, but not before (B) reaching a certain degree of frustration, I just resorted to trolling some of those people—who, as usually is the case, are the type who are easily instigated—only one of which makes me just as bad. So it goes.]
Besides all of the wonderful things that will come out of Frank Ocean’s “outing” himself—or whathaveyou—the idea that labeling Odd Future as a homophobic collective just became more complex and frustrating to people who are fans of oversimplifying complex issues as a matter of making an argument (but really: jumping onto whatever outrage bandwagon is getting “liked” on Tumblr more than others on any particular week) is also a particularly delightful one. The world needs more nuance. It needs to frustrate our most simple thinkers (who have the loudest, angriest voices, as is often the case). And those people should be upset more often, and more often they should be upset by evolving realities like this one: That, in the entirety of rap—or hip hop as a culture—Odd Future has had the most success commensurate with the fact that their DJ is a gay woman, and their most arguably famous member is a bisexual man, while also being one of the most maligned groups for their ostensibly homophobic and misogynistic music. That’s a reality worth savoring.
*Which goes without saying: It wasn’t an impossible task, as some thanklessly proved to a few people, some time before the rest of the ones who should’ve read that had ever heard of Odd Future, anyway.
I can’t tell if I’m getting “called out” here or not? But, uh, in case I am.
I don’t quite remember the “Odd Future Wars” as you quietly pleading for nuance while the rest of us terrible, simple internet people refused to countenance it.
As I recall it the discussion wasn’t really about Tyler’s lyrics qua lyrics, so much as they were about a general failure of the critical community, in its collective excitement about the band, to respond to those lyrics with something beyond a shrug.
So it’s not really that people “lacked nuance” or were offended by Tyler or wanted to “label Odd Future a homophobic collective.” In fact in some sense it was the opposite: it’s that those people were frustrated with a body of writing that failed to account for the ways this music could be, and was, incredibly alienating to huge swaths of people.
Not that you couldn’t, probably, find such a “simple thinker” on Tumblr — being put off by and frustrated with violence, homophobia and misogyny is a fairly simply thought process! — but Frank Ocean coming out of the closet doesn’t prove that person, or his or her reactions, “wrong.” Nor does it make Tyler, or you, “right.” Nor, particularly, does it free you or any of us from our duty, as writers and readers, to engage with Tyler’s misogyny (and homophobia) critically, i.e., with something more substantial than “the avant-garde need not be moral.”
Zach’s Village Voice piece is a fine start, though obviously there’s a great deal more to be written. And I’d suggest that if what you really want is for the discourse around OFWGKTA to have more nuance; if you really want it to frustrate “our most simple thinkers” (women turned off by rape lyrics?); if you really want it to “upset” “those people” (which people, again?) you could start by doing it yourself instead of using Frank Ocean’s coming out as an opportunity to tell settle a score.
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