Cre­at­ing havoc

He’s the 20-year-old be­hind the most hyped hip-hop col­lec­tive since the Wu-tang Clan, but de­spite the at­ten­tion, Jim Car­roll dis­cov­ers Tyler, the Cre­ator doesn’t like the chal­lenge of tricky ques­tions

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

IT BE­GAN ON The Jimmy Fal­lon Show. Of course, the Odd Fu­ture Wolf Gang Kill Them All (or Odd Fu­ture, in short) story be­gan much ear­lier with a bunch of bril­liant al­bums which had been re­leased in the pre­vi­ous 18 months. But that ap­pear­ance by Tyler, the Cre­ator and Hodgy Beats in Fe­bru­ary was when this Los An­ge­les col­lec­tive landed on the main­stream radar with a bang. It was a mo­ment and there have been many mo­ments since.

Within days, ev­ery­one was an ex­pert on these whips­mart, bratty, snotty teenage rap­pers, pro­duc­ers, skate kids and vis­ual artists. They knew about Odd Fu­ture’s über-tal­ented leader Tyler, the Cre­ator. They checked out the dozen or so al­bums in­clud­ing Bas­tard,

Earl and Black­enedWhite which had been re­leased by the col­lec­tive on­line and, leav­ing aside those who didn’t get be­yond the dark, men­ac­ing, hor­ror­core lyrics, were struck by the sheer bril­liance of the sounds. They added to the stock of con­spir­acy the­o­ries about their tal­ented but miss­ing rap­per Earl Sweat­shirt (cur­rently be­lieved to be at­tend­ing a “ther­a­peu­tic cen­tre” in Samoa).

Odd Fu­ture trav­elled to the South By South­west fes­ti­val in Austin in March and the main­stream buzz reached fever pitch. By the time they left town af­ter a bunch of in­cen­di­ary, ri­otous, swag­ger­ing shows, Odd Fu­ture were the talk of the fes­ti­val. It felt as if hip-hop was fi­nally get­ting that long, over­due kick up the rearend. They were the kind of gigs you reck­oned were for the “I was there” scrap­book.

It’s May Day in Lon­don town and the bunting to mark the royal wed­ding a few days ear­lier is still up on leafy streets around Lad­broke Grove, the neigh­bour­hood XL Records call home. Long be­fore Odd Fu­ture landed on US TV shows and be­gan to re­ceive main­stream me­dia at­ten­tion, la­bel boss Richard Rus­sell had signed Tyler for a solo al­bum. There’s a big poster for that al­bum, Gob­lin, at the of­fice front door sur­rounded by promo para­pher­na­lia for cur­rent XL acts such as Adele, The xx and Friendly Fires.

Tyler is work­ing in the tiny stu­dio at­tached to the of­fice, in­tensely plonk­ing away on a key­board to cre­ate sin­is­ter, eerie, slow, dark beats. What he’s pro­duc­ing sounds a bit like a creepy Bernard Her­rmann sound­track, but a lot of the beats which the self-taught Tyler has al­ready cre­ated sound just like that. Those beats, though, were cre­ated by Tyler at home. Get­ting to work in a stu­dio like this, the one where The xx recorded their de­but al­bum, is a new ex­pe­ri­ence for him. “It’s just more stuff to play with,” he shrugs and points to the bank of equip­ment: “I don’t even know what half of this shit does.”

There is just one thing to note be­fore we get any fur­ther: Tyler hates in­ter­views.

“I fuck­ing hate in­ter­views,” he re­it­er­ates just to be sure. “And photo shoots. They’re stupid. They both equally suck be­cause I don’t like be­ing told what to do. I don’t mind my friends tak­ing my pic­ture, though.”

The prob­lem for the lanky 20-year-old is that he has a new al­bum on a record la­bel to pro­mote and this re­quires sitting down to do in­ter­views. Much as he’d pre­fer to just com­mu­ni­cate via Twit­ter – he in­ces­santly tweets as @fuck­tyler – re­leas­ing an al­bum in the con­ven­tional way re­quires the act to do promo in the con­ven­tional way too.

So how did he get here in the first place? Tyler says he started mak­ing mu­sic in his mid­teens be­cause he was bored. “I was re­ally into car­toons and skate­board­ing and stuff like that and hang­ing out with my friends. The mu­sic I liked was peo­ple like Clipse and Nep­tunes and Eminem. I don’t like old-school hip-hop, I never have. I don’t rate them or what they’ve done. I just liked mu­sic and de­cided to start do­ing that.”

The rea­son why the mu­sic he and his co­horts be­gan to make got so much at­ten­tion to be­gin with was be­cause the mu­sic was quite spe­cial. In a hip-hop arena where some rhythms and rhyming top­ics are be­gin­ning to de­velop repet­i­tive-strain in­juries from overuse, Tyler and Odd Fu­ture’s work stood out by virtue of its in­ge­nu­ity. It’s also quite rare to come across such an ex­cep­tional body of work from ev­ery mem­ber of a col­lec­tive. Hip-hop hasn’t seen it since the Wu-Tang Clan, hence the com­par­isons be­tween Odd Fu­ture and the Staten Is­land gamechang­ers.

The fuss hasn’t changed Tyler. “The only thing that has changed is I have to do these in­ter­views. That’s it. Noth­ing else has changed, noth­ing else has been al­tered. Ev­ery­thing’s the same.”

What is new, though, is a much more vo­cif­er­ous crit­i­cal fo­cus on Tyler’s lyrics. Yes, it’s true that no one was mak­ing an is­sue of Tyler’s an­gry, bit­ter, rag­ing, vi­cious rhymes about rape, vi­o­lence, misog­yny and ho­mo­pho­bia when he was just an­other kid mak­ing tapes for a small, de­voted un­der­ground au­di­ence.

But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ques­tion Tyler about his thought process now. The ar­rival of XL in his cor­ner, in­creased hype for the col­lec­tive and the at­ten­tion of peo­ple who weren’t ini­tially cham­pi­oning the band means Tyler is now fac­ing ques­tions he’s never had to think about be­fore, which is the whole

“I hate in­ter­views. And photo shoots. They’re stupid. They both equally suck be­cause I don’t like be­ing told what to do”

point of in­ter­views.

His ex­cuse of the vi­o­lent fan­tasies that pep­per his songs, though, are not ter­ri­bly con­vinc­ing. “Peo­ple who go on about the lyrics just don’t get me,” is the rap­per’s de­fence. “The fo­cus on the lyrics comes from peo­ple who are not fans. The lyrics are just char­ac­ters do­ing stuff in just fan­tasy sto­ries. The peo­ple who are fans ask me dif­fer­ent ques­tions.”

What kind of ques­tions do your fans ask you? “Ques­tions like ‘ what’s my favourite colour?’ ” Your favourite colour? “I pre­fer those ques­tions. I’m fed up an­swer­ing ques­tions about the lyrics. That’s an­other rea­son why I hate do­ing in­ter­views. Didn’t those peo­ple once have fun? I just say the stuff that’s on my mind and that of­ten hap­pens to be dark.”

But at­tempt­ing to dis­miss the lyrics as sim­ply “dark” or “fun” fan­tasies is not enough when the top­ics un­der the mi­cro­scope are as vile as rape. There may be plenty of prece­dents for equally cal­cu­lated out­rage us­ing of­fen­sive lyrics in hip-hop – from 2 Live Crew to Snoop Dogg-– but this doesn’t mean that Tyler should get a pass when it comes to dis­sect­ing what drives his songs. He can’t just point to those who have gone be­fore him and say he’s do­ing the same thing.

As Tyler and Odd Fu­ture’s pro­file grows (and it will con­tinue to grow – Sony have just signed a deal with the group for more al­bums) and if the lyrics con­tinue to mine the same ter­rain, these ques­tions should rightly con­tinue to come at him. In­stead of dis­cussing his views on how and why those lyrics may well cause anger and up­set (or if this is the in­tent), Tyler would pre­fer to ei­ther refuse to do in­ter­views or just talk to a gallery of fan­boys who want to know what his favourite colour is. It’s not very con­vinc­ing.

He might grow out of it – af­ter all, the Beastie Boys grew out of such ju­ve­nile pranks as hav­ing a 20-foot in­flat­able pe­nis and women in cages on­stage with them – but just ig­nor­ing the ques­tions is a bit of a cop-out. Any fur­ther at­tempt to bring up the topic again to­day is met with sulky si­lence, which is not a great de­fence when the ques­tions don’t suit you.

Tyler is not sure what the hell is go­ing to come next. “It’s all a roller coaster at the mo­ment,” he sighs. “I don’t know yet what I want. I don’t think about be­com­ing as big as Eminem. I think we’re only start­ing, though. I think ev­ery­one in the group is un­der­rated for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. I think I’m un­der­rated and don’t get the credit I should for do­ing what I’ve done. Syd doesn’t get enough credit, Mike gets over­looked, Hodgy doesn’t get at­ten­tion. That will change even­tu­ally once we pass this shitty hype and peo­ple re­alise that we’re so tal­ented and so young.”

Gob­lin is out now on XL. Odd Fu­ture play Ox­e­gen on July 10th and The Academy, Dublin, on Au­gust 23th

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.