Odd Future Reignites The Perennial War Between Art and Feelings

The swag-hop absurdists of rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them are once again being called out for what critics decry as misogyny and homophobia in their lyrics. A few months ago, Sara, from Tegan and Sara, wrote a blog attacking Tyler The Creator, as well as his music and various internet personae on the grounds of hate speech. This time, LBGT groups are protesting the Pitchfork Music Festival over Odd Future's presence on the lineup. The controversy reignites a perennial discussion about the function of art, the impact and ramifications of taboo, and the impossibly confusing role of censorship.

Critics of Odd Future's misogyny and homophobia have a point. Much of the recent pop culture activism against the defamation of gays -- against sports stars like Kobe Bryant and actors like Tracy Morgan -- has likely been a product of mobilization in conjunction with gay marriage activism. Put simply, the same apartheid-like attitudes and policies that oppose equal rights, in this case in the form of the full benefits that come with legal marriage, are recreated and reinforced by homophobic slurs and harshly negative, often violent, depictions of homosexual subjects.

In addition to the political implications of hate speech, there is the personally assaulting effect such subject matter has for any member or ally of the gay community. Professional trolls will sing "Stick and stones will break my bones..." until they're blue in the face, but in a country with a history of institutional oppression and violence against a subset of its population, words can not only hurt, they can kill.

On the other hand, Crossfade champions free speech and the growth that comes with truly free, maybe disturbing art. Odd Future are competent MCs, with unique takes and fresh personas backed by completely new school production. They've re-written the textbook on integrating the internet into art and music. And where does the separation between artist and work lie?

Back when Eminem was in hot water for the exact same kind of lyrical content, Bono commented on the subject with a quip about no one arresting Johnny Cash when he said he'd shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Even further, maybe it's important for artist's like Odd Future to exorcise these kinds of dark, hateful feelings. But, at the same time, maybe that's a position enabled by the privilege of not having one's sexual orientation be hatefully marginalize (which happens to be the case for this blogger).

We see both sides of the coin, but, unfortunately, those sides seem to insist on being mutually exclusive.

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Matt Preira