Making Connections between Odd Future x Jay Z x Beyonce


In my head I have been trying to make sense of Beyonce, Jay-Z and Odd Future and how audiences have received, accepted and criticized their work.

I have written about Beyonce here and here. Jay-Z here. I add Odd Future because I have yet to see a feminist analysis of them and I am theorizing that there is a connection between how audiences see them and how audiences see Jay and Beyonce.

Jay and Beyonce

Many of my friends get incredibly irritated when I say that I want Beyonce to sing about her husband. To talk about how he likes his eggs. Does he like cheese on them, hot sauce, cracked black pepper, scrambled hard.  I am not interested in how the man likes his eggs per se. I am using it as a way to open up a conversation about how audience desire shapes what artists talk about. I contended that Jay Z does not talk about loving his wife because honestly white and black audiences, and multiracial audiences are not interested in hearing about him talk about her.

“Take em out the Hood, Keep ‘Em Looking Good, But I don’t Fucking Feed ‘Em. – Jay Z, Big Pimpin‘.

In fact in this post Britini Danielle @ Clutch Magazine discusses Wiz Khalifa claiming Amber Rose publicly and the proliferation of the “we don’t Love them ho’s comments on blogs.

I am interested in Black people being rendered as human being in pop culture and in there day to day lives at work, on the train and in the grocery store. Why? I want all people in general and Black folks in particualr to be rendered as human beings. Singing about how your lover likes his or her eggs is incredibly humanizing. Talking about how much you love them is humanizing as well.

Honestly, I prolly wouldn’t care how Jay-Z liked his eggs if Black men and women controlled how their stories were created, told, distributed.

1. If they could greenlight their own films and Hollywood and control how they were distributed.

2. If there wasn’t a need for documentaries exploring the “lack” of women in hip hop.

3. If there was a space for Black women in pop culture who don’t fit the “Long haired thick red bone” aesthetic. Peace to Jennifer Hudson.

Does pop culture have to be humanizing for Black folks? If no, what is at stake if it doesn’t humanize us. If yes, what does that look like?

Odd Future

The first time I heard a DJ spin Tyler’s Yonkers, I was like who the hell is this? The beat sounded bare like early Clipse work. As a blogger, I read about what music bloggers are writing about, often before or whenI listen to the music. In fact conversations tend to percolate in my twitter timeline before writer #Natureofthebeast.

Here is Odd Future at a show performing Kill People, Burn Shit, Fuck School. @1:42. 109,664 youtube views.

Here is Tyler the Creator’s Yonkers. 14 million + youtube views.

There as been a ton written about Odd Futures popularity on the Black and White blogosphere and with multiracial audiences.

In the Chicago Sun-Times profile by Thomas Conner, Odd Future members contend that,

Odd Future’s lyrics, they maintain, are preposterous artistic expressions rather than reportage or incitement to action.“Nothing is really serious,” Hodgy Beats told the Sun-Times this week from a tour stop in London. “It’s just like all the things in our music. It’s in the atmosphere, it’s in the world, and it’s in our lyrics. … I think it’s funny that people flip out about s— like that.”

In an article titled “Odd Future and the Middle Class White Music Geeks that Love Them” the author writes,

It’s the general consensus of music writers everywhere (almost all of them white) that Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All can do no wrong.  The 11-piece L.A. collective, consisting of singers, rappers, producers, and visual artists between the ages of 16 and 23, has been praised as the next Wu-Tang Clan, the future of rap, the ultimate 21st century hip-hop group, etc., etc.  Their confrontational lyrics and gritty No Wave approach to hip-hop seem to attract more people than they scare off.  However, almost all of this praise has come from middle-class white critics and fans with interests in underground music. A photo of one of Odd Future’s notoriously raucous gigs shows a sharp contrast between the black, teenage group members onstage and the pale, white, twentysomething audience.

What does it mean that the most laudatory voices for Odd Future are White Male “music geeks”?

Should Odd Future be able to make the music that they desire, for largely White audiences given the history of Black images in this country?

Beyonce x Jay Z x Odd Future

Earlier in the post I stated that there is a connection between how audiences see them. However, we can’t really have a conversation about Black people and images without looking at the history of Black images.

Dave Chappell walked away for a reason ya’ll.

So, what is the history of images of Black people in the US? Whitney Peoples in the article “Under Construction: Identifying Foundations of Hip-Hop  Feminism and Exploring Bridges between Black Second-Wave and Hip-Hop Feminism” gives a thorough explanation. She writes,

Much of mainstream rap music has been reduced to a never-ending obsession with monetary gain, appropriation of patriarchal notions of power, material possession, partying, women, and sex, all of which are secured and protected through the hyper masculine threat of violence. Mainstream rap music is most easily commodified because it represents ideas of blackness that are in line with dominant racist and sexist ideologies; it has economic potential only because it works hand-in-hand with long established ideas about the sexual, social, and moral nature of black people.
In other words, the images of black male violence and aggression that dominate mainstream rap music are highly marketable in America because of already existing ideologies of racism that long ago named the black male as supreme aggressor and physical and sexual threat. Similarly, the images of sexually available black women that pervade rap music are marketable because of already existing ideologies that designated black women as hypersexual and morally obtuse.
Peoples is essentially saying that mainstream rap and I would extend that to say Odd Future (they are clearly underground but beloved by “White music geeks”) is popular and earns corporations money because they affirm already existing ideas around black men being homophobic, violent and hypersexual.

Having written this, I am left with a few questions.
Does Odd Future get a pass because “White music geeks” have the power to legitimize rappers with a sizeable fan base who think that rapping about rape, murder and homophobia isn’t really that serious?

Does Beyonce need to write about how her husband likes his eggs?  What does it mean that a middle class woman, who earned $80M in ’07-08 , spent a significant portion of her career writing about men soldiers, men who hustle, etc?


Is it legitimate for Jay to have continued to rap about crackwhen he was a millionaire? Is this selling a fantasy of a certain kind of Blackness to young people of all races? Can the man who wrote about Big Pimpin’ write about his wife?

Comments

  1. nice piece. The excerpt from Peoples was 100% on point. To thrive in a majority white dominated culture, hip hop has catered to the racist themes already existing in this country.

  2. *Does Odd Future get a pass because “White music geeks” have the power to legitimize rappers with a sizeable fan base who think that rapping about rape, murder and homophobia isn’t really that serious?*

    Yes they do remember “There’s A Market for N_ggas”
    How we gonna change this and why is it taking so long to take the first steps?

    *Does Beyonce need to write about how her husband likes his eggs?  What does it mean that a middle class woman, who earned $80M in ’07-08 , spent a significant portion of her career writing about men soldiers, men who hustle, etc?*

    Erykah Badu and Bey should make an album called Erykah Bayoncey that might change her capitalistic aura. But really though she won’t sing nothing else if no pressure is being put on her. She has idols that sing too how come they let Bey be the Bey they semi despise? Why Badu not whispering in her ear stay sincere and stay woke?
    Your ? deserves a 110min documentary.

    *Is it legitimate for Jay to have continued to rap “about crack” when he was a millionaire? Is this selling a fantasy of a certain kind of Blackness to young people of all races? Can the man who wrote about Big Pimpin’ write about his wife?*

    Uhh no, its not regardless if you a millionaire or not. If you aint living it por favor don’t rap about it.
    A fantasy for certain type of young folks yes but not all. In 2003 Jay said he was going through the 7 stadiums of becoming a philantropist. Its 2011 so I’m wondering what level he at now? The I’m a philantro crack selling rapper who will gentrify your hood anytime soon?

    Gracias for your post.

  3. @Sabilka

    Oh. Honey. One of my oldest readers. I appreciate you. An Erykah Beyonce album would be interesting. However, in some ways they are completely different from each other in that Erykah’s work is premised on being a vulnerable quirky Black girl, whereas B is safe, skin ever lightening, Black girl pop.

    I have talked about about how Erykah has been a renegade rebel in the music industry in that she hasn’t been regulated to obscurity nor has she went the “I am going to approximate the Beyonce” routine and aesthetic as much as possible. She does her in a system that says that a blond white or nearly white beauty aesthetic is the norm. For that reason I appreciate her.

  4. Great piece. It has always been interesting to me the kind of music that white audiences buy into from black musicians. Essentially its all imagery, safe imagery, that it doesn’t really disrupt the status quo. The fact that people laud OFWGKTA as being amazingly different to me is strange because they really aren’t. Its the same thing that has always been on the table wrapped differently. Swap guns for skateboards.

    I was on to them pretty early and I do “like” some of their music, but Tyler’s Goblin was too dark for me. The line about raping a pregnant woman and calling it a 3some was just too much for me. It seems that the more vulgar– the more appreciation it gets. Which makes sense in this framework of legitimatizing destructive imagery.

  5. Yes because of her rebel attitude I would like to see Erykah or any other femme rebel to challenge Beyonce and her clones to alter that pop route. Challenge her via artistic expressions to water down that corporate slave wine.
    Something like in Erykahs next video wearing a “I Hate The Corporate Beyonce’ tshirt. An artistic confrontation to shake things up. That’s what I’m missing