Looking for a database of Odd Future’s lyrics, I came across this article last fall in The Voice by Zach Baron. I remember reading it, but I didn’t have the head space to process and write about it. Baron writes,
To condemn Odd Future for their lyrics we’d have to talk about Eminem, Cam’ron (unspeakable misogynist in rhyme), and Clipse (drug dealers who know what they do is wrong but do it anyway, at least in song)–all rappers who have long since made it into the pantheon of most working critics and music fans. “The avant-garde need not be moral,” Jon Caramanica once wrote in these pages about Cam’ron’s Purple Haze, a sentence that has been pretty influential in sorting out how me and my friends process music with reprehensible content. And it’s true. It’s also true, however, that the real line of defense most listeners have for stuff like this is they didn’t actually do it. As Jay-Z writes in his new book, Decoded, “The rapper’s character is essentially a conceit, a first-person literary creation.” He would know. And after all, Jay writes, it’s not like we actually think Matt Damon is out “assassinating rogue CIA agents between movies.”
Is saying it doing it? If we take this “well they ain’t really doing it, so it doesn’t count” logic seriously, let me ask you this.
If Sarah Palin or Michele Bachman got up and said “kill all the n-words” (the one with the ‘ers) and “kill and rape all the ‘illegals’” would that logic stand?
Would folks be willing to say “well they ain’t really doing it, they saying it.” I am inclined to think no.
People buy what makes them feel comfortable. Why does Odd Future make White men feel comfortable?
Doesn’t comparing Matt Damon to Odd Future the Clipse and Cam’ron obscure the fact that mainstream media does not feature African Americans prominently; That Black men and White men have two different, yet connected, histories in this country.
In my post about Nate Dogg, I talked about how White desire for Nate Dogg’s catalogue had a specific impact on Black women’s lived experiences.
And this is where article takes an interesting turn. Baron brings in a Jay-Z’s decoded to discuss WHO the listener identifies with. He writes,
And yet it’s disingenuous to separate Odd Future from their lyrical content, dishonest to say you can enthusiastically listen to the group without constantly encountering and processing the incredibly dark stuff they’re talking about. Why does art like this appeal? InDecoded, Jay-Z talks about how he’s heard that executives and businessmen listen to his songs about shooting people and slinging crack and use them for motivation before big meetings, PowerPoint presentations, and job interviews. The point he then makes is that with art like this you never identify with the victim, the proverbial “you”; you identify with the person speaking, and that person is a bad motherfucker, and thus so is the listener. Through this type of identification, art allows us to explore the weird frisson between reality and fantasy, the gulf between who we are and who we’d like to be.
The point he then makes is that with art like this you never identify with the victim, the proverbial “you”; you identify with the person speaking, and that person is a bad motherfucker, and thus so is the listener.
Well shit gina, I don’t know what to say.
The comments in the post are telling as well.
What do you think of the “saying it ain’t doing it” logic?
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