Literary tropes have insisted for centuries that all Black men are inherently scary and violent. The rhetoric of respectability relies on the subversion of this caricature of terrifying masculinity with non-violence, discipline, and manners. But rebels, like one of OFWGKTA’s founders, Tyler the Creator, challenge the “scary Black male” narrative by embodying mainstream society’s worst fears via vivid self-expression and satirical art.
There are also rebellious White rappers, like the late Mac Miller. On “Break the Law” Miller raps on the refrain, “Get money, fuck the system, break the law.” Devoid of the need to combat Black male stereotypes, is the man v. society sentiment really any different? Specifically, Tyler the Creator’s lyrics are different because Tyler the Creator’s lyrics are radical and therefore advocate for destroying the system entirely with a dramatic call to action: “Kill people, burn shit, fuck school.” Tyler raps on “Radicals”.
“All beige suit made out of White women/with the red lipstick dancing to John Lennon.” Viewed through a lens devoid of humor and irony, Tyler the Creator is offensively horrifying. He is both over the top and explicit about his problems with society and especially with women, and he intends to solve his problems with violence.
In Goblin, Tyler the Creator is speaking with a therapist named Dr. TC. “Tyler, you’re gonna need some help.” Dr. TC says at the end of “Tron Cat”. This recurring theme of rapping about mental health is reminiscent of Notorious B.IG.’s “Suicidal Thoughts”. On the track, Biggie calls his producer, P. Diddy, as a way to reach out as thoughts of self-harm overwhelm him. In the end, no one is able to stop Biggie from pulling the trigger. As passionweiss.com puts it, “on Ready to Die Biggie was plagued by rivals, scandalous women, the Feds, but in the end, the greatest threat to his existence was himself.”
But Tyler the Creator is hilarious. He is an MF Doom stan. “They screamin’ for attention/Deemin’ at the mention of a scary demon convention/You could cut the tension ‘wit a switchblade/And serve it on a same plate of hors d’oeuvres a witch made.” MF Doom raps in “Microwave Mayo”. As calvinpollak.wordpress.com puts it, “what we’ve come to realize is that Tyler is no different than MF Doom, really– he’s just a more visceral, believable version, and that’s what makes him more frightening.”