Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Defense of the N-Word

February 27th, 2013

(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

By Gee King

Since crashing into hip hop’s universe in 2010, Tyler, the Creator and his Odd Future gang have made their mark by challenging social norms and shifting the mainstream perspective of exactly what a group of black suburban teens can be. Their skateboarder attitude and punk rock aesthetic already do enough to separate them from their peers in the rap world, but the Wolf Gang’s mostly white fan base makes it even more difficult for hip hop’s older audiences to comprehend the crew’s cultural influence. The generation gap shot wide open in a recent interview with Hot 97’s Cipha Sounds & Rosenberg as co-host K. Foxx and program director Ebro Darden took the group to task over their free use of the “n-word” and the unspoken pass they give their white listeners to use it.

“Y’all new young bucks, y’all let the white boys slide,” said Ebro, “my generation, we stomp out.” The conversation was sparked when Tyler jokingly referred to TVOne, which was playing an episode of Maury in the studio, as the “n—-r channel.” Rosenberg was ironically the first host to take offense before K Foxx and Ebro challenged the chronically immature crew to engage in a mature discussion on America’s rapidly changing racial dynamics. Tyler and company’s first reaction was to deflect attention to Peter, pressing to see if he had ever let the n-word slip while singing along to his favorite tracks, but they eventually acknowledged the generation gap and shared their odd perspective. “We don’t actually give a f–k about that s–t,” said Tyler frankly. “Cause motherf–kas who care is the reason why racism’s still alive right now.”

K Foxx admittedly caught feelings over their flippant attitude, arguing on behalf of elders who died behind the word’s original meaning. “You gotta understand what they fought for… you would not be doing what you’re doing right now. You gotta respect the legacy and the heritage,” he said.

Tyler, dismissing her frustration, simply explained, “People my age, we’re not even thinking like that.” When Foxx refused to back down and boldly asked the crew, “What do you stand for?” Tyler replied sarcastically and the conversation quickly devolved into jokes about beating white boys with skateboards and attempts to egg Rosenberg into dropping an n-bomb on the air.

Tyler and Odd Future clearly represent a shift in our cultural consciousness, but is it positive in a game that challenges hip hop’s integrity more and more each day? Their ability to inspire teenaged outcasts to be their true selves is directly in line with hip hop’s original purpose, but their willingness to recklessly push beyond lines drawn deeply in the culture’s sand may get them tossed off of mainstream rap’s boat for good. They don’t seem to care for now, with corporate America eating up anything the collective tosses out, including co-branded merchandise and a show on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But when the checks stop coming and reality knocks them out of their dream world they may be left wishing they’d stood on higher moral ground while they still had the world at their feet.

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