Lift Tyler The Creator’s ban from travelling to Australia!

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Renowned rap artist, music producer and overall creative talent “Tyler, the Creator” (or Tyler Okonma) was once known for his controversial lyrics and image. Due to this, he was banned from Australia in July of 2015, on the grounds that his music “promoted and glorified violence against women”. The campaign against him was done so by method of petition. It was lead by the Australian feminist group “Collective Shout”, and their director Coralie Alison. This petition aims to revoke the denial of his Australian visa, therefore allowing fans to be able to watch him perform live, and allow Tyler to travel to Australia for recreational purposes as he has so desired. References and sources will be accented with italics and parentheses, for example: “Article One(_)”.

Collective Shout’s original article/petition(1) brands Tyler as “pro-rape”, and uses many lyrics penned by Tyler as “evidence” of his promotion of rape and violence against women. WARNING: The following lyrics and quotes may trigger or offend:

The article quotes Tyler’s song “Bastard” [2009], from his album of the same name:

”[...]She still don't know I made Sarah to strangle her, Not put her in danger and chop her up in the back of a Wrangler, All because she said no to homecoming”

They also cite lyrics from “She” [2011], the fourth song on his second album, “Goblin”:

“[...]I just wanna drag your lifeless body to the forest, And fornicate with it but that’s because I’m in love with you…c*nt”

These lyrics that Collective Shout have quoted classify Tyler’s music as “Horrorcore”(2), a sub-genre of Hip-Hop based on horror themed lyrics and dark imagery, often written with the intent to shock. These lyrics seem to have done just that. It’s noteworthy to add that other Horrorcore artists with similar subject matter, such as Insane Clown Posse and Eminem, have recently toured Australia (in 2013 and 2019 respectively). It is also noteworthy to add that Tyler has never actually carried out ANY of the gross actions he has described in his Horrorcore songs. Rather, the lyrics performed in these songs serve as portrayals of character(s). For example, lyrics from his 2009 song “Blow” (again from his album “Bastard”) attempt to detail the thought processes of infamous serial murderer and rapist Ted Bundy:

"You already know you're dead, Ironic cause your lipstick is red, of course, I stuff you in the trunk”.

These lyrics were also quoted in the Collective Shout article/petition. Yes, it is agreeable that the lyrics are vile and offensive, but they are not evidence enough to label Tyler as one who promotes rape and violence. It is fairly clear that the Horrorcore themes and lyrics Tyler has written are for artistic and creative purposes, and NOT to incite violence or sexual assault. Although members of Collective Shout might call into question the legitimacy of the label “art”, it is an undeniable fact that the perception of “art” is subjective. It is easy to read/listen to the lyrics at face value and interpret them as disgusting and misogynistic, so it’s understandable that some might come to the conclusion that Mr. Okonma really is a misogynist, when in reality that isn’t the case.

Collective Shout’s argument against him proceeds as follows:

“The messages propogated in these lyrics pose particular risk to the Australian community by conveying the message that interpersonal conflict might be legitimately resolved through violence. Unfortunately this message still enjoys resonance in significant parts of our society which heightens the risk posed to women and children of his entry.”

Of course, violence, rape and murder of women are all horrible, heinous acts, and it is a fierce epidemic that Australian women have to face. This here petition certainly does not clash with the fight against misogyny- I am, and I imagine any of the signees, are all for feminism and the equality it stands for- but the denial of one man’s Australian travel visa will not effect the risks to the Australian community that it already bears. There is not one public quote from Tyler (whether it be in music or any other verbal form) that sincerely instructs ANYONE to commit acts of violence or sexual assault upon anyone. If ANY violence were to be incited from his material, it would be through an incorrect interpretation of his artistic character portrayal, which would be an unfortunate (albeit unlikely) result of his past immaturity. 

It is also important to mention that all of the lyrics Collective Shout quoted in their article/petition are from his 2009 and 2011 albums (the aforementioned “Bastard” and “Goblin”). These projects were created when Tyler was a teenager/adolescent (18 and 20 years old, respectively. Tyler was born March 6, 1991). It is not hard to pen the immaturity of his lyrics to his young and naive age. Anyway, Tyler himself has said that he doesn’t even like some of his older work(3) - “Tyler told GQ [magazine] that his style changed later in his career when he ‘just stopped yelling and stopped saying crazy stuff,’ and [that] he’s started to distance himself from his early shock-value music in recent years.” Any listener would be able to distinguish Tyler’s old music from his newer material (his “newer material” being any music released in 2013 and onwards). There are differences in sound pallets and production value, but most importantly, there is a difference in the maturity level Tyler exhibits through his lyrics! Tyler hasn’t mentioned anything about rape and violence against women in his lyrics since 2011. He has grown out of his “shock value phase”, and matured into a better and a more civilised public personality, and sets a much better example through his newer music. Even if his older music WAS serious (which it isn’t), he has clearly outgrown the immaturity that he once manifested.

A big piece in Collective Shout’s campaign against the rapper was their recording of Tyler’s Outburst during a 2013 Sydney show(4). At one of Tyler’s shows during his 2013 Australian tour, a Collective Shout member attended Tyler’s concert and captured footage of Tyler berating her and swearing at her on stage. WARNING: The following quotes may be triggering or offensive. In the video, Tyler says:

“F*cking b*tch. I wish she could hear me call her a b*tch too, f*cking wh*re. Yeah, I got a sold out show right now b*tch. Hey, this song is dedicated to you, you f*cking c*nt.” (Tyler goes on to play his 2013 parody song, “Domo23”).

There is no defence for Tyler’s indirect verbal abuse towards Collective Shout’s Talitha Stone- his actions were uncalled for and his language towards her was unquestionably vulgar, and unfortunately, Ms. Stone and other Collective Shout members did face backlash from aggravated fans (it’s good that none of them were hurt). However, Collective Shout has made it out that Tyler incited violence against Talitha, when in reality, Tyler never made any commands to his fans to do anything. It is unfair to attribute Tyler to the actions of other men as he didn’t tell anybody to do anything, nor did he intend to incite any violence against anyone. The question also arises as to why Talitha was at the concert in the first place. Why would she attend a show she wouldn’t enjoy? Why would she pay money to see someone that her collective clearly rejected? How did Tyler know she was there, and why did he respond with such agitation? It’s simple: she attended the show to protest the Collective Shout agenda and to harass fans in order to attract Tyler’s attention and therefore get the reaction out of him that they did. Tyler lightly touches on how it happened in his video interview with Big Boy(5)It was pretty stupid of Tyler to react exactly the way they wanted him to, but it doesn’t make their honed plight to vilify him any less real. 

A later article (a FAQ in 2015 about their Tyler situation) posted by Collective Shout(6) said that: 

“Tyler the Creator does not plan to merely ‘visit Australia,’ rather he intends to come here for commercial reasons.”

When actually, that’s exactly what he said he wanted to do: The same 2015 interview Tyler had with Big Boy, he detailed his love for Melbourne and how it’s his favourite place(7). Tyler says: 

“I thought I just couldn’t go to Australia to, like, perform, but like, I was thinking ‘Okay, I’ll just go out there on...vacation.’” 

The same 2015 Collective Shout FAQ went into detail about not putting up with Tyler’s use of misogynistic words when referring to women, such as “Bitch”, “slut”, “whore” etc. Again, this point I agree with, and signees would probably agree with too, however singling Tyler out as a rapper that does this is unfair, as a majority of figures in hip hop culture are guilty of doing the exact same thing. Even some of the most respected rappers, such as Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Drake and Travis Scott are guilty of using these misogynistic terms at some point. All of those artists have toured in Australia within the past two years, except for Travis Scott, who announced an Australian tour scheduled for later this year(8). It is an unfortunate yet brooding truth that lives within the hip hop community, and that the youth are chipping away at; the solution to that problem does not lie in denying one man a visa (not to imply that Collective Shout thinks that banning Tyler will solve all the problems in misogyny- they’re not stupid. It’s just that this ban, that may be contributing only a small justice, has little to no effect on the underlying epidemic at hand). 

One woman a week is killed by a man in Australia at the moment, and governments are working towards reducing this incredibly distressing fact. I believe in the importance of this however the causes of violence against women are deeply complex and are far more than just inappropriate lyrics in a song.

In summary, Collective Shout have successfully banned a man from a country he loves due to some immature lyrics in some old songs Tyler made in his youth. Their assumptions were based on his character traits from then, and not from now. He is a changed man- no longer known for his shock value lyrics of rape and murder, but known for his incredible talent and LGBTQ+ representation. Even if Tyler once did, he no longer promotes any hate speech. Tyler has no history of violence or sexual assault against any women. Not once did Tyler ever instruct any of his fans to make threats against anyone, nor has Tyler himself ever threatened any woman with rape or violence. Proof of threats are yet to be provided by anybody. Many fans of Tyler, the Creator have wanted to watch him perform for a very long time- especially fans of his newer material. Lifting the ban on Tyler Okonma’s visa will allow him to visit his favourite place in the world, and allow fans to enjoy the live performance they have long been dreaming of.

 

REFERENCES/SOURCES:

(1) Collective Shout’s Original Article/Petition

(2) “Horrorcore” (Wikipedia)

(3) Tyler doesn’t even like some of his older work

(4) Collective Shout’s Recording of Tyler’s Outburst during a 2013 Sydney Show

(5) Tyler’s Video Interview with Big Boy (His complication at his Aussie show at 17:26)

(6) Collective Shout’s 2015 FAQ about their Tyler situation

(7) Tyler’s Video Interview with Big Boy (His desire to visit Australia at 14:39)

(8) Travis Scott announces 2019 Australian Tour

MORE READING, SOURCES

Music Critic Anthony Fantano talks about why Tyler shouldn’t be “Cancelled” (at 1:43)

Tyler says Melbourne is his favourite place