“I’m not a f‑‑‑ing role model,” Tyler Okonma, better known as Tyler, The Creator, announces in the opening salvo of Goblin’s first track. “I’m a 19-year-old f‑‑‑ing emotional coaster with pipe dreams.”
Tyler, now 20, is the leader of a pack of influential alternative L.A. rappers known collectively as Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. It’s a group of nine guys and one girl (most still in their teens) that most music fans had never heard of before Tyler walked away with a Best New Artist trophy for his video “Yonkers” at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.
Before he was done with his short acceptance speech, they’d already heard too much. Because you can absolutely take Tyler at his word: He is not a role model.
Tyler repeatedly references the fact that he’s never met his father. And while his acknowledgements are laced with profanity and rage, they unintentionally illustrate the enormous chasm that separates Tyler from love. “Love? I don’t get none,” he confesses on “Nightmare.” “That’s why I’m so hostile to the kids that get some.”
We hear a couple of affectionate references to his mother and grandmother. The title track claims, “I don’t drink,” though references to Sangria, Budweiser and drunk driving pop up elsewhere. “Fish” sarcastically suggests, “Hide your daughters, hide your sisters, h‑‑‑, hide grandma.” And that’s good counsel in this case.
Though we’ve already posted a content warning at the top of this review, the quantity and intensity of graphic, profane content on this album warrants another strong warning. Hundreds of f-words float around in the lyrics. And there’s barely a taboo or deviancy or criminal act known to humanity that Tyler doesn’t seek to shatter or indulge or commit. So if you don’t really need to know any more, please feel free to stop reading here.
Seriously. Stop reading.
Even a sanitized litany of the degradation Tyler delights in is enough to make Eminem and Howard Stern squirm in their chairs. Activities Tyler graphically details include fetishized sex, bestiality, necrophilia, physical abuse of women, raping pregnant women, vampirism, suicide, mass murder, dismemberment and cannibalism.
“Radicals” rants, “Kill people, burn s‑‑‑, f‑‑‑ school/I’m a f‑‑‑in’ radical, n-gga/ … F‑‑‑ your traditions, f‑‑‑ your positions/F‑‑‑ your religions, f‑‑‑ your decisions.” “Nightmare” adds, “F‑‑‑ heaven, I ain’t showing no religion respect.” And then “Yonkers” blasts, “Jesus called, he said he’s sick of the disses/I told him to quit b‑‑chin’, this isn’t a f‑‑‑in’ hotline.” The intentionally misspelled “Sandwitches” insists that folks who go to church are “whores and liars, scumbags and the dirt/ … You told me God was the answer/When I ask him for s‑‑‑, I get no answer/So God is the cancer.”
You can add to the list of people Tyler sneers at parents, police, women, white people, middle-class families, homosexuals and some big-name entertainers. “I’ll crash that f‑‑‑in’ airplane that that f-ggot B.o.B is in/And stab Bruno Mars in his g‑‑d‑‑n esophagus,” he brags on “Yonkers.” And Taylor Swift becomes a victim of his pornographic fantasies. On a song about oral sex with an unprintable title, he states his willingness to hit any woman who won’t perform sexually. He repeatedly compares himself to Hitler.
Ecstasy, Xanax, marijuana and crack all get nods along the way.
Goblin is a loose concept album in which Tyler repeatedly talks with his robotically voiced therapist, who’s trying to get to the bottom of his bottomless pit of “issues.” At the core is his seething hatred for … everyone. “I hate my f‑‑‑ing life,” he says on “Goblin.” “I hope you die in a fiery death,” he barks on “Nightmare.” Indeed, the album ends with him killing all his friends, while the video for “Yonkers” focuses on the word “Kill” tattooed on his right hand, shows him eating a giant insect and vomiting (apparently for real), and concludes with him putting a noose around his neck and hanging himself.
Make no mistake: Tyler, The Creator very much intends to shock. But he’s also aware that his new fans are hanging on his every word. So on “Radicals,” he instructs, “Hey, don’t do anything that I say in this song, OK? It’s f‑‑‑in’ fiction. If anything happens, don’t f‑‑‑in’ blame me, white America. F‑‑‑ Bill O’Reilly.” And after he uses the slur “f-ggot” at one point, his counselor cautions, “Tyler, you’re going to have to cut down on that f-ggot word.”
Instead, after yelping, “When someone gets blamed ’cause some white kid had aimed his AK-47/At 47 kids, I don’t wanna see my name mentioned,” his counsel (spanning several songs) is this: “Come on, kids, f‑‑- that class and hit that bong/Let’s buy some guns and kill those kids with dads and moms/ … Yeah, rebel n-gga cheer it, dead parents everywhere.”
So how do we sum up such a cruel and carnal cacophony? Tyler Okonma is, it seems, both a lost soul and the victim of a deadbeat dad he never knew. And his answer to life’s pain? In the words of Los Angeles Times reviewer Caroline Ryder, who wrote about Odd Future last year, to spew “sheer evil.”
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.