Like a Rolling Stone: Is Tyler, The Creator a modern Bob Dylan?
You probably wouldn't think that a 70-year-old Jewish man from Minnesota and a 20-year-old African-American skater from California would have a lot to talk about over dinner, but singer-songwriter-painter-musician-poet-world's-most-hyphenated-man, Bob Dylan, and Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator would probably be BFFs by the time they were finished their appetizers.
They may be worlds apart, but I'm pretty sure these two are long lost soulmates. Their ideas and philosophies on the media and music society are so in tune they have to be connected on a higher level. In a world of Yes Men and stock interview answers, Tyler, The Creator and Bob Dylan bring a novel rebellion warmly welcomed by fans, while entirely undesired by journalists. Read on for a dissection of interview habits exhibited by our two favourite martians hailing from planet Too Cool for School.
I'm definitely way too young to be giving a proper synopsis of Bob Dylan's career, but I'll do my best. Okay, 1...2...3... Here we go! Bob Dylan was born under the name Robert Zimmerman and even though he denies the title of a "folk" artist, he was one of the genre's pioneers.
Dylan's songs often commented on political affairs amongst a slew of philosophical and literary influenced lyrics, which had mass appeal with the budding counterculture of the '60s. The members of this counterculture, Dylan's peers and fans, built their lives around the notion of freedom: freedom of speech, freedom to create, freedom of self-expression, etc... and his music essentially mirrored those attitudes.
Dylan's 'tude didn't stop at just his music — he unleashed it at most, if not all, public appearances like interviews and conferences, answering questions sarcastically or even with another question. He hated being pigeon-holed, hated people reading into his music, and hated the idea of having a public image at all. The way he toyed with journalists was both frustrating and intriguing, which ultimately added more to the allure of Bob Dylan. For instance, upon being asked, "Could you label yourself and perhaps tell us what your role is?" (sidetone: no journalist would ever get away with that question now), Dylan responds with "I'd label myself as well under thirty and my role is to stay here as long as I can." Here, Dylan answers the question while simultaneously refusing to answer what the reporter is really asking: What's your label and role in the music industry....like duh.
My favourite moment during his press conference by far though is when a reporter asks, "You really have no idea—no thoughts as to why you're popular?" and Dylan replies, "I just haven't really struggled for that. It happened, you know? It happened like anything else happens," which reminds me of Odd Future's Big Bang-esque fame; one minute it's nonexistent and the next it's all around you.
Dealing with that type of sudden fame must be hard on anyone, but similar to Dylan, Tyler, The Creator (born Tyler Okonma) manages to have fun with it and plays (and beats?) the media at their own game.
As the ring-leader of one of hip-hop's hottest acts at the moment, Odd Future Wolfgang Kill Them All (Odd Future for those short of breath), Tyler has been razzed to no end about shocking and vulgar lyrics. Even though the gang waxes poetic on cartoons and street surfing, the media tend to pay most attention to their homophobic or misogynistic lyrics, often forgetting that one of the group's most pivotal players is DJ, sound engineer, and producer, Syd Tha Kyd, a gay female.
Essentially a collective of a handful of skater kids from California, Odd Future is as organic as it gets when it comes to a new music act. Since their label signings, they've been given full creative control of all their forthcoming albums — a rarity in today's industry. Sure they've got managers and publicists, but, like Dylan, the OF crew don't sugarcoat anything in media appearances. Tyler's video for "Yonkers" was met with critical acclaim and Kanye West even called it "the video of 2011" on Twitter, but when a journalist asks about the video concept and meaning behind it, Tyler simply and accurately states that his manager just told him to think of a concept on the spot and the video was born. "Literally I was like, okay, I don't feel like it...how 'bout I kill myself at the end of the video? And I eat a f***ing cockroach. How 'bout that?" Like Dylan, Tyler's just a young kid, doing what he loves and people happen to like it. It's out of his control so he's just gonna keep on being himself, crazy as that might be, and not take life so seriously. Like when he introduces himself as R. Kelly to Nardwuar, it's entertaining, annoying, endearing, playful, and simple.
Now, after being under the microscope of the media for almost a year, the novelty of Odd Future's "shocking" lyrics is beginning to wear off. Bob Dylan's poetic mind allowed him (and still allows him) to write purposeful and relevant songs throughout his whole career, but for Odd Future, what'll keep them relevant is their refreshing attitude toward the media and fame in general. Bob Dylan was just as disdainful and entertaining during interviews, but OF really let it all hang out. Yes, they're arrogant, and yes they're kids, but would you rather see them manipulated and robbed of a childhood? We all saw what happened to Michael Jackson — but that's a can of worms I'm not touching. Hodgy Beats said it best during a Paris press conference, "our actions are really random and our thoughts are normally just out of the ignorance and creativity that we have built up. I know you guys think there's some...subliminal messages behind everything we do, but guess what? It's not! It's f***ing not! We're f***ing human and we like art. And we like creating sh*t." Could be more eloquent, but I'll take sharp and irreverent truth over a practiced lie any day.
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