Thought Catalog

“I Am A Toilet”: Channel Orange, Tyler, The Creator, And The Fate Of Frank Ocean

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If anything, Frank Ocean is consistent. His music is textured and complicated, and his songs are smooth, his voice of cream on display and yet his lyrics doing the work. In 2011, he released his debut mix tape, Nostalgia, Ultra. This July, he released his first studio album, Channel Orange. But before any of this, he joined a group called Odd Future.  Founded in 2007, the group is fronted by an outspoken rapper named Tyler, The Creator, who has continually produced records full of slurs and ostensible hate, or at least arrogance. The prime example? Their 2010 album, Goblin, which contains an unforgivable amount of slurs. Gay slurs. How many? 213.

A year ago, Sara Quin — of the band Tegan and Sara, twin sisters who are openly gay — spoke up. She said, “In any other industry, would I be expected to tolerate, overlook and find deeper meaning in this kid’s sickening rhetoric?” And, “Why should I care about this music or its ‘brilliance’ when the message is so repulsive and irresponsible?” When The Creator heard questions, his tweeted answer was brief: “If Tegan and Sara need some hard dick, hit me up!”

Fast-forward to now. Ocean has publicly adjusted his sexual orientation, and the Odd Future front man has replied, this time favorably, again over Twitter, lauding his friend’s courage. And then, switching gears, he stated — inexplicably — “Anyway. Im A Toilet.”

_____

“Come take a stab at it faggot, I pre-ordered your casket.”

— Odd Future, “AssMilk”

_____

So what are we to make of that puzzling statement, or admission, or joke, “I’m a toilet.” Is Tyler, The Creator dismissing the whole situation as light and humorous? Is he declaring atonement? Is he attempting nothing? Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t quite matter, as sifting through the politics of Odd Future has never been easy. For example, before Ocean came out, the group’s DJ, Syd the Kid, did the same. She is a lesbian and yet curiously, she aligns herself with misogyny that’s both insulting and archaic in nature. However, something about Syd the Kid’s philosophy is admirable; in an interview with LA Weekly, she says, “I put myself out there because I’m sick of people asking…[It’s] not like [people] are going up to the other guys in the group and asking if they’re straight.’” Then again, until now, and unless we were being subjected to the ultimate scenario of being punk’d, we could be certain that the rest of the Odd Future members were definitely straight, if only because of their lyrics, their words.

_____

“It was just funny cause I was getting bashed as a homophobe or whatever and I kept saying dude how am I one? i have gay friends like what the fuck leave me alone haha.”

— Tyler, The Creator, on being asked to elaborate on Frank Ocean’s coming out (via Formspring)

_____

If we are to take Tyler, The Creator’s Formspring remark at face value then we see that he is at once in denial, on defense, and in retreat. After all, Odd Future is continually lauded as brilliant, even “mesmerizing.” Their music and art and therefore their message has been affirmed and reaffirmed, allowed and enabled. They have never had to collectively and seriously answer for their morally questionable content. Now they do. Now, Tyler, The Creator is caught between a straw-man argument (i.e. saying you’re not_______ because you have  _______ friends), a hard place of keeping his (at least) public persona, and the even harder place of admitting his previous moral bankruptcy. On the heels of President Obama’s statement of support for gay marriage, America is progressively moving toward both acceptance and self-acceptance, and yet the Creator is drowning.

______

“I believe that marriage isn’t between a man and a woman but between love and love, And I believe you when you say that you’ve lost all faith.”

— Frank Ocean, “We Try” (from Nostalgia, Ultra)

“This is unrequited love, to me it’s nothing but a one-man cult, and cyanide in my Styrofoam cup, I could never make him love me, never make him love me.”

— Frank Ocean, “Bad Religion” (from Channel Orange)

_____

This is not an essay about sexuality or identity. It is not about music, or lyrics, or even art. Not really. Instead, it is a place for questions: Does controversy start with two people or one? Where are we going compared to where we have been?  What does it mean to accept? And yes: What happens next?

Where Ocean was once general about his views on homosexuality (e.g. “We Try”), he is now more specific (e.g. “Bad Religion”). On Channel Orange, he does not make any broad statements of creed and belief, but instead talks about his life, his love. By referencing the particulars of his direct experience, he transcends the debate of gay marriage and acceptance (much like Syd the Kid, who is not interested in drawing attention to any fundamental differences, as, arguably, there aren’t any). However, the leader of their band is drifting behind. If Ocean remains a member of Odd Future, and if the Odd aesthetic does not change, then what does that mean? He has been a member of the group since the beginning, and so the same question must stand: What are we to think? By certain standards, the Creator is supporting his fellow artist. He is staying true to an ancient belief, acting as his brother’s keeper.  And yet perhaps this is the problem. Perhaps he should not be keeping Ocean from anything at all. Perhaps he should look into the distant, bursting, and altogether scourged place of himself. TC Mark

image – channel ORANGE
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“I Am A Toilet”: Channel Orange, Tyler, The Creator, And The Fate Of Frank Ocean is cataloged in , , , , , , , ,
  • Katherine

    WHY DOES IT MATTER?

  • Anna

    OK, first please get things about them right. Frank Ocean was not a member “since the beginning” and it started even before 2007…original members included people like Casey Veggies and Brandun Deshay who aren’t even a part of the group anymore. There’s more you clearly don’t know about them but that’s fine. I’m embarrassed for you that you actually are quoting “I am a toilet.” These are absurd things Tyler says all the time and he laughs at people who take him seriously, which – I agree with you – is just a way he gets to not have to answer for his “morally questionable content.” Sadly I think the heart of the matter is that he is simply not well educated. He is clearly bright and talented, however he seems to never have been taught to think critically about the world around him. None of them members have gone to college. Tyler dropped out after the first day. It’s evident even when Syd says things like “they’re just words.” They don’t get why people go ballistic because they are not educated and they enjoy pissing people off. I’m not defending this at all, I just think it’s worth nothing that these lyrics don’t come from some inherent evil within Tyler, rather it is a childish display of one-upmanship among friends.

    • david

      i dont think education or whether or not they went to college has anything to do with it really, have you ever met some college guys?

      • Anna

        Well, yes, I get your point. I shouldn’t have mentioned college because you’re right, some college graduates are still poorly educated. I think the ability to think critically – and from other points of view – is the kind of freedom educated individuals can take advantage of or not.

    • anon

      i’m embarrassed for you because it is not about tyler’s education. he’s smart. it’s about having that rebel attitude. that fuck you attitude. it’s him expressing. not walking on pins and needles. fuck that. fuck you.

      • David

        I’m sure you’re a lovely girl Anna, but you just seem a bit pretentious with the whole college thing. I went to college, and think Tyler is far wittier then I am. Intelligence is relative anyways – and I’ve met tonnes of people who are incredibly successful and never went to college. ‘Educated in the School of Life’ is the phrase I think, and to be honest I learnt more in my first few years of working and living with my girlfriend then I ever did in 4 years of university. But I do know what you are trying to say – he should have a broader sense of thought before he uses his medium of music to display his one sided views – but in truth he is an artist and its all about expression. Sometimes getting deep just takes the fun out of things.

      • Anna

        Haha dude can you not tell I’m on your side? Unfortunately most Odd Future fans are half-animate abortions that infect everyone around them with their stupidity. It’s OK, since you’re clearly one of those fans, I wouldn’t expect you to respond relevantly.

  • Kat

    Odd Future and Tyler, The Creator continue to be enigmas. I never gave the collective much thought until my out little sister wouldn’t shut up about them. This is before Syd the Kid came out, before Ocean came out. My sister is one of those horrible kids that uses slurs to refer to her friends, but if someone actually argues that she shouldn’t be allowed to marry the person of her choice or that her orientation is somehow morally reprehensible she’ll set them straight. So it seems like there’s some kind of disconnect, I don’t get it all the way.

    The way I’ve explained her obsession with everything Odd Future, other than a horrible crush on Syd the Kid, is just that Odd Future taps in completely to the teenage need to shock us older people and show us just how angry they are with how we’ve failed them.

  • http://gravatar.com/billshaner Bill Shaner

    Ugh, dude, the homophobia in OF lyrics is just rhetoric. Gay-bashing rhetoric has always existed in hip hop. The point is to be abrasive, not hateful. The only actual message in any of Tyler’s songs is “I’m better than you at hip-hop. I don’t give a fuck what you say.” The homophobia means nothing. If the national media doesn’t understand that, they shouldn’t report on it. But they do, and what we get is a talented young hip hop musician vilified nationally for the sake of good press. At least he’s done a pretty good job giving the press nothing to write about besides shit like “I’m a toilet.” Now that’s fucking genius.

  • http://awraw.wordpress.com redghill20

    “This is for the niggers in the suburbs And the white kids with nigger friends who say the n-word And the ones that got called weird, fag, bitch, nerd Cause you was into jazz, kitty cats, and Steven Spielberg They say we ain’t actin’ right Always try to turn our fuckin’ color into black and white But they’ll never change ’em, never understand ’em Radical’s my anthem, turn my fuckin’ amps up So instead of critiquing and bitching, being mad as fuck Just admit, not only are we talented, we’re rad as fuck Bitches”

    In summary, analyzing every word this kid says won’t help you understand anything about him, besides the fact that he doesn’t take himself very seriously.

  • G

    articles like this seem to always miss the point. Tyler calling people faggot on records, Frank Ocean’s “coming-out” (using that term loosely because, well, he really didnt. but that seems to be the over-simplified way of talking about it), Syd’s being openly gay and the President’s support of gay marriage have very little, if anything, to do with each other.

  • http://redlipsandcitylights.wordpress.com nnekaayana

    Very thoughtful.

  • pete

    Remind me what’s the point to this article?
    I’m a toilet

  • Piper

    You’re making the assumption that Tyler and his compradres use these gay-bashing terms to, well, gay bash. However unorthodox or offensive it may be to me or you, those terms are slang terms. With slang, the way one person uses the word may be different than the next. I don’t believe Tyler is homophobic. Tyler is refusing to let anyone make him feel bad about using a certain word because “they/you/I” don’t like it. Odd Future embodies the DGAF spirit of 90’s babies. The material will mature as the artist does. Many of the songs referred to were written by teenage boys with a cult internet following and big dreams. I’m interested to see what the material will be as they begin to establish themselves in the industry, understand their influence, and grow up.

  • http://twitter.com/heronkady10 Kady Heron (@heronkady10)

    Very funny post!
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  • tori

    To be fair, comparing Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator is like apples and oranges. Two different artists with two different styles of music. In truth, the group first gained popularity due to Tyler’s “shock value” style of rap and DGAF attitude/lifestyle. Tyler himself admits that he only says the offending words to “make old white dudes mad.” and to criticize the public’s sensitivity of any choice of language that can be misconstrued as offensive. It worked. They received a fair amount of press and media attention since early 2011, half of which was from “angry old white dudes” who completely missed the point. Recently though, Tyler has cut down on the use of the offending words because he no longer has to rely on that persona for popularity as much as when he was 17 and was just starting his career. If anything, Tyler and his group are smarter than what most people give them credit for. I highly doubt Tyler and the rest of Odd Future have some sort of secret gay bashing agenda while continuing to have friends who are openly gay/bisexual. I find it interesting that people are shocked by this while Syd has been open about her sexuality since day one.

  • JuliaGulia

    I immediately thought “I’m a toilet” = “I’m full of shit.” Anyone else?

    • Kalamazoo

      Yes.

    • smarterthanyou

      yes

  • Steve

    Lol

  • Erin

    I really do not like Tyler, The Creator. From his music and online interactions with people (Twitter, specifically) it seems to me he needs to grow up. But freedom of speech, he can rap about whatever he pleases. This does not mean his is a good role model in any regard.

    All I thought when reading this though was the new release of Macklemore’s song “Same Love” only because it was released this morning. I know this article is not about the music necessarily but please see the other side of the spectrum in the rap genre and appreciate this message and piece of art …

    http://macklemore.com/post/27481163762/this-song-which-i-wrote-in-april-is-a-response

  • Rman

    i thought we went over this with eminem, people. artists who use curse words i.e. ‘fag’ does not imply they are anti-gay. bottom line end of story. want more explaination? ‘fag’ has many many meanings and contexts esp in today’s culture.

  • Rman

    also, the writer simply does not understand OF. simply put, do not speculate on shit you do not know.

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  • pete

    I a agree with Rman, its like a cyclist talking football, I doubt he has even listened to any OF material, Goblin specifically, during the song he elaborates what fag means to him

  • leesa

    do you listen or actually know anything about odd future? also, goblin is not “their” album, it’s tylers, and it came out last year, not 2010.

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