Every once in a while — fairly often, actually — the musicians I interview have a lot more to say than we have room to print. That was definitely the case with Minneapolis emcee Slug, whose band Atmosphere headlines Red Rocks this coming Thursday. (You can go here to read the story from our Aug. 11 issue; you can also check out our interview with opening act Blueprint here.)
One of the more timely topics that didn’t make the cut was Slug’s take on Tyler, the Creator, the 20-year-old rapper, producer and leading light of LA’s Odd Future hip-hop collective. Tyler’s Goblin (Indy review here) is easily 2011’s most controversial album to date, with critics and musicians alike publicly divided over some of the most over-the-top sexist/homophobic/violent lyrics since Eminem in his heyday.
I asked for Slug's thoughts on Tyler's album and the controversy surrounding it. Here are a few of his comments, followed by videos from both artists:
On Tyler, the Creator and N.W.A.:
"What he’s doing right now is basically no different than what Eazy-E did for me when I was 17 years old. If you go back and listen to the second N.W.A. record, all they do is bash gay people and bash women. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t agree with using those slurs — you know, there are certain words that I won’t use in my music, because that’s just not me, and I want to represent who I am. I don’t use those words in my dialogue, so why would I [in the lyrics]? But because this dude is making some music that’s kind of shocking and making you uncomfortable, you don’t just write him off for that. Because you gotta remember, part of why this music still exists is because it makes white people uncomfortable.
"Here's the thing, man, I listened to N.W.A. when I was a kid, I listen to that shit fucking religiously. I loved that group, those first two record. But if you go back and peep it now, they say the word fag all over that record, they say the word bitch all over the record, there’s fucking talk of rape on that record. It’s no different than what the odd future kids are doing now, the only difference is: You all got old. You all got old and you forgot what it was like to be 17. Now as a 17 year old, I was listening to that shit, but I didn’t grow up to be a piece of shit. What makes you think these kids are gonna grow up to be a piece of shit, just because they’re listening to music that pisses off their parents. Who didn't listen to music that pissed off their parents?"
On critics’ motivations:
"I feel like some of the backlash is just coming from jealous artists. And some of the backlash is just coming from writers who want to be seen as feminists, so that they can hook up and sleep with feminists."
On priorities and technique:
"Here we are in a time when people are active and more enlightened then they were twenty years ago, and they’re mad at this kid Tyler for his record. And they’re not even mad at him for the right reasons. You know, if you want get mad at art, don’t get mad at what the art’s trying to communicate. Get mad at the technique."
On the suggestion (mine) that Tyler's bass-heavy grooves and production are fantastic:
"It’s hard for me to call any production fantastic, just because I've seen behind the curtain too many times. But I will say that it’s innovative. And that’s all I can expect anymore, is that somebody does some shit that’s innovative."
On Odd Future’s future:
"I support Tyler. I support what he’s doing, and I support the Odd Future movement. Obviously I'm not the poster boy for an Odd Future fan. You know, I’m a little old and I don’t have the CD in my car right now, you know what I'm saying? But I’ve listened to the Tyler record, and I've heard the BlackenedWhite record [by fellow collective members MellowHype]. I’ve been paying attention. And I know it’s not for me. However, just because its not for me don’t mean that it doesn’t have its fucking merits, and I see all the merits in this movement. And not only that, but these dudes are so young that, if this is what they're doing now? Whoa, five years from now, they might be making some shit that’s fucking blowing the world away. Who knows? It’s like, give them some room to grow."