The ten most important lines on “Goblin”
The wonderful thing about Odd Future is that they serve as a refreshing counterblast to the staid hip-hop landscape that we are currently enduring in hip-hop in 2010. One could easily argue that if B.O.B. and Wiz Khalifa are Pink Floyd or Emerson Lake and Palmer, then OFWGKTA are certainly the Sex Pistols in 76. And one wouldn’t have to stretch too far to picture Tyler The Creator as the John Lydon of the operation, its figurehead and its one true poet. After “Goblin” leaked earlier this week I knew there would really be no other way to pay tribute to this album, this man and this movement than by throwing out my ten favorite lines from it and explaining what they mean to me and to the future of rap.
1. “Storming through the party like my name is El Nino” (“Tron Cat”)
It’s a shame that some of my fellow feminists have focused on the shock aspects of Tyler’s lyricism, because as well as being almost Brechtian with his desire to offend he’s an amazing wordsmith: the idea here being that not only is he “El Nino” in the sense that he’s a destructive force, but he’s also “El Nino” because he’s just a teenager, a powerful young attack weapon for the 2010s going forward.
2. “Crashed my own house party cuz nobody came” (“Her”)
Is it fair to call “Goblin” the first post-Twitter rap album? In these days where the future generations socialize online rather than in real life, the idea of a person of color being forced to destroy their own house party due to the walls we’ve set up for them meaning that nobody turned up is particularly potent.
3. “I’m not the one you thought you knew back in high school/ Never going, never showing when we had to” (“BSD”)
A teenage kick against the establishment and against the notion that only white middle class males can make great music. “Never going, never showing when we had to” could almost be the one true rallying cry for those of us who campaigned in the streets against David Cameron’s cuts. For more on this topic please read the writings of the amazing Lawrie Penny.
4. “Attention that we crave, don’t tell us to behave/ I’m sick of always hearing ‘act your age’” (“Analog”)
Marco Tulio Giordana may have promised us the best of youth but Tyler isn’t afraid to give us the worst of it as well. This line starts off as “The Great Rock N Roll Swindle” condensed into nine words, but then the curtain is revealed and again we’re dealing with a disenfranchised generation. Is it fair to call “Goblin” the first post-FourSquare album? We know where our friends are at all times, but we don’t know where our hearts lie.
5. “You don’t know us at all/We laugh when old people fall/But what do you expect with a conscience so small?” (“Tron Cat”)
Is it a coincidence than an album like this leaks in the week of the Tomlinson court case? But again, Tyler isn’t so much talking about himself on this album as he is talking about the millions like him. And, again, in the week in which Bin Laden was deposed are we not all “laughing when old people fall”? “Goblin” is maybe the album that installs a mirror app on our iPhone and allows us to truly look at ourselves.
6. “We like having fun at other peoples’ expenses” (“Window”)
Is it fair to call “Goblin” the first post-4Chan album? One may be even moved to term it /b/rechtian. But again, who is really the victim in having fun at other expenses? Many would argue it’s the perpetrators themselves, the lost generation who know little else other than nihilistic rage and “Dirty Sanchez” repeats on Viva.
7. “Don’t count on me, cuz I’m not listening” (“AU79”)
A perfect deflation of the “youth’s speaker” position Tyler has been festooned with by MSM journalist, and yet by simply refusing to listen to all young people, he is listening to them all. Can also be seen as a statement on the decrease of physical media in recorded music.
8. “Back-packed and I don’t give a shit about nothing” (“Golden”)
Tyler has always been open about his admiration for and his influence from Company Ox, and for the first truly original rap album since “The Cold One” it’s only apt that he pays specific homage to the backpack movement of the late 1990s. Indeed, using “backpack,” traditionally a derogatory term, in an empowering way like this is reminiscent to how many people of colour use “the n word.”
9. “I like my songs with distortion/to drink in proportion” (“Goblin”)
Again, for the first true band to represent the spirit of 1977 since 1976, they would love their distortion. It’s very unlikely to be a coincidence that this album is released in the year of the royal wedding, a specific vector to “Never Mind the Bollocks” getting released during the Silver Jubilee. Tyler may have appeared on the cover of the NME saying he “didn’t give a fuck about the royal wedding”, but maybe Kate Middleton has more to be worried about from him than vice versa.
10. “The dentist said my mom should have had an abortion” (“Yonkers”)
I think it’s only fair we round the countdown off with its Andres Serrano moment, and indeed if the discourse of OFWGKTA must comment on misogyny and shock then at least we can give them the dignity of referring to a time when Tyler “turns the gun on himself” as it were, and uses these tools for self-flagellation. It’s arguably the most shocking line in music since Ice Cube said “Visions of swastikas in my head…. China girl, just you shut your mouth” in “Black Korea”. And yet… are we not aborting this generation? If the dentist represents the white ruling classes, and indeed it is hard to think of a profession with less non-whites than dental health, then of course he’d have wished an abortion on Tyler. For Tyler to turn that into a bullet on himself and the wider world is simple genius.