Too bad Michelle Obama didn't invite Tyler, the Creator and his California hip-hop collective Odd Future to the White House.
Conservative pundits would have had bona fide controversial rappers to rail against instead of Common, the nonthreatening Chicago rhymer who appeared at last week's White House poetry slam.
In a way, it's appropriate that Bill O'Reilly and crew had to overreach to tar a kinder-and-gentler rapper like Common as a would-be gangsta. Hip-hop and controversy just don't go together the way they once did. Oh, for those pre-9/11 days when the Western world had nothing worse to worry about than a sociopath named Eminem.
Since then, hip-hop's share of the slumping recording industry has shrunk, even as majordomos such as Jay-Z and Kanye West have become ubiquitous. The music is overdue for a shake-up from the underground.
In other words, it's been waiting for just the injection of anger, nihilism, and chaos - brought to your laptop and smartphone with marketing savvy - delivered by Odd Future, which plays the First Unitarian Church on Friday.
Odd Future's appearance, which sold out the church in record time, comes on the heels of the release of Goblin (XL ** ½) by Tyler, the Creator, the first album from the collective to come out on a proper record label.
And while the album by Tyler, a better than average rapper and impressively skilled producer, may not yet have answered the question posed by a Billboard cover story this year - "Is This the Odd Future of the Music Business?" - it entered that magazine's album charts this week at No. 5.
Tyler, 20, who sends out Twitter messages dozens of times a day, tweeted with astonishment: "50k People Paid Money To Listen To Me Bitch About Life And Talk Immature S- Over Repetitive Beats . . ."
He followed that up minutes later on a more vulnerable note: "It's So Many People Hating Right Now. Just Be Happy For the Kid For A Second . . .."
It was typical move for Tyler, an intentionally confounding character whose arresting single "Yonkers" opens with the pronouncement: "I'm a paradox - no I'm not." His debut is structured as an album-length, hour-plus therapy session, with the rapper voicing both patient and therapist.
Since 2008, Odd Future - that's the short version of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All - has been unleashing a torrent of digital content on the Web. Standouts among the music-and-skateboarding crew's group and solo efforts include Bastard, the 2009 debut by Tyler (last name: Okonma), and Earl, by the gifted, now 17-year-old rapper Earl Sweatshirt. His mysterious absence from the group in recent months is in large part the focus of a superb 8,000-word profile of Odd Future by Kelefa Sanneh in this week's New Yorker.
Goblin represents the peak (so far) of swelling interest in Odd Future, which Sean "Diddy" Combs called "the future of hip-hop" in March at the South by Southwest Music Festival. The album is loaded with unforgivably violent language directed at women and gays, including rape fantasies, that succeed in the aim to infuriate. It's about depression, suicide, and murder, mixed with complaints about how Tyler doesn't care for his grandmother's collard greens and would much rather be eating Hot Pockets.
It's occasionally interspersed with moments of near tenderness, as in "She" and "Her." At one point, the gravelly voiced rapper rhymes: "F- the fame and all the hype, G / I just want to know if my father would ever like me." While there are no concessions to pop, the album demonstrates its creator's surprisingly subtle beats, gleaned in part from obsessively listening to the hip-hop/R&B production team the Neptunes. He also cites Erykah Badu and Marvin Gaye as influences.
"Look Past The Lyrics, Most Of My Beats Are Really Pretty And Chill," Tyler tweeted this week.
That's easier said than done. And it's one reason why the delicately entrancing instrumental "Au79," which has none, may be the most enjoyable track.
But over the course of Goblin's hour-long length, the violent language gets to be too grueling to bear. It's particularly true on the eight-minute posse cut "Window." And the "Radicals" chant that starts with "Kill people!" is a painfully hackneyed attempt at provocation.
Despite Goblin's noxious content, both Tyler individually and Odd Future as a whole have largely been greeted as critical darlings, or at least as a current crush object of a media-industrial complex looking for new generation of rule breakers. (Comparisons abound between Odd Future and artistic stasis in hip-hop and Nirvana's upending the calcified rock world in the early '90s.)
What to make of Odd Future is a question of contentious debate. Sara Quin of the punk-folk duo Tegan & Sara wrote of Tyler this week on their website: "When will misogynistic and homophobic ranting and raving result in meaningful repercussions in the entertainment industry?" Tyler, naturally, responded flippantly, suggesting that he was sexually available to Quin and her sister (both lesbians) if they were interested.
That front of profane ridicule might suggest it's all a laugh in the Odd Future camp, where the world would be a less stressful place if all the haters would just chill. Elsewhere, though, Tyler can't help but reveal that the spotlight is already wearing on him. "Remember When Odd Future Was Just A Group Of Kids Skating And Making Music And Doing Funny S-," he tweeted Tuesday. "Yeah, I don't either."