My second set of fieldnotes is dedicated to developing a deeper understanding of the motives (if any) behind Odd Future’s lyrical content. One of the most striking elements of Odd Future’s music is the often nihilistic lyrics. A lyrical analysis will not play a large role in my final ethnography; rather, I want to understand the lyrics as they relate to both their creators and their receivers. Although the members of Odd Future may not support the ideas expressed in their lyrics, we cannot expect that a chorus of fans chanting blatantly immoral lyrics has the same relationship to the text. The following excerpts from interviews highlight a few points:
1. Tyler the Creator and other Odd Future members sometimes use their negative lyrics as a sort of competition amongst themselves – who can come up with the grossest texts?
2. Odd Future suggests that texts can exist independent of motive or subliminal message.
3. The lyrics that are often cited as Odd Future’s most immoral are not thought out (as far as meaning), but are simply what popped into their heads.
§ Interviewer: Is there any territory that you guys will not touch lyrically because it’s off limits or it’s just too personal?
§ Tyler: Sudan
§ Interviewer: Anything?
§ Tyler: I don’t know. I don’t really set off to say… I just say the first shit that pops into my head.
§ Hodgy Beats: Our actions are really random and our thoughts are normally out of the ignorance and creativity that we have built up, so I know you guys think there’s some fucking subliminal messages behind everything we do. Well guess what, motherfucker? it’s not! it’s fucking not! we’re fucking human and we like art and we like creating shit!”
o Hodgy Beats: Well, it’s not really about Republicans. I mean, I don't care who I piss off by saying anything because most of the shit that we say, if it’s not us being sincere to ourselves, it’s probably us competing in the studio to see who comes up with the most disgusting verse or some shit. So, they can talk all the fuck they want to but they're not there when the music's created. So, I'm not worried about anything.
o Hodgy Beats: Oh hell yeah, hell yeah. That's why I think our music is so good. It's such a production. But a lot of, at our shows, the kids sing along to every fucking word so the lyrics must contain some type of catchy content or something that someone likes.
o Waka Flocka Flame: I’m sure you know people say y’all’s lyrics are dark or are negative. What do y’all think fans should get when they walk away from listening to y’all’s music?
o Tyler: Well, our fans relate to our music, but most of the time the people who say that our music is dark and weird and shit like that—it doesn’t relate to them so they judge it based on what shocks them the most instead of the whole project. So the fans walk away as fans who are relatin’ to the shit, knowin’ what the fuck I’m talkin’ about, and then the other people can just sit there and claim what we’re doing is dark and Satanist or other bullshit that I don’t even like readin’ about. Because I’ll be readin’ shit where peo- ple say, “He’s not lyrical, and rap is supposed to be lyri- cal and have passion,” and I’m sitting there like, “He’s rappin’ about his life and how he misses his brother [on the song “Nightmare” from Goblin]. How is that not passionate?” But I guess those people just don’t relate to anything we’re saying, so they’re quick to judge.
o Waka Flocka Flame: Do y’all actually do any of the stuff y’all talk about in your lyrics?
o Tyler: Well, I don’t rape chicks . . . I have punched a girl in the eye . . . Um . . . What else? I say a lot of shit and it just depends . . . Sometimes it’s just ’cause shit is funny.
o Waka Flocka Flame: Is there something deeper behind it? What do those images mean?
o Tyler: Well, a lot of people think that stuff is deeper than it really is. Some people just think too much. Like, my manager knows I wanna be a video director, so he was like, “Hey, just write a video, write the treatment for it, and we’ll shoot it.” So I was like, “All right, fuck it. I’ll eat a cockroach, I’ll throw up, and then I’ll hang myself . . . It’s, like, no subliminal messages or secret meanings or anything. I just personally think the shit would look really cool, so I did it. I just like doing shit that I think is cool, and people happen to like it, so I’m pretty, like, fortunate for that. So I’m gonna just continue to be myself and do what I like. Again, people are just so quick to judge shit ’cause they don’t understand it. But I understand what I’m doing, and that’s all that should matter.
My next step, one that I am struggling to accomplish, is to find more fans of Odd Future and examine their relationships to the group’s lyrics. The main hurdle will be the issue of diversity – the fans that I currently have access to are students at Brown, who might not be indicative of the greater Odd Future fanbase.