Suppression of Freedom: Tyler, The Creator

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Tyler, The Creator has recently been banned from entering the UK – and you should care.

Anyone who listens to or knows of Tyler will know that his lyrics aren’t exactly soft-core. He is often fully in your face with abrasive, rude and offensive lyrics. But that’s just his style. In fact, it would be wrong to generalise his style as just that – he is much more than an offensive rapper, although a good number of his songs do take that route. Take, for example, on the song Answer, in which Tyler reaches out to his father who abandoned him at a young age. Although the songs reach a somewhat moderate level of offensiveness, the song is centred around his want for a father-figure in his life – a not-so “offensive” topic to cover.

It’s no surprise, however, that Tyler has often spouted lyrics such as… well, you can look it up if you want. Tyler has on many occasions cited Eminem as a huge influence of his, so the fact that a similar style of lyricism comes across in his music is to be expected. Tyler has been offensive – much like Eminem – but this does not, in any way, constitute a ban from entering the UK. Apart from the fact that the particular lyrics Tyler was banned for were from 2009 – yes, 6 years ago – which is a ridiculous reason to ban an artist in itself, banning an artist from performing solely in the basis of dark and abusive lyrics is a disgusting abuse of power, and a moronic disregard of freedom of speech.

Twitter has, of course, gone mad at all this. Calls for Tyler to be allowed in the UK have been made, and complaints have been proclaimed. The most prevalent topic of discussion, however, might well be the comparison of Tyler to Eminem. To put it bluntly – and, in some ways offensively (no pun intended) – Eminem is a white, incredibly successful, 42 year old rapper who has a history of offensive lyrics, ranging from murdering his then-wife Kim Scott, to the fictional tale of an obsessed fan killing himself and his wife. On the other hand, there is Tyler, The Creator – a black, moderately successful (in comparison to Eminem, anyway), 24 year old rapper, who has arguably, or perhaps not so arguably, less offensive lyrics than Eminem. However, I’d like to say for the record that the level of offensiveness is not a huge point here – it is, in fact, far from it. I don’t think it’s particularly important at all. What is important, however, is that fact that Tyler, a young black person, has been banned from entering the UK; whilst Eminem, a middle-aged white person, has only been banned from playing one show in the UK – at Hyde Park – in 2014. Is this because Eminem simply has more income and is more famous than Tyler, or is it because Tyler is a young, excitable black male? I think it’s a combination of both. Eminem has more power, he is wealthier, and brings in vastly larger crowds than Tyler does – but he is also white and older. It would be, in my opinion, silly to argue the fact that Tyler is black and Eminem is white – with the former being banned from entering the UK, and the latter being banned from only one show – as a coincidence. The Home Office has likely seen Tyler as a young, offensive black male, which – if recent events in our society has shown us anything about societal and cultural stereotypes – would have put Tyler in their bad-books instantly.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, “has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good,” according to the Home Office. I’m not sure whether Tyler’s presence in the UK would cause a riot, nor would it affect the “public good” negatively. It seems to me to be a simple abuse of power, restriction of freedom of speech and an underlying societal depiction of young black males as being more worthy of mistreatment than white males.

If Tyler was white, older and richer, would he have been banned? Probably not – if we take Eminem as an example, anyway.

Needless to say – both bans are inexcusably ridiculous occurrences; but one is undoubtedly worse.

Anoosh Djavaheri
Anoosh is the Scene Editor at York Vision.