Saturday, July 30, 2011

21st Century Punk?

Posted by Angie Luvara, WASHINGTON, DC – No this isn’t about The Sex Pistols. I wasn’t even born back then. But perhaps in their spirit, I tend to say a lot of controversial things. I readily speak out about crooked police officers and government officials; inform people on the dangers of giant corporations like Monsanto spoiling our food; and constantly point out how our education and criminal justice systems are failing our youth. And in that essence of empirically-based discontent -- just like Sex Pistols --  I guess that my following words are controverial: “I like Odd Future.” (Oh, and, by the way, I'm not on drugs. In fact, as a 20-something year-old person with a Masters degree, I'm just expressing myself.)


Odd Future, a group of young people from California, are quickly rising in the ranks of the Punk/Rap music world. Simultaneously, they are developing a rather large conglomerate of people who are adamantly opposed to their music, art, fashion -- and actually; pretty much anything tied to them. They have rather cryptic lyrics — with references to devil worshipping and violence — and rather cryptic visuals to go along with them. The visuals include upside down crosses, and a music video for one song where the group’s infamous leader, Tyler, The Creator, hangs himself. While Tyler and other members of the group have explained that these lyrics and visuals are just artistic expression, the general public has been outraged (hey Tipper where are you now?).

But I like them. I think they are great artists, even though I have religious beliefs that are counter-intuitive to their lyrics. This makes me wonder about a bunch of things. For example, why is it that there is something about anti-religious music lyrics that makes most Americans uncomfortable, regardless of their belief system? I think Odd Future is making people feel uncomfortable about this for a very good reason. They refer to “666”, and use other satanic symbolism to raise people’s heads about hypocrisy.  In fact, Odd Future members have readily admitted that they don’t worship the devil – instead they are calling attention to those people who suddenly turn religious when references to the devil are being made.

Most important, however, Odd Future conveys a realistic view of the social issues that this country faces today. They talk about the things wrong with the education system, and have even written a song where the chorus includes a figurative phrase: “kill people, burn shit, fuck school.” They see how vapid the more popular musical genres have become -- and vividly describe how they would like to murder (again, figuratively) some mainstream artists (yo, auto-tune really needs to be used more sparingly). They also see things they don’t like about fashion, and therefore dress completely different. They see things wrong with hip hop performances, and thus perform more like punk rock artists—complete with stage dives, mosh pits, bloody noses, and broken bones. However, regarding that "punk thing", obviously no matter how controversial Odd Future may seem, they are clearly NOT The Six Pistols. Well, except for the fact that like The Sex Pistols, many find Odd Future repulsive even though the band has clearly reached disenfranchised "others". Likewise, let's not sugar-coat this: those "others" include people of all ages, from a variety of educational backgrounds, who have been screwed over by the "system". (Investment bankers do not apply).

Angie Luvara is a photographer and Managing Editor of Social Shutter, as well as a new Doctoral student in Sociology at Georgia State University. The images seen here are from the Odd Future show at the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, DC on May 18th. To see more images from this show and others, see her blog

1 comment:

  1. Hi Angie- Interesting post. A few thoughts here...
    First, I think the fact that you point out how they are describing a reality is important. This was/is often a charge leveled at rap bands and punk, that they were overly violent and negative, while they were often describing some of the things they saw around them.
    Also, do these guys use to term punk-rap to describe their work or is this your view of them? Others have in recent years appropriated the term punk for their music (the 2 I have in mind are Gogol Bordello and the Dresden Dolls). It's, indeed, becoming ubiquitous, not just in the music industry, but amongst those trying to distance themselves from that great big corporate machine in a variety of contexts. Punk might make sense here, if we push it past the "genre" label, into a state of mind that many punks see it to be. In addition, many punks pushed the boundaries of acceptability, not just the Pistols (bless 'em). Singer Siouxie Sioux, with her constant nudity and love of swastikas or bands like Fear Black Flag in LA spring to mind.
    Also, any thoughts on the controversy regarding the comments Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara made recently about this band (which frankly is how I heard about Odd Future). I noticed you mentioned some of their lyrics about violence and religion, but made no mention of homophobia or sexism, which Quin has the biggest problem with:

    And also, it's great to see more GSU grad students represented on the world wide web!