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August 31, 2011  | by: Kyle Edwards

Drop the word “fa**ot” in casual conversation and you’re bound to get more than a few looks of disgust. Repeat the word 213 times in the span of an hour and you might just earn yourself an award.

It’s this little fact that has gay rights group GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) once again speaking out against Tyler, the Creator, the 20-year-old rapper who took home Best New Artist on Sunday at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards.  The organization is also criticizing MTV and its sponsors for allowing such a volatile performer to be included in the award show.

Tyler the Creator: Best New Artist

The rapper has previously been the target of criticism for frequent references to rape and violence against women. Just listen to the song “Tron Cat” from 2011’s Goblin, the lyrics of which I am terrified to repeat for legal reasons. While the artist has said on several occasions that his use of homophobic slurs and violent lyrics are not to be taken literally, the graphic nature of Tyler’s work has prompted responses from Sara Quin of indie group Tegan and Sara, as well as from numerous anti-violence activist groups.

Meanwhile, critics who write for Spin, Pitchfork, and The A.V. Club have lauded Tyler, the Creator for his revolutionary approach and tone. In songs like “Yonkers” or “She,” the listener is quickly sucked into a dystopia crafted by droning lo-fi beats, Tyler’s caustic delivery and shockingly dark imagery. His music is packed with more disillusionment than a Chuck Palahniuk novel – and in contrast with the current bubblegum-pop atmosphere (in which Katy Perry can overtake the King of Pop), his music re-extends the narrowing boundaries of what can be done with art. It’s not surprising that Tyler had earned a nomination for Best New Artist.

But the rapper undoubtedly skirts a fine line between shock art and hate-speech. Who knows? He may very well be using this ambiguity to generate buzz and boost album sales. Whether his work is truly art or just devilishly clever marketing, both supporters and detractors are feeding the flames. By attacking the VMAs, by nominating him in the first place (even by writing this article), we’re giving the kid exactly what he wants.

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