Tyler, the Creator- “BastardÛ
Yeah, sure, it starts off with a satanically low-voiced doctor offering counsel, and the lyrics aim to kill with shock. The originality factor of these conceptual elements is not the highest, but please, please don’t write this off as another Eminem-drenched horrorcore rip off.
The joke (if you think it’s funny) is on us because Tyler, then seventeen, had probably heard the exact words of the song’s therapist directed towards him in the actual world, one as twisted deep down as this album’s lyrics. We are conditioned to assume (especially by the aforementioned Shady) that the most disturbing rap lyrics are fabrications written only for attention. What makes this song important is its reality.
The references to self-mutilation, drug abuse, and patricide may be exaggeratory, but their source is not. Tyler, younger than any of us, has internal demons that corrode his mind and soul- “somebody call the pastor, this bastard is so possessedÛÛ_ A line revealing not only in its antichristlike identification but the point of view; not Tyler’s but that of an outsider deciding what to do with him. The alienation of this fatherless high school junior is a feeling that is not often found in our relatively privileged lives, not imaginable for us amid a storm of midterms. The first time I heard this song I was already a year older than Tyler was when he recorded it, but his prematurely gravelly speech taught me levels of the emotional spectrum that I hadn’t known existed.
But even the lyrics, however amplified their torture seems, can’t express a feeling beyond expression. Consciously or unconsciously, Tyler put his despair into the music. No beat, just a piano. And while small synth stabs tiptoe with the sick glee of Tyler’s own twisted humor across the barren sonic landscape of “Bastard,” their spiky refrain cannot mask a warbling, phasing electronic note that sounds like fear itself shivering through the track. And underneath it all, piano chords, born of hours of playing alone, simple chords of destructive significance. The excess of Tyler’s lyrics is playful at times, and on other tracks he shows a more lighthearted side, but these chords give him away. In a world of hidden motives and half-masked ironies, Tyler’s hands play a truth.
The quiet sound of these chords echoes like the inner chamber of a human heart. They speak of long, long periods of loneliness and agony, the agony only a fatherless child feels. Beauty like this is born only of suffering. Does this mean that without the terrible reality of a seventeen year-old without a dad, these chords would have never come to be listened to?
I feel guilty for listening to this song. For loving the music and feeling my nervous system accelerate when I hear Tyler’s lonely, lonely chords. Because the sounds I love are products of Tyler’s father’s absence. I have to wonder if the creativity in Tyler would have been catalyzed in such a way had his father still been home. Do we need suffering to gain beauty? A world without the creative minds of the suffering would be a world missing its most beautiful art, significant literature, poignant music. Indeed, culture owes many of its greatest triumphs to the struggles of tormented artistic minds. When creativity loses its status as an outlet, it frequently loses its power. Can I forgive myself for fundamentally supporting suffering by loving its products?
My rationale is this: through this crumbled window of impossible depth Tyler makes his pain relatable and thus relinquishes a portion. He traps it in sound waves, audible frequencies, physical constructs, removing it from his own heart and channeling it into something that can influence others, such as me, to reexamine their own lives. This song is Tyler’s defiance, his heroism and his ability to fill at least part of the void his asshole father left with new life.
To love the creations of suffering is not to love suffering itself. It is to love our only way of leaving suffering behind.
By Jesse Paller