One of the biggest headlines to come out of SXSW was the arrest of Tyler, the Creator, who allegedly incited a riot during his show Thursday. It was a weird week for the Odd Future leader, whose set at the Mohawk the previous night was canceled following the tragic car crash that transpired outside the club, precisely where many of his fans had been waiting. So it would be understandable to think that Tyler might have headed into Thursday’s show wanting to forget the horrific events of the previous 18 hours, with which he was involved by simply agreeing to do his job. He wil’ed out Thursday in attempt to leave behind Wednesday’s tragedy, but in doing so he nearly caused another.
As CBS News reports, Tyler encouraged those waiting outside the at-capacity venue, the Scoot Inn, which holds nearly 1,000, to force their way inside. “All y’all outside the gates, y’all push through!” he said, adding, “just run in right now … do it, let’s go,” according to Billboard. He repeated himself as venue staffers blocked the way. AP reports that one bartender had to protect one woman from the thrust of the crowd. It goes without saying that opening the doors to an already packed venue can be disastrous, as can encouraging fans to crush up against a closed door. Anyone who cared about the welfare of their fans would urge them to do no such thing. Not Tyler, though — he paid the $25,000 bail, was released from jail, and headed unrepentant to Dallas for a sold-out show.
The word I kept hearing thrown around in Austin by Tyler apologists was “kid” — as in, Tyler, the Creator is a kid, he doesn’t know the full power of his words and actions quite yet, etc. I’m calling bullshit. Not only is he 23 years old, he’s gotten heat for his antics consistently in the three years since Odd Future broke in the mainstream. In fact, I think Tyler knows better than anyone the potential of his actions, having seen the repercussions time after time — and banking on how much of a splash he’s guaranteed to make every time he opens his mouth.
Just last month, Odd Future were banned from New Zealand, where they were scheduled to play Eminem’s Rapture Festival. This decision was influenced heavily by a 2011 Tyler, the Creator in-store at Boston’s Newbury Comics, where he and other OF members urged fans to attack police officers, ultimately leaving one injured. Odd Future’s manager, Christian Clancy, defended the group when the New Zealand decision came down, claiming, as the AP writes, that “they were young at the time and were being judged too harshly.”
Tyler was 20, and Odd Future had been in existence for nearly five years by the time the Boston incident happened. We as a musical community give him props for his artistic talents, for all he’s managed to accomplish (three solo albums, sponsorship deals, an impressive and impressively creepy portfolio as a music video director). And yet there’s still a belief floating around out there that he’s enough of a dumb kid to yell fire in a crowded theater, essentially. That’s insulting to his intelligence, frankly, and to the intelligence of all the 23-year-olds in America who manage to get through the day without inciting riots.
Tyler’s not dumb; he’s selfish. He knows what he’s doing, and he knows how dangerous it is — chaos is his brand, and he serves his brand above all. This sort of thing is and has always been part of his act. This isn’t some teachable moment à la Bieber. This time it just happened to land him in jail. How punk. I bet he’s psyched.