What are your thoughts on the Odd Future ban?

20:59, Feb 17 2014

What did you think of Odd Future being denied entry into New Zealand last weekend? I was asked to comment on it a few times in formal situations, as I'm sure many music commentators were. And then it came up in conversation over the weekend too. Often. In the one story where I was quoted I was simply asked to speculate on whether I thought it was possible that a New Zealand hip-hop group might attempt some more of protest over the banning action, including a cover versions, perhaps, of an Odd Future song. I spoke of the somewhat pointless, speculative approach, of being asked to comment on an event I wouldn't be attending that hadn't at that stage even happened. 

The man from the newspaper had his quote though, he was able to marry me up with a statement that yes, most likely this would happen.

I'd have liked to have been asked what I thought of their music - that's more important, that's why music commentators should have been called in; to point out that the band's music is, for the most part, an embarrassment, horrific, ghastly, stupid music, that is less about forming anything musical and more about framing juvenile attempts at hate-speech as shock-value taunt. But that, in the end, it's any one person's right to find that out for themselves in an R-18 environment.

I did sorta try that angle the last time I wrote about these goons, when they were banned from playing the Big Day Out a couple of years back.

Everyone I spoke to - or heard speaking about this issue this past weekend - seemed to speak of the "dangerous precedent" of banning this group on the grounds of, well, a mixture of ideas relating to stances that seemed to be being taken because the group's lyrical content was misogynistic and/or homophobic and because the band had been seen as one to start riots, incite violence, generally cause trouble.

It was never made quite clear why these guys could not be allowed into the country when Eminem was allowed in. His music - somehow disguised enough (albeit thinly) to serve to the mainstream also espouses ideas of violence, homophobia and misogyny. People picked at the issue of race. A right-wing group didn't mind letting Eminem in - he is white!

Also one of the members of the group, Earl Sweatshirt, performed in Wellington and Auckland as recently as last month. That was really the reason I was asked to comment - I had attended Earl's Wellington show. The reporter wanted to know if I'd seen any controversial behaviour. The difference here, as I tried to point out, was that Sweatshirt was performing in a bar, at an R-18 concert. It wasn't an open-air all-ages event. But no, ultimately there hadn't been any controversy. Just a guy constantly reminding the audience he was a little drunk as if to justify what was, ultimately, an underwhelming performance - especially given he was the headliner of what had been, until he started, a dynamic and exciting triple bill.

It's not my job to tell you that you can't listen to Odd Future - I can give it a go, under the related angle of pointing out the music is often frighteningly unmusical; that the lyrical content is downright silly, beyond the fact that it promulgates rape-fantasy ideas, slut-shaming and all manner of ills that can get you unfriended on Facebook by any somehow selective-but-obsessive feminist.

But is it ever the role of one person - or one group, or one government - to tell you what you can and can't listen to. You shouldn't listen to it if you're a fan of good music. But that's different from not being allowed to listen to it. And no one deserves the power to tell you that you cannot listen to it, right? You shouldn't, as an intelligent and caring person, even want to listen to this. You shouldn't want to because the music is jarring and hideous. But you should be allowed to make that choice. As parents you should be letting your children make that choice or helping inform their decisions. But just as I can't tell one family what their children should or shouldn't be listening to no one else should be making that call either. Right?

I have been appalled at a Katy Perry concert - not just because I had to attend. But because I watched her miming felatio, the microphone bobbing in front of her face right in time with her singing about wanting to see "your peacock-cock-cock-cock"; the faces of the parents-as-chaperones looking like they found that, well, a little hard to swallow. But that's their choice - they take little Jenny or Ian or Sally or Timmy to the gig and that's what they get. Or they don't take them and risk whatever consequence their little ball of tween-delight will inflict on them. But it's not my call - or yours - to tell anyone else to attend a Katy Perry concert or not. They get to find out themselves if they and their children should be going. They can research ahead of the event. Or panic after.

When I was 12 years old, and my weekend detention for something I'd done wrong in school that week was to write out the school rules 12 times (a futile exercise that took about 90 minutes of my time as I recall) I sat in my room one Sunday morning and played Guns'n'Roses' Appetite For Destruction through twice. I was actually a little appalled as I honed in on the lines, "turn around bitch, I got a use for you/Besides, you ain't got nothing better to do/And I'm bored".

I didn't fully understand the intentions behind these lyrics, but it didn't sound nice. The music was thrilling and there was a danger to it that was part of the excitement - absolutely. Now you just hear it on any classic rock radio station. Maybe before lunchtime too. But my parents knew I was listening to that music. And they were okay with it. It wasn't for the  Government or anyone else to tell them, or me, that I could not listen to that.

It is up to us to decide for ourselves.

So, is this the end call on this?

That Odd Future should have been allowed in; should have had the chance to underwhelm with sad, silly taunts, with horrifying hate-speech? With whatever they had shoved down both barrels and ready to fire at their audience. That parents should know what kids are listening to? That parents who are listening to this should know to keep it from their children?

Because the alternative, what actually happened, the group not being allowed in, being banned, one protest group getting to speak louder than any other and "winning", is, well, Orwellian at best. And a whole other kind of frightening most likely. Is that the final resting place for this argument?

I'd like to know what you think.

But I'd certainly like to put across that if you have an opinion around the idea that the band should have been allowed in to perform and that people should be allowed to make their own decisions to listen to this nearly-music it does not mean you are in any way condoning the actions or thoughts of this band; you are not promoting rape or slut-shaming or misogyny or homophobia. You are not in any way part of their camp. You are just someone saying that you don't like the idea that anyone other than yourself gets to decide for you what you can and can't listen to.

Or does Odd Future go above and beyond and exceed any reasonable grounds here - surpassing any idea at all of what might ever be reasonable? Does that then make the decision to ban them, to make the country look like an out of touch backwater, justified?

There's been a lot of noise on this already. The event is of course over; the concert they were to play at was last weekend. But what do you think this ban means? Was it the wrong move? Or were you one hundred percent behind this ban?

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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