Tyler, the Creator: “There are neo-Nazi rallies, and I can’t come there because of some bullshit song?”

A time old argument has been thrown into the public spotlight lately for more than a few reasons. Namely, the dilemma of free speech. Most recently, it has been championed by Tyler, the Creator, who was barred from entering the UK for 3-5 years based on the offensive lyrics he wrote early in his career. The artist has also been banned from entering Australia and New Zealand.

Tyler spoke with The Guardian in a recent interview about being held at British customs and treated like a terrorist by border control:

“Monday was one of the shittiest days I’ve ever had,” the rapper said. “I was in a detention room; I felt like a criminal. And then [a Border Force officer] showed me lyrics from songs… literally, a paper with five lines of lyrics…

“Thirty minutes later, the guy comes in, he gives me a paper, and he says, ‘OK, they’re not letting you in the country.’ The paper said I couldn’t come at all, saying that I support homophobia and acts of terrorism…

“I’m just like, one, none of that is true, and two, I was here seven weeks ago.”

The rapper slammed the UK for blindly following the lead of other countries and banning him for offensive lyrics he wrote years ago. He also made the extremely valid point that if rappers start being banned for their lyrics, why not other writers?

“What about the people who will make music in the next five years? Are they gonna get banned? Why don’t they ban authors? Writers who write these mystery books about people getting raped and sabotaged and murdered and brainwashed – why don’t they ban them?”

It does seem interesting that while 50 years ago a man could write a book that sought to understand, if not justify paedophilia, and be praised as one of the most important authors of his time (such as in the case of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita), but today, a rapper who writes lyrics which are deemed as homophobic and misogynistic is banned from three countries.  Of course the question of audience comes into play – Tyler has a dedicated and constantly swarming fanbase, as opposed to Nabokov, who, well, existed before Twitter. Some will thus argue that Tyler’s lyrics and incite action among his listeners – something they might not argue about Lolita. It also raises the question of where to draw the line. Should bigots, misogynists and homophobic people be permitted to run websites or write articles which promote their views? Should racists be allowed to have rallies and marches down public streets in Europe?

“There are rallies of neo-Nazis in parts of England, and then you’re telling me I can’t come there because of some bullshit song, but you got motherfuckers with swastikas rallying down the street actually promoting hate?

“This is only gonna open a door for other people to get banned. And then they’re gonna go after video games, and then they’re gonna go after movies, and we’re gonna live in such a sensitive world. It’s like the world is scared of everything…

“I feel like everyone is so sensitive to everything, and if they don’t like something it’s like: ‘Oh my God, I don’t like the colour yellow – let’s get yellow banned from every country, let’s sign a petition – let’s start a hashtag to make sure this colour is never seen, because I don’t like it and I don’t understand it’.”

Recently Australian supermarket chain Coles sparked a lot of controversy by banning the pornographic magazine Zoo Weekly from its shelves. Many came out against the ban, claiming it was the beginning of the end of free speech in Australia. I’d like to put in my two cents here and remind everyone that a) Zoo Weekly is still sold in other stores and online, and b) why should a magazine that promotes misogyny and violence against women be sitting in the shelves of a popular family supermarket? Why should five-year-olds have to look at degrading headlines and naked women while their parents unpack the shopping trolley?


The resounding point that Tyler makes is that his treatment seems completely unjustified and unfair. He isn’t the only rapper who has written bigoted lyrics, and moreover he isn’t the most extreme. In our efforts to create a society that is fair, we can’t start treating every human who expresses a controversial opinion as a terrorist. It doesn’t make them disappear, and as is made evident from the above, it sure as hell doesn’t keep them quiet.