This week for Throwback Thursday, I share my theory on how Tyler, the Creator represents the unique voice of our young people and how it's filtered through the media with the Chicago Public School system as an segue. Seeing is believing!
Tyler Grows Up
Over the weekend, aside from reppin’ Louisville in the NCAA Final Four, I took the liberty of checking out Tyler, the Creator’s latest release, Wolf. Like his previous albums, you see Tyler going through a metamorphosis as he retells his adolescent hardships in the most honest, provocative way possible. Some issues include bullying (Pigs), unhealthy relationships (IFHY), and the difficulties of being a young celebrity (Colussus). Wolf also features multiple personas, Wolf & Sam, which are relevant to the stories told in the album. The most outspoken of the two is Sam and although this isn’t the first time Tyler has used him as an alter-ego.
Despite Tyler’s youthful references, the maturity level of the album is noticeably different from his previous works. Before it seemed as if he was just ranting about his problems--yelling and screaming like a little kid (Y’all remember Tina, right?). Not to say that those songs were not as profound, but it took a couple laps in order for me to take in the substance and understand what he was trying to say.
This time around, Tyler seems more methodical and strategic in terms of his delivery. It’s almost like that moment you heard Earl Sweatshirt on Super Rich Kids after his extended hiatus. He was almost unrecognizable because of his relaxed tone and lyrical depth. Again, this is not to say that his previous lyrics weren’t substantial, just that the new Earl wasn’t anticipated. I guess the therapy sessions from Goblin paid off in Tyler's case.
The song that struck out to me in this light was 48, a song about Sam’s thought process as a young drug dealer and how his guilty conscious gets the best of him. In addition, the song includes a sample of Nas’ interview with Tyler in XXL’s November 2011 issue in which he spoke on his involvement with drug dealing and how he “just couldn’t stand it.”
It’s interesting to note Sam’s (Tyler’s) awareness & accountability throughout the track. Despite the fact that he knows he is ruining people’s lives, he doesn’t make any efforts to get out of the game because that’s the only way he knows how to survive.
At the end of the first verse, he says:
The hustle and hunger, all I wanted was a cheeseburger/And a little chain, tuck, didn’t realize this game fucked up some lives/“Oh, how’s mine?” -- my conscience eats it up all the time/But other than that I’m fine, I got a little money in my pocket
Another instance of this awareness is in verse two where he mentions the potential success of his victims if they weren’t addicted to crack:
She could have been a doctor, nigga, I’m sorry/Could have been a actor and won that Oscar, said, I'm sorry/I sold that soap and I killed black folk, I’m sorry/But I got a nice car, put my sister through school/While my momma all cool, I'm sorry/I'm in too deep and I can’t see the shore, I'm sorry
As RapGenius explains it, Sam just “got in the game just to get a little extra cash, possibly for the occasional cheeseburger, and jewelry,” the simple things most young people want. Although he is now realizing the error of his ways and the consequences of him dealing cocaine, that doesn’t stop him from dealing because it IS still extra money he didn’t have before.
He even apologizes for his dealing in hopes to make amends for being a crack dealer. In the end the struggle for the almighty dollar becomes the method of survival and the addicts are just pawns in his system--the REAL American dream.
Take Care Of 'Dem Kids
In terms of the album as a whole, most of the songs brought back nostalgia from my high school days when the hardest decision I had to make was whether or not I felt like standing in the lunch line or which duffle bag I would take to volleyball practice. Still, as much as I would like to relive my glory days as a high school student, I would never want to do it all over again. At least not in 2013, that is.
Of course the main reason is my freedom as an adult. I do what I want, whenever I want for whatever reason. More importantly, however, there are a lot of things kids go through today that weren’t factors when I was in high school. Times have changed. Better yet, times have gotten worse.
On the surface it may seem like we are making progress towards a better future for our young people--more of our children are going to college, there are seemingly more avenues for our children to learn and the democratization of information via the internet has made it easier to have access to knowledge. Similarly to how Tyler has unexpectedly matured since his first release, our young people are smarter than ever before. Yet, this album also shows how we aren't doing all we can to make sure our children are growing up in safe learning environments, nor are we encouraging their aptitude for knowledge. Instead we are creating deferred dreams and defeatist mentalities that eventually lead to dropouts, juveniles, and failures.
Take for instance the mass school closings in Chicago that were announced last month. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Public School district announced late last month that it is planning to close 54 schools in hopes of improving outcomes for students who are enrolled in these failing schools. The Tribune also reported that CPS approved a $14.2 million contract for Global Workplace Solutions to manage the inventory and moving needs at the closing schools such as new libraries, air conditioning, science labs and iPads.
While I give credit to CPS for wanting to provide quality schools for it’s students, there is very little discussion around the emotional well-being of the students in question. In addition to attending a school outside of their element, these kids have to aspire to its expectations which may not have been encouraged in their old school. In addition, there is the concern of an increase in gang violence associated with the school closures, which means their lives are on the line. You can tell from the video above that our youth are indeed aware of the situation at hand and the consequences associated with them. They know the injustices surrounding them and like Sam are aware of their impact. However, similarly to Sam's desire to maintain the system, we continue to perpetuate the injustices affecting our children and silence them as if they were crying wolf.
Lyrics By RapGenius