Rapper ignites free speech talk

Leah Devorak | Layout Editor

Rapper Tyler Okonma – better known by his stage name Tyler, The Creator – announced in several tweets last week that he would be cancelling the United Kingdom portion of his world tour due to “circumstances” that were beyond his control.

Eventually, Okonma came forth with the real reason behind the cancellation: British Home Secretary Theresa May officially banned him from the U.K. for the next three to five years due to offensive lyrics found on his debut album “Bastard,” which dropped back in 2009.

According to the British Home Department’s letter to the artist, Okonma’s music on the album “encourages violence and intolerance of homosexuality” as well as “fosters hatred with views that seek to provoke others to [commit] terrorist acts.” This in turn gave the home secretary the right to ban Okonma, for the good of the public.

But why on earth do they care about whether or not Tyler, The Creator writes prim, proper and morally-sound lyrics?

It’s mere fact that Okonma’s songs are dangerously explicit. Reading over even just one of them proves that.

But even though his words can be repulsive at times, it doesn’t mean he should have been banned for them. The actual ban itself should be more offensive than even his worst lyrics, and that’s because of what it says regarding freedom of speech and general censorship.

As an American journalist, it’s safe to say that for me, having freedom of speech is like having air to breathe; without it, I can’t survive. So this, a case of someone being banished for simply saying what’s on his mind, is beyond disturbing.

Sure, different countries have different morality laws. But that doesn’t mean Okonma’s ban was justified, especially when artists like Nick Cave and Eminem – who write in the same exact manner – have always been welcome in that area.

Which then brings up this: The U.K. decision is not the first time Okonma has been denied entry to a country due to the apparent homophobic, misogynistic and violent nature of his work.

According to Radio.com, both the New Zealand and Australian governments banned Okonma earlier this month due to adamant campaigning by the feminist group “Collective Shout.” The group claimed that if the governments were “serious about addressing the scourge of violence against women,” they needed to take action urgently. And they did, through banning.

In this world, a very finite number of things exist that deserve banning, for even in the worst, there’s still something good to be learned. This means that, as bad as some of Okonma’s lyrics are, they still have some lessons to show.

While it may seem like it at first, Okonma isn’t just hating on various groups of people for no reason at all. According to him, he’s not even hating to begin with. As Spin Magazine reported, when Okonma writes his lyrics, he says he’s “just having fun.”

Now while that’s definitely true, there’s still also a bit more behind them than a young adult running his foul mouth for kicks. Rather, that foul mouth is expressing an even fouler reality – one that millions in this country are forced to live each day – whether he realizes it or not.

Instead of being homophobic and terror-inducing as May said, Okonma’s lyrics are the real thoughts and laments of an average, inner-city, fatherless child; life for him growing up was crude, raw and vulgar, and so his music is of course the same way.

Sure, there’s probably kinder terms to use in Okonma’s songs, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be heard the way they are by those who’d like to listen.

Just because someone speaks crudely doesn’t mean their words should be eradicated from the earth. As John Milton once wrote, “Let [Truth] and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”

In other words, the vast majority of people aren’t so stupid as to promote wrong because they already know what’s right. If Okonma’s lyrics are truly as bad as May says, then the public will eventually stop listening. But until then, if the public wants to hear, let them – for how else can they know what’s good if they’re never also exposed to what’s not?