Published Sep 01, 2015Controversial rapper Tyler, the Creator made headlines recently when he was banned from the UK for three to five years when the British government took exception to the lyrics from his albums Bastard (2009) and Goblin (2011). Now, the (former) Odd Future leader has shed more light on the situation.
Speaking with The Guardian, Tyler called the UK government "followers," saying that they banned him in response to the Australian protests that recently led him to cancel a tour Down Under. There's no appeal process for the ban, and the decision is reviewed every three to five years. He suggested that this could lead to other people getting banned from the UK, arguing, "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? 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?"
He also shared this long account of getting stopped at the border when attempting to enter the UK:
Monday was one of the shittiest days I've ever had. 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, and four were from Bastard songs and one was from "Tron Cat." I never perform those songs. 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, and [it said] some other stuff. I'm just like, one, none of that is true, and two, I was here seven weeks ago. I rented out a movie theatre for a show. I did something really awesome, and it was no problem.
All year, I've been renting out movie theatres around the world to show my favourite movies. I just did Amsterdam, and we showed Moonrise Kingdom. In London, we rented out a movie theatre and watched Napoleon Dynamite, then we played a show and had a little pop-up shop. It was really cool. Then me reading [why I couldn't come to the UK], it was like, yo? What the hell?
Now [the UK government] are just followers. Everyone is a follower, just following what other countries are doing. Now I'm getting treated like a terrorist. I'm bummed out because it's like, dude, I'm not homophobic. I've said this since the beginning. The "hating women" thing — it's so nuts. It's based on things I made when I was super-young, when no one was listening [to my music]. Like, I wrote "Blow" when I was reading about different people in American history. One of the people happened to be [the serial killer] Ted Bundy, and I wrote a song from his point of view.
The thing that irks me about it is that the paper saying I am denied entry to the UK clearly states that these songs were written from [the perspective of] an alter ego — which means they obviously did some research on these songs that they're detaining me for. So the argument is right there! This song is written from an alter ego — I'm not like this! You could watch any interview and see my personality, see the guy I am. I wouldn't hurt a fly.
When the Australia thing happened, I was like, "Wow, OK." Then the UK thing happened, and it's like: 'OK, this is not funny any more — this is actually wrong, from a moral standpoint. Now [threats against] freedom of art and speech are at hand. And because of this, it's opening a door for anyone to be banned.
Regarding the exact nature of the government's opposition to Tyler, The Guardian revealed that the rapper was sent papers identifying the songs "VCR," "Blow," "Sarah," "Tron Cat" and "French" as problematic. These apparently violated a set of 2005 guidelines to block terrorists from entering the country. The papers read:
The home secretary has considered whether, in light of this list, you should be excluded from the UK on the grounds that your presence here would not be conducive to the public good. The home secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviour by making statements that may foster hatred, which might lead to intercommunity violence in the UK.
Read Tyler's full interview here.