One is a 25 year-old rapper of Odd Future fame and the other is a 69 year-old billionaire presidential candidate. Two people from very different walks of life, but what links them is that they’ve both been accused of inciting hatred through homophobia, racism and misogyny. Both individuals have also been considered by the British government for a ban on entering the UK. Tyler, The Creator was given one. Donald Trump was not.
Last year, Tyler was meant to be playing Leeds and Reading so in August he flew from France, where he’d been on tour, to the UK. He was stopped at the border and shown a piece of paper with five lines of lyrics from his 2009 mixtape ‘Bastard’ and 2011 debut LP ‘Goblin’.
He was told he had been banned from entering the UK for 3-5 years for – and this is a direct quote – ‘supporting homophobia and acts of terrorism’. Tyler said he was treated like a criminal and that all the lyrics they’d shown him had been written 6 years ago, when he was 18. He said he doesn’t write music like that anymore and he never performs it live. And he’s right. His lyricism seems to have calmed down over time, with more recent albums ‘Wolf’ and ‘Cherry Bomb’.
Tyler also made the fair point of arguing that the songs that had been picked out were all written from the perspective of alter egos. These are characters he created to tell a story which ran for several years. One of these characters was a psychotic Slim Shady character called ‘Wolf Haley’ who was inspired by serial killers from American history such as Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dharma.
Due to some of the language used in tracks from Bastard and Goblin, Tyler has often been labelled as a homophobe. An accusation he has always denied, pointing out how one of his best friends, former Odd Future member Frank Ocean is gay. He also said ‘he’d never hurt a fly’.
In a bizarrely similar situation in January this year, there was a debate in the House of Commons over whether Donald Trump should be banned from the UK on similar charges to Tyler’s. This came after an online petition to implement a ban had attracted over half a million signatures from British citizens. However, a 3 hour debate ended with no vote and the decision was left to the Home Office, who decided not to ban him.
The call for this ban came as a result of an extremely controversial presidential campaign, in which Trump has called Mexicans ‘rapists’, women ‘disgusting animals’ and proposed a ban on all Muslims in the United States.
So why was Tyler, The Creator banned from the UK for writing rap lyrics from the point of view of a character for the enjoyment of his fans when Donald Trump wasn’t banned for publicising his hateful and ignorant views on TV and radio broadcasts on the world stage?
Well, Donald Trump could be president by the end of the year and a UK ban could be extremely harmful to UK-US relations. And why do the government care if a few teenagers at Reading festival don’t get to see that American rapper they like?.. Tyler was an easy target, Trump wasn’t.
On the other hand, if you’re going to argue that Tyler should have freedom of expression and free speech as an artist, then shouldn’t Trump? No matter how controversial his policies and attitudes may be, should he have the opportunity to express his opinion?
I ran a poll on my Twitter asking who should be banned from the UK. Nearly 250 people voted in it and 59% said Trump and 3% said Tyler. 59 to 3. Not forgetting that 29% said both of them should be banned and 10% said neither.
I was quite surprised that so many people said that they should both be banned so I’m interested to hear what you think. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.