Features I by I 16.06.16

Flying Lotus doesn’t understand what “rape” really means

Yesterday Warp producer Flying Lotus likened rappers who “take advantage” of producers to rapists. Today, he’s taken that problematic language a depressing step further, arguing on Twitter with those who’ve pointed out the trouble with trivialising sexual assault. He ought to know far better, says Claire Lobenfeld.

Flying Lotus will not let go of his right to use the word “rape” to describe rappers he feels do not appreciate the role of the producer in the studio. Yesterday he tweet-ranted that many producers get “fuked with no vaseline” – a homophobia-adjacent reference to Ice Cube’s N.W.A. diss ‘No Vaseline’, which is funny because, you know, those are lyrics – and that “hella rap artists are rape artists.”

OK, so fine: maybe FlyLo had a point that some producers are not as recognized for their craft and contributions as they should be. His prime example here was Metro Boomin, whose beats for Future have elevated the Atlanta MC to rap A-lister status. I would argue that Metro Boomin is extremely famous in his realm and probably well-compensated. (Zaytoven, Sonny Digital and 808 Mafia probably are, too. None of these producers have co-signed FlyLo’s tweets.) To use the word “rape” is a numbskull thing to do, but to react to backlash for his use by calling people “pc [pussies]” is even more tone deaf.

We can all agree that this was dumb, right? He was using the word “rape” the same as when pirates “rape and pillage” a town, yes? No.

Today on Twitter, FlyLo responded to people who see the forest for the trees, who were asking him to pick another word. He wrote to one: “My art is like a sacred vagina, I’m very selective of who I let smash and prefer it not to be fondled inappropriately.”

That is not what rape means, dude. You can be selective about “who [you] let smash” until the day you die – if someone rapes you, it means they have committed an act of violence against you that you did not consent to. If you’re unhappy about the way a rapper treated you in the studio because you didn’t receive the credit you felt you deserved, that’s what we call a “bummer” – not rape.

In another tweet he writes: “U think I mean it as a joke ?Why should I downplay how I feel? I care about my art so much ! Look up the definition”

OK, we looked up the definition.

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Note: “plunder” means “steal goods from (a place or person), typically using force and in a time of war or civil disorder”; “despoil” means “steal or violently remove valuable or attractive possessions from”. Considering the modern prominence of producer tags (i.e. “If young Metro don’t trust you…”, “8-8-808 Mafia” and so on), despoiling and plundering do not seem to be going on here.

The point is that this is not about political correctness, it’s about seeing how the world really works. FlyLo was tweet-screeching for respect and essentially comparing the plight of a producer in the rap studio to that of a woman in the workplace (less pay for equal work, no recognition for ideas that get credited to someone else and so on). But then he flipped the script and used language that completely diminished the validity of his point because of its flippancy and inaccuracy.

If his goal was to be taken seriously by 4Chan users and that’s what keeps him warm at night, then he’s done everything right. But if he wants his fellow producers to band together to level the playing field for how they’re credited on a track, maybe point it out cogently without incendiary language that doesn’t put words in people like Metro Boomin’s mouth.



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