Rap and Violence: The UK Bans Tyler, The Creator


On Wednesday afternoon, rapper Tyler, The Creator shed light on his reason for suddenly cancelling four concerts in the UK. In all caps, the Golf Wang leader tweeted:

Based on lyrics from 2009 I am not allowed in the UK for 3-5 years…that is why the shows were cancelled.

Tyler’s manager, Christian Clancy, continued the discussion on Tumblr. According to Clancy, the UK accused Tyler of encouraging “violence and intolerance of homosexuality.” The nation’s Secretary of State went on to claim his words “foster hatred with views that seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.” Clancy responded:

I grew up on NWA, Eminem, and Rage Against the Machine, so it’s hard to me to fully wrap my head [around] this thought process and its implications.

It doesn’t take much to realize that Tyler has quite the mouth. For example, in his hit “Yonkers,” he expresses his desire to stab Bruno Mars in his esophagus. Certainly, this suggests a penchant for violence, but then again, so do most other rappers including the ones we hear on the radio. Perhaps Tyler is just a little more straightforward about it.

Obviously “fostering hatred” is something a nation should fight against at all odds. However, choosing to crack down on rappers in particular is inexcusable and in a practical sense, not effective considering the fact that the lyrics in question are six years old. If the British government wants to avoid “provoking terrorist acts,” it needs to focus its attention elsewhere.

A study conducted by The Wire in 2014 suggests, contrary to the UK’s rationale, that there is no direct causality between hip-hop and violence. Writer Philip Bump begins his article by stating:

Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel once said that rising gun violence was a function of ‘hip-hop culture.’ Nope. If anything, hip-hop is saving America from crime.

The Wire paired FBI crime data with the popularity of hip-hop, as gauged by the Whitburn project, which has cited the top tracks each year since 1890. The study found that as rap became more popular, crime decreased.

At a glance, the study seems convincing, but we have to remember that no matter the direction of the findings, it is impossible to isolate hip-hop music as a single contributor to violence. In other words, causality between the popularity of rap and the prevalence of violence simply cannot be established.

With the recent theater release of Straight Outta Compton, which highlights NWA’s willingness to speak out against the police, the UK’s decision comes at an interesting time. Should this act be considered a step backwards or forwards? By no means should hateful words be propagated or supported, but the UK needs to reconsider the practicality and effectiveness of monitoring all music. In many ways, it just doesn’t seem feasible.