Tyler, the Creator Addresses U.K. Ban: ‘I Felt Like a Criminal’
Odd Future’s Tyler, the Creator recalled being stopped at the U.K. border and learning he had been banned from Britain in a new interview with The Guardian, saying, “I was in a detention room; I felt like a criminal.”
Tyler broke news of the ban last week and was forced to cancel a string of shows, including sets at the Reading and Leeds festivals. According to The Guardian, the letter the rapper received refers to Home Office policy on “behaviors unacceptable in the U.K.,” guidelines designed in 2005 to prevent suspected terrorists from entering Britain. The letter specifically quoted lyrics from Tyler, the Creator songs “VCR,” “Blow,” “Sarah,” “Tron Cat” and “French.”
The letter reads: “The home secretary has considered whether, in light of this list, you should be excluded from the U.K. 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 behavior by making statements that may foster hatred, which might lead to inter-community violence in the U.K.”
It later notes: “Your albums Bastard, in 2009, and Goblin, in 2011, are based on the premise of your adopting a mentally unstable alter ego who describes violent physical abuse, rape and murder in graphic terms which appears to glamorize this behavior.”
The rapper said a Border Force officer showed him a sheet of paper with five lines of lyrics from songs dating back to 2009, then added, ”Thirty minutes later, the guy comes in, he gives me a paper, and he says: ‘OK, they’re not letting you in the country.’”
During the interview, Tyler specifically took umbrage with the Home Office’s decision to ban him despite acknowledging his old lyrics were written from the perspective of an alter ego. “[T]hey obviously did some research on these songs that they’re detaining me for,” he said. “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.”
The U.K. is not the first country to ban the rapper following similar incidents and boycotts in New Zealand and Australia. The rapper claimed the U.K. were merely “followers at this point,” noting again that he’d been in the country, without incident, two months prior.
He also suggested that, like his New Zealand ban, the U.K. Home Office’s decision was rife with racial undertones. ”I was starting to think that they did not like the fact that their children were idolizing a black man,” Tyler said, quoting a lyric from “Smuckers” (off Cherry Bomb) about the New Zealand ban. “There were Caucasian parents who were not feeling that, so yes, they’re gonna sign a petition to make sure I don’t come and infiltrate their child’s brain. The fact that I wrote that shit in January and it pertains to right now is so fucking crucial, it’s crazy.”
Ultimately, the rapper said the ban was a hypocritical attack on free speech, positing that on the grounds he was banned, equally gruesome mystery novels should be thrown out as well. And — proving Godwin’s law again — Tyler noted that neo-Nazi groups in England, who actually promote hate, are regularly allowed to march.
“This is only gonna open a door for other people to get banned,” Tyler said.