On Wednesday, Mountain Dew pulled and apologized for a commercial directed by Tyler, the Creator after it was called “arguably the most racist commercial in history,” by Dr. Boyce Watkins, a 41-year-old Syracuse scholar in residence. In the spot, removed from YouTube but still viewable at Gawker, a white cop urges a bruised white woman to identify her assailant in a lineup comprised of a goat and five black men, played by friends of Tyler’s including Trash Talk’s Garrett Stevenson and Odd Future’s Left Brain. The 60-second ad was the third in a series (in the first, the same goat attacks the battered woman, who plays a waitress), which Tyler, the Creator has suggested would have more than three installments, with its goat star eventually taking PCP in jail. Mountain Dew has not said whether or not they will release any more spots.
On Wednesday, Tyler’s manager Christian Clancy wrote on Tumblr, “This situation is layered with context and is a discussion that Tyler would love to address in the right forum as he does have a point of view.” The next day, the ad’s most vocal critic Watkins backpedaled, tweeting: “@fucktyler studied your music, I have an altered perspective. Still could do without the ad,but I think you were well-intended. #respect.” Now, in an interview with Billboard, Tyler addressed Watkins’ criticism.
Tyler expressed some disappointment that Watkins hadn’t spent time with his music before igniting the controversy, telling Billboard, “Dude, to keep it honest, a lot of black teenagers don’t even listen to my music, and then [Watkins] says I’m portraying that it’s okay to be a thug. Are you serious? All my music is about being awkward and not fitting in!” More from the interview:
…There’s no type of hate being portrayed in that work of art at all — which I’m confused by. But this older black dude, Dr. Boyce Watkins, I guess he found it racist because I was portraying stereotypes, which is ridiculous because, one, all of those dudes [in the line-up] are my friends….
It’s a black guy making this, and if it’s so racist and feeding into stereotypes, why in the first commercial that goes along with it, is there a black male with his Asian wife? In the second commercial, it’s a black male with a professional job as a police officer listening to hardcore rock music — which supposedly the stereotype is that black people don’t listen to that…
I look at it from [Watkins'] perspective. He’s an older black man. It’s a generation gap. He’s older than me. So the things that he had to experience with racism and stereotypes and being a black man in this country, is different from mine. I grew up in a generation where there’s white kids listening to rap and black kids playing hockey, breaking the norms and everything. He comes from a whole different state of mind when he sees that stuff. He probably was getting f—ed with by white people when he was my age. So for him to always have to break the [stereotype] of being a “black thug” when he was growing up, and for him to see that in a commercial, it probably hurts him….
But he has to realize that it’s a different generation now. He’s way older than me; he’s old enough to be my father. So I totally get why he would think that, but I also don’t understand why in life are you trying to point out the negatives. It’s a young black man who got out of the ‘hood and made something of himself, who’s now working with big, white-owned corporations. Not even in front of the camera acting silly, but directing it. I’m trying to be one of the directors. But instead of looking at the positivity from that, he’s trying to boycott Mountain Dew. Now that he’s doing that, not only is it messing up opportunities for me, but also maybe opportunities for another young black male who maybe looks up to me and wants to do that in the future. It’s ludicrous…
I don’t like saying this but I’m gonna put it as he would say it, as black men, finally coming out of a negative place whether it be our neighborhoods or whatever, and we finally get to get deals with these big, white corporations, and people like him wanna shut it down because something he didn’t agree with or something. It’s not fair that this always happen and no one tries to fight back. Like I finally made it up here, and you as a black man trying to put the black man down, which is what you’re trying to fight for. I don’t understand it…
It’s not gonna change my art in any way. I just hope that somehow, if it gets bigger or if it disappears tomorrow, that it just opens people’s minds up.
This morning, Watkins posted a long-winded, 22-minute response to Tyler’s defense on YouTube.