Patient Name: Tyler Okonma
Medical Record Number: 666-666
Request for Consultation of: Psychiatry
Reason for Consultation: Suicidal/Homicidal Ideation. Command Auditory Hallucinations.
Chief Complaint: “Kill People. Burn Shit. Fuck School.”
History of Present Illness: We are asked to evaluate this single, domiciled, tenuously employed 20 year-old African-American man for complaints of auditory hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, and homicidal threats following the release of his XL Records debut GOBLIN. The patient was in his usual state of mental health until Christmas Day 2009, at which time he self-released his debut record BASTARD. On the record’s self-titled opening track, the patient revealed that “[he] cuts [his] wrists because [he's] so depressed” and referred to himself as “Satan’s son.”
At this point, questions about Tyler’s mental health began to arise. The remainder of that record was filled with haunting piano-based beats and intricate rhyme-schemes and brought to mind images of the RZA after a 1-year stint in solitary confinement or Andre 3000 following an overdose of phenobarbital. It was also filled with evidence of homophobia, misogyny, and general misanthropy. There was talk of selling cocaine in church and holding sex slaves in his basement, and this was all by track 4.
Suffice it to say, questions were raised about the sincerity of Tyler’s words. A shrewd psychiatrist would have to assume that a level of deception and manipulation was present in such outlandish language, but he would be foolish to dismiss all of the disturbing content as contrivance. Tyler spent the next two years thriving off this confusion, as his hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All methodically burrowed their way into the popular consciousness. Through relentless touring, offensive tweeting, and frequent features in publications like Pitchfork, The Wire, and even the New York Times, Tyler and company have achieved near-mythical status in the music-geek community.
Such is the background for this week’s release of GOBLIN, the most highly anticipated (and certainly the most highly disturbing record) of the year, and the reason for this consultation. On hearing the record, many have found themselves concerned over Tyler’s safety, reality testing, and mental well-being. The record opens with “Goblin,” a conversation between Tyler and his (clearly ineffective and unprofessional) psychiatrist, Dr. T. C., on which Tyler threatens suicide, endorses paranoid delusions (“I’m getting these weird stares at skate parks and airports”), and again identifies himself as the devil. The following track, lead single “Yonkers,” has Tyler manufacturing crack cocaine, abusing Xanax, and murdering Bruno Mars; the song’s video looks on as Tyler ultimately ends his own life.
Tyler, the Creator – “Yonkers”
Of course, Tyler is in fact still alive, and where the duplicity ends and the frankness begins is the subject of this evaluation. Tyler spends the next several tracks submerged in a somewhat childish game of “look at me,” alternately identifying himself as vandal, voyeur, and vampire, until arriving at startling moment of sincerity in the song “Nightmare,” in which he states “I haven’t killed myself yet and I already want my life back.”
Tyler, the Creator – “Nightmare”
It is on this track as well that Tyler reveals to us the existence of “Tron Cat,” a hallucinatory figure who commands Tyler to perform reprehensible, often criminal acts. Whether evidence of true psychosis or transparent fraud, such a revelation requires a serious evaluation, as well as a more thorough examination into the details of Tyler’s history.
Past Psychiatric History/Past Medical History: All history based on lyrical content, Twitter feed, and news reports. Has seen a psychiatrist off and on since at least fifth grade, at which time he was found by teachers making lists of students in class that he “wanted to torture and kill.” Has been alternatively diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. Questionable history of suicide attempts/suicidal gestures as documented above. Also complains a lot about his asthma.
Medications/Allergies: Was previously on Ritalin but stopped due to interaction with asthma medication. Claims allergy to “garlic” on GOBLIN, although only in context of delusional soliloquy on life as Dracula:
Family History/Social History: There is little to go on in the public record by way of Family History. A large percentage of lyrical content is devoted to the emotional turmoil engendered by having an absentee father whom he has never met. In his own words: “I Have No Father, My Mother Was Single Parent Till I Was 15 When She Bounced Up North Without Me, I Taught Myself Piano At 14 And Started Rapping At 7 Because I Fucking Sucked At Sports.” Has consistently identified himself in interviews as a “weird kid” and “an outcast.” In “gifted and talented” programs while in secondary school; attended 12 schools in 12 years between Sacramento and Los Angeles. History of legal difficulties including recent arrest on day of GOBLIN‘s release, possibly staged.
Substance Use History: Has referred to himself as “straight-edge” on several occasions, a term that is apparently still in use. However, on “Tron-Cat,” does endorse “trading kids for Angel Dust” and snorting an unidentified substance called “Hitler’s Ashes.”
Tyler, the Creator – “Tron-Cat”
Mental Status Exam: Appearance/Behavior: 20 y/o African-American man appearing his stated age, dressed in white t-shirt, carrying a skateboard, tall, thin, restless. Motor: Significant psychomotor agitation. Speech: Loud, rapid, staccato. Mood: “Ending it is all I fucking think about.“ Affect: Labile. Thought Process: Ruminative (“How can I wake up on the wrong side/Of the bed, when I don’t even fucking have one?” or “Mommy was a living single queen…Why didn’t she get that abortion?“). Thought Content: Endorses suicidal ideation (“I’m just a teenager, who admits he’s suicide prone“). Endorses homicidal ideation (“Let’s buy guns and kill those kids with dads and moms/With nice homes, 401k’s, and nice ass lawns“). Endorses Command Auditory Hallucinations (“He tells me to do this shit that I don’t wanna fucking do: Tron Cat“). Endorses numerous grandiose and bizarre delusions (“I’m not even human, I’m a body shaped demon“). Insight: Superb. Judgment: Impaired. Impulse Control: Don’t ask.
Assessment & Recommendations: And so, we are left the question: Who is Tyler, the Creator? Musical savant? Cutting-edge comedian? Burgeoning sociopath? The question is a representation of one of the insoluble problems of aesthetics: can a man be separated from his art? Artists like Philip Roth to have spent entire careers trying to convince us that works of art cannot be viewed as proxies for the artist’s worldview, while others like Andy Kaufmann present themselves publicly as caricatures of their art, in the process rendering the question absurd.
This view, that an individual can create a moving and successful work of art entirely divorced from personal belief, has in fact been the one espoused by most reviews of GOBLIN thus far. Tyler is simply a typical adolescent who is amused by that which shocks or disgusts, and the listener simply betrays his ignorance when he suggests that perhaps we should all be a tad wary of a young man who seems a bit preoccupied with sexual slavery, necrophilia, and the dismemberment of corpses.
I would argue, however, that such a point-of-view is ludicrous at its core. This is not to say that Tyler is a bloodthirsty maniac or a venereal deviant; I doubt both very much. Rather, I suspect he is a thoughtful, intelligent, and preternaturally gifted 20-year-old who happens to be very, very angry. I suspect as well that he has his reasons for being so. Actually, I do not suspect these things: I am certain of them. For we are all nothing but the sum-total of our experiences and the emotions and drives they beget. And, sometimes, they beget hate. Hate is a powerful force, and it can make one do strange things, including attempt to force others to reciprocate the hate so that one can feel justified in the emotion. Much of Tyler’s language, rightly or wrongly, has and will force others to hate him. So, I say again: it is not all serious, but it is certainly not all a joke. All of it, every turn of phrase, is coming from inside this man Tyler Okonma.
But don’t take it from me; take it from GOBLIN. On this uncompromising and frequently brilliant record, we are introduced to two ancillary characters. One is Dr. TC, Tyler’s therapist; the other is Tron Cat, his remorseless Id. It does not take a PhD in comparative literature to point out that both figures, the healer and the hellbound, carry the initials “T.C.” Together, they constitute all that is Tyler, the Creator. He is far from a simple figure to analyze.
L.V. Lopez, MD, FP
L.V. Lopez is co-editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He has reviewed numerous records this year including entries from The Weeknd and tUnE-yArDs. The views expressed above are purely fiction and do not represent his own.