Despite wanting desperately not to, I’ve always found Eminem to be extremely witty. I enjoy mainstream culture and art much more than a radical ought to: I just appreciate displays of talent in some realms, even if the talent is in the service of a bad cause. Eminem is very unkind to women in his songs, especially his ex-wife and his mother, but also to women in general. He’s also unkind to queer folk. With people like Eminem, who have huge followings, there is always a question about whether or not they are actually pushing the envelope on sexism or heterosexism, or whether they are just reflecting what’s present in the culture. That’s a debate. I’ve always thought that Eminem, like most rap, isn’t more sexist than society in general, but it’s hard to say.
At any rate, I’ve always found his lyrics and rhymes to be clever and his flow to be good, and all this despite having good friends who are very good, serious, political rappers and rap fans and who have provided me with a very good diet of solid political hip hop, and that’s also knowing that his fame and his appeal to white audiences is partly because he’s white (he’s said as much: “I am the worst thing since elvis presley, to do black music so selfishly, and use it to make myself wealthy”). I’ve also found his work to be complex. There are many problems with the film 8 Mile, but I thought it showed a side of America and a city in the US (Detroit) that rarely gets shown, and it was even shown sympathetically at times. I was impressed, at any rate, at the depiction of how working and poor people created such a rich culture of poetry and expression in a place that was economically and culturally gutted as a matter of governmental and corporate policy. Maybe I’m stretching it a bit. But the truth is I wasn’t really surprised when I read (on Juan Cole’s blog of all places) that Eminem has a kind of antiwar song (or at least antiwar lyrics in one of his new songs, “Mosh”). You can watch the video here.
One thing that Eminem is full of that turns a lot of radicals off is hate. When he turns hate like that on a DJ like Moby, or his ex, it seems rather disproportionate. But when he turns it on Bush, it makes a little more sense. There are some things that ought to be hated, and wars and massacres are among them (Eminem’s antiwar stance is entirely America-centric, he wants the troops home, out of harm’s way — the video attacks evictions, tax cuts, lies, ‘intelligence failures’… but Iraqis don’t quite make it. He’s still way ahead of so much of the US population on these issues, even if he’s behind even Michael Moore).
What I mean is, like Moore, it’s not radical, but it is a positive development. Eminem has built his career on being vilified and attacked, sometimes by radicals and other times by authority figures, and so whatever reaction comes from the release of the song is unlikely to hurt him. The Bush people and the right use hate so often and so effectively that it’s nice to see a little of it directed their way.
Probably the worst part of the video is that Eminem leads the masses to VOTE at the end of it. Is that all anyone can do to reverse this disastrous course we’re on? Eminem refers to Bush as a weapon of mass destruction in the white house, and that’s fair enough. But there are others…