Eminem and Iraq

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…

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

5 thoughts on “Eminem and Iraq”

  1. Eminem’s approach to lyric
    Eminem’s approach to lyric writing has changed over the last few years. Critics have attacked him for being homophobic, sexist, and at times racist. For many eminem fans these claims show just how unwilling the public is to confront these issues. Eminem’s early writing portrays characters or problems in society. To many, this seems to be eminem’s view or stance on the issues. I see this work as his way of getting people to draw a strong opinion, whatever it may be. He is not so much taking sides as artistically demanding the audience to acknowledge these issues.

    His more recent work has been far more direct. The video “mosh” is the strongest stance he has ever taken with his commentary on society. While I really appreciated his approach with his earlier work where he lets the audience draw an opinion, the subject matter of his more recent work deserves a clearer more direct stance.

    I believe eminem’s choice to once again put his career on the line (though isn’t it always, or is that what makes him so attractive) comes at a time when pop culture is desperately trying to escape suffocation. To show that art is a tool for the people may be eminem’s gift to the pop world.

    Considering the context, “mosh” is extremely radical. Even for those of us who think that more could have been said, the imagery used in this video implied a lot more than was spoken. These signs and symbols showed an awareness of a radical “culture” with out actually verbalizing it.

  2. I watched the video a couple
    I watched the video a couple more times and I agree. It’s stronger than the song. The racial profiling, evictions, interposed with the tax cut. The animated ridiculing of Bush. And the opening scene, vintage Eminem (same as the “Stan” video), where he is facing a wall full of clipped articles and driving himself into a rage. Thanks for the comments.

  3. I’ve enjoyed eminiem since
    I’ve enjoyed eminiem since his cd “the eminiem show”. I also defended my enjoyment of his music. The song “white america” on that album -for which there is also a GNN video- which you quoted, is a direct attack on white america for the blinders it wears when looking at society.

    I think Slim Shady is getting radicalized -maybe that’s hopeful, or stronger than his shift has actually been, but at the least he’s been politicized. Just the act of having GNN make his videos is quite progressive.

    Your blog about this issue was great and I think progressives and radicals should open up to eminiem.

  4. I don’t know much about
    I don’t know much about Eminem’s music but I strongly recommend Eric B and Rakim for some socially conscious rap music ( at least several songs on Don’t Sweat the Technique).

  5. Eminem’s lyrics
    The only Eminem’s song I like is The Real Slim Shady , everything else, as for me, is not worth my attention. Frankly speaking, the main reason why I hate Eminem’s music and lyrics in general – is the abundance of F-words. Have you ever imagined hip-hop or rap without any f-words, without offensivenes? Imagine a person, who invented pure rap-style preserving music-rythm and leaving out all dirt. That person would be a genius. But Eminem is just a not self-contained person.

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