In his 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper last year, Eminem talked at length about his titanic comeback following drug abuse and time away from the spotlight. The interview was supposed to be a look into Eminem’s re-found astronomical success and relevance. And it was, until the rapper made a comment that surely gave many pause: that the labels “homophobic” and “misogynistic” often attached to his music by critics would have been overlooked entirely if he had been black.
Talk about a loaded answer. The man who has been scrutinized for his skin color and referred to by his worst detractors as “hip-hop’s Elvis” using the defense that if he had been black, he would have gotten away with it. That’s certainly a new one there, coming from an unlikely source. Make no mistake, Eminem is one of the most talented artists of his generation from any genre, but there has been great debate as to whether he would have achieved the same level of popularity had he not been white—and if his remarks would have resonated with the same controversy, or caused more, so much more that he never would have achieved even a sliver of his current success.
It is very true, however, that it is more of a norm for black rappers to discuss misogynistic themes. It is extremely prevalent in much of popular rap. Artists boast about their lack of respect for women, and even go so far as to champion the merits of pimping and even violence towards the fairer sex. There is frequent use of the derogatory terms “b*****s” and “h**s,” and most backlash has been squashed long ago. There is some homophobia as well, with tough guy rappers deriding the competition as “gay” or “f*****s.”
That said, Eminem received so much attention because he took these themes even further. He rhymed about brutally killing his then-wife, Kim, on several songs. He openly and bluntly spoke out against homosexuality. Violence and violent thoughts are prevalent throughout his albums. He claims his Slim Shady persona is a joke, meant to be over-the-top, and it is. But to blatantly stir controversy talking about violence towards women and gays, and turning it into unparalleled success, seems coldly calculated. The fact is, he is a pop star, one embraced by people who do not listen to rap. And he did so by being controversially misogynistic and homophobic, as well as an amazing rapper. That to me makes the race card seem completely out of place.
Edward Stern is a guest blogger for My Dog Ate My Blog and a writer for the Guide to Online Schools. Check out the site for a list of online schools.
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