So Eminem recently dropped The Marshall Mathers LP 2, which, from what I understand, hits some highs and lows but is basically more of the same that we’ve come to expect from Marshall (or Slim Shady, or whichever one of his other monickers he feels like using today). During his nearly two decade career, Mr. Shady has proven himself to be one of the most talented, creative lyricists of all time. I used to love his stuff. In my late teens, I listened to it religiously, particularly his sophomore LP, the original Marshall Mathers. But I was bothered by the misogynistic overtones, and the graphic violent imagery, and particularly the homophobia, even then. At least at that point it was more forgivable to me because I was younger, and I was a lot angrier. So what if somebody I was listening to, someone I admired, was saying blatantly offensive things? I was in a bad mindset, so it appealed to me. I felt like it was okay to just let it go, and listen to the tracks I liked, which had some of the sickest beats, the best production values by what I considered to be the best producers, the finest guest stars.
In 2013, Nate Dogg is dead. Snoop is making commercials for video games, Dr. Dre got even richer through the sale of his headphone line, Ice Cube is starring in family comedies and Coors Light commercials. This is what happened to rap. The greats from my youth, from my era, are in their forties and fifties now, they have more money than they know what to do with, and any attempt to maintain their street cred is laughable at best, sad and misguided at worst. In rap, you’re seen to be authentic if you’re poor, trying to come up, the smell of the streets sticking to you. If you make it to the upper echelons, like Jay-Z, you’re seen as a hypocrite, because you’re getting on the stage of an arena that you’re partial owner of, still rapping about hustling on the corner. Some of the teenagers in the audience weren’t even alive when you were selling drugs and ducking the cops, dreaming of selling out these self-same concerts. Some see this as rap having evolved, having achieved the next stage of its inevitable ascent, with the original innovators of the art form claiming what’s rightfully theirs. Maybe there’s something to be said for that, but personally, I don’t have any interest in a multimillionaire who’s married to Beyonce talking about how he used to have it tough, then in the next breath claiming that he’s still the king of the streets. You can’t have it both ways.
As far as Eminem goes, someone I used to respect, now he strikes me as a particularly sad joke. Calling his new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2, he’s trying to reconnect and dredge up his glory days. If we saw some genuine innovation from him, some sign that he’d grown as a person, I’d at least feel like he belonged in the year 2013 still working as a musical artist. But it seems that Em doesn’t have anything new to say, and to repeat the insults and slurs from the past in a time when gay people are gradually enjoying more and more rights and freedoms is no longer acceptable to me as a fan. Just because Em said in 2010 that he supports gay marriage because “everybody has a right to be equally miserable,” that makes it okay to keep yelling out faggot about people you don’t like? Not in my world. Not anymore. Em can no longer claim, like he did more than ten years ago, that he views the word as just another put-down like bitch or punk or asshole. You know the connotation perfectly well. You know what it means; you know that it’s offensive. You know that it hurts people. For you to continue using these words, now, in this era, and then to complain that your meaning is being misconstrued is, frankly, despicable. I guess I was hoping for better from you, that a 41 year old man would have grown up some. But you haven’t, Em, and if you haven’t by now, you probably never will. What are you so angry about at this point, anyway, that you feel that you still have to call people faggots, or bitches, or punks, or anything else? What’s going on in your life, that at the age of 41, with all the money you could ever want, you still hold onto this anger so desperately? What’s this you against the world attitude, when anything you could want is just a phone call away? Did some other rapper call you a bad name? Is that the worst thing that happened to you today?
People who are in the public eye make choices about how to conduct themselves, about how they’re going to be viewed. Eminem is no exception. He knows what he’s doing, and it’s calculated. He’s trying to stay relevant. But if this is the only thing he can come up with that he feels allows him to do that, well…ultimately, it’s not going to make much difference to me. I’m light years away from the person I was when I first listened to his music a decade and a half ago. But if I can address the man with the dyed blonde hair for a moment again…something tells me you’re probably going to be in a nursing home a few decades down the line, still mumbling about the faggots changing your bedpan. I hope that most of the rest of us will have long ago given up that kind of casual insensitivity. Look in the mirror and grow up already, Marshall, if you can. Try to redeem a little bit of your dignity.