6
Feb 01

The Eminem backlash backlash

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The Eminem backlash backlash starts here in a most amusing fashion. When the moral majority comes out against some horrific artist (as has happened in the last week) acadaemia may slowly and eventually rear its head to look at the car crash. Here we have the Guardian’s literary editor dipping his toes in the water to proclaim Eminem a poet to rank with Browning. Using the vaguest of lit crit tools, and showing a lack of knowledge of the very song he is refering to, Giles Foden still writes a very lucid and very amusing piece. An article of this sort gets written every two or three years about the current bad boys of pop, last time I saw it I think it was about Oasis – but I particularly remember a Public Enemy piece from 1989 which is the blueprint of this kind of pseudo-intellectualism.

Problem is that an article like this is thoroughly irrelevant. Perhaps Eminem’s lyrics can be compared with great poetry, I think they are pretty good. But they are not poetry – they are rap – so judging them on literary terms uses techniques and paradigms which mean little to this world. Foden is at pains to talk about the lines about weather – not realising that the sampled lyric is by Dido and therefore not the responsibility of Eminem (and also comes from a sappy song which I’m sure would not be championed as great poetry in the same way). This is an attempt at provoking the argument which is entertaining in a smug, self-satisfied sort of way – but the joke is on The Guardian. It is typical of the Guardian in general, preaching to the converted in a “look, aren’t we clever” sort of way. I know Eminem is good, I know he is a more than adept rapper whose cleverness comes through on the individual lines, imagery and word selection which marks him as one of the best at what he does. I do not know this because I have soberly compared him to Browning. I know it because I have listened to it on the radio, laughed and it has stuck in my head. Odds are we will not be seeing Ms Jackson by Outkast in the London Review Of Books any time soon.

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