Invisible man: “It’d be as if Bret Easton Ellis wrote the murderous “American Psycho” and no critic questioned his judgment or the book’s content — and those who did pause briefly to consider the book’s moral or social implications simply dismissed the consequences because: A) the story’s only fiction and B) Ellis is a really, really good writer” Which would, um, seem quite a sensible response, to me. Anyway, a thought-provoking piece on Eminem from one of the few writers to still hold the line that hatred and pop do not mix. I know that several of NYLPM’s readers and contributors would agree.

What I find interesting is how ten years ago any lyrical deviation from a broadly liberal political line was leaped on by the music press, and now taking such stands seems to be pretty much unthinkable. When the NME reviewed Straight Outta Compton (which seems positively self-deprecating compared to Jay-Z), it got a ‘0’ for content and a ‘6’ or so for music. Nowadays, as the backlash against the phantom meance of ‘PC’ rolls on and on, the most offensive lyrics get, as Salon suggests, “a pass”.

From me as much as anyone else. I can’t deny that I like Eminem – with reservations. I think his rapid-fire gonzo-hip-hop singles are brilliant, but most of the other Marshall Mathers LP stuff I’ve heard sounds self-obsessed and draggy. And when Eminem loses his cartoony quality, you do notice the less entertaining aspects a lot more. But still, I listen, just like I listen to Jay-Z and the Hot Boys: I think their lyrics are indefensible, flashes of humour or insight notwithstanding, but I still listen.

I suppose it’s a matter of personal conscience – by consuming something, are you supporting it? Wholeheartedly? (Even if you don’t actually pay for it?). And a wider question: at what point should we start policing our responses? If I “like” something but know I, politically, ‘shouldn’t’ like it, should I be examing my tastes or my politics? Can I separate the two? I think from a personal standpoint I feel I can: but from a societal standpoint I have a lot more doubts. I want a world in which homophobia doesn’t exist but Eminem does – how does that work? (Quite easily, actually: I also want a world in which people don’t kill each other but Goodfellas exists.) Adding to the confusion, when I encounter Em’s lyrics as text I’m repulsed, but the same lyrics as sound might amuse me: does the line I’m prepared to draw somehow lie in between?

Hmmm. (Meanwhile, read Salon’s perceptive actual review of the Eminem album: ” “The Marshall Mathers LP” is the first hip-hop album to assume universal attention — not just from hip-hop fans, not just from under-20s, not just from media watchhounds, but from the American culture at large”