Mar 15

EMINEM – “The Real Slim Shady”

Popular102 comments • 8,765 views

#864, 8th July 2000

eminem rss Never has the “early, funny stuff” cliche held such weight in pop: we’re at a stage now where the new stars coming through are still heavyweights now, and the sclerotic Marshall Mathers of the mid-10s haunts this swaggering, sparkling kid. But “The Real Slim Shady” is still an Eminem who knows how to tell a joke – though how much he’s joking is open to question – and he’s the most technically audacious and exciting rapper to have hit number one yet. By a considerable distance – take the “Now there’s a million of us…” climax, thirty-seven staccato monosyllables from “just like me” to “not quite me”, a pattern of triple stresses reeled out and back like a man casually doing tricks on a yo-yo. Or the animals – cannibals – canteloupes – antelopes – can’t elope rhyme set, as bravura in its wordplay as anything you’d find on an underground mixtape. Or the entire first verse (”Act like you never seen a white person before…”) and its teetering jenga of internal rhymes. Or the single’s best gag, delivered barely as rap, just as a great one-liner: “Will Smith don’t gotta cuss on his raps to sell records / Well I do / So fuck him and fuck you too”

And then you might take a step back. That sumptuous rhyme set builds to a homophobic punchline, that first verse is the most technically superlative domestic violence gag you’ll ever hear, and Will Smith, like Britney and Christina and Fred Durst and boy bands, is a very, very soft target, even in 2000.

Your response to that might be “so what?” – Eminem’s command of his track is so total, and his presence so strong, that introducing my own sense of morality or discomfort to proceedings can feel a little like cheating. The man is selective in the taboos he breaks, but breaking them is part of his deal. That was certainly the appeal of Eminem on his breakthrough single. “Hi… My Name Is”, where the Shady persona felt like pure id, a mix of horrorcore tropes, grand guignol shock tactics, a real and festering resentment at a shitty childhood poking through… and an odd, self-deprecating streak where Shady is half-pathetic and very much part of a fucked-up world, not simply a response to it.

“The Real Slim Shady” comes on as a sequel, the second in a series of straight-to-video shockers: Slim Shady Goes To Hollywood, maybe. But that’s the problem with horror franchises – the monster is what people pay to see, and the longer the series runs, the more he becomes the hero. In “The Real Slim Shady” his enemies now stop being the world and himself and start being more specific parts of pop culture. Which is where the “soft targets” problem comes in. Eminem is announcing his arrival as a pop fixture – and the success of his first album had made that inevitable – by taking on the weakest of imaginable enemies. He knows his tribe, and their prejudices well, but this stuff is the opposite of shocking. He’s consciously consolidating the audience he’s found. But the arrival of Slim Shady in the real world loses something. In the twisted universe of “My Name Is” he’s a force of chaos, a self-destructive trickster. Here he presents himself as just another cultural commentator, needling away at the entertainment biz’ foibles and hypocrisies. What’s his actual critique of those “little girl and boy groups”? They annoy him, and maybe Christina Aguilera slept her way to the top. It’s less Loki, more Perez Hilton.

That’s not to say he’s insincere about his distaste for pop – and certainly much of his audience, his crowd of mini-Shadys, also felt it for real. It’s not even to say he’s unsympathetic – in Popular terms, the allure of “The Real Slim Shady” is much boosted by the relative lulls on either side of it: however gross or lazy this single is in places, it gets points just for sounding alive and motivated. Pop fans – obviously I am one – can be as brittle as anyone about slights to their chosen music, which is often corny, distasteful, exploitative or just idiotic. Nothing could be more shrill and misguided than insisting everyone like that stuff. And in the case of 13- or 14-year old Eminem fans, you might as well ask them to stop watching slasher movies, or trying to score pot off their older brothers. Or wanking. “The Real Slim Shady” is as pure, as toxic and as well-made a shot of teenage exploitation as “Born To Make You Happy” was.

But there’s something else that’s changed since “My Name Is”, too. The point of Slim Shady is that he’s a nihilist, he doesn’t give a fuck what you think. But strip away the cartwheeling delivery and the Dre production – whose simple, jolly bounce is a hook in its own right, and a great example of how Eminem used sound effects to establish and bolster his comic persona – and what do you have left? Behind the jokes, “The Real Slim Shady” is a surprisingly defensive single, giving rather a lot of fucks, and mostly concerned not just with taking down pop’s star system but with establishing Eminem’s counter-arguments and get-out clauses.

These run along familiar lines – real life is just as fucked up as Shady’s raps, and lots of people are thinking or saying privately what he has the balls to say out loud. (He saves the question of whether any great responsibility goes along with this great power for his next number one.) This is a third role for Shady – not psychopathic id, or biz outsider, but a kind of frustrated everytroll, speaking for a silenced mass who express themselves mainly by buying his records. It’s a persona that’s halfway between the political outsider – Slim Farage – and the shock-tactic comedian – Andrew Dice Shady. And not knowing which way it might tip – into comedy or cultural politics or, in Eminem’s case, something more nihilist and personal – is part of the appeal.

It’s an appeal with parallels – you can look forward to Anonymous but also backwards to punk, and this – plus stardom and proficiency – was why Eminem was such critical catnip. “Half of you critics can’t even stomach me” – but the other half adored him, for his volatility, and the sense that here, at last, was a story we hadn’t seen before, one whose ending we didn’t know. Well, we know it now: not just for Eminem, whose peak and slow decline I’ll have to write about in depth, but for Shady, whose blend of psychopath, critic and everyman once seemed dangerously new and now feels exhaustingly, inescapably, familiar.

“Now there’s a million of us just like me who cuss like me who just don’t give a fuck like me who dress like me walk talk and act like me it just might be the next best thing but not quite me!”
Fifteen years on, this seems just as true but far less funny. Eminem didn’t invent trolling, or stay good at it for long, but his signature brand of it has thrived in the Internet century. Wreathed in lulz, self-righteous if challenged, somehow bitter about a culture it has a box seat in, vengeful against mothers, lovers, women who have the gall to speak or fuck or simply be noticed. The real Slim Shadys haunt Twitter mentions tabs, newspaper comments boxes, subreddits, social media from YouTube to YikYak, anywhere axes can be ground. Marshall Mathers no more caused our culture than Elvis caused the sexual revolution, but like Elvis he could feel some crackle in the air and he knew how to draw that lightning down through himself. He was hard to ignore, he has become hard to enjoy.



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  1. 31
    pink champale on 30 Mar 2015 #

    Actually, Renegade is a good example of what I mean. Em’s verses are so swaggering and extraordinary on first hearing that it took me ages to notice that what Jay Z was doing in his seemingly much more relaxed conversational style is just as skillful

  2. 32
    Mark M on 30 Mar 2015 #

    (Re30: Ah, again, I only actually know of a limited number of future No1s, so there are songs I’m sure are bunnies, others I suspect might be and some I have no idea about. But I, at least, was talking about the one that has something in common with an Aqua track discussed on Popular. And I’ll leave it at that for now).

  3. 33
    Tommy Mack on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Tom @ 14: good shout, Square Dance is probably my favourite too. “I’m 28, they’re gonna take you ‘fore they take me!’ In fact all my favourite Eminem songs are the ones that build to an hysterical paranoid peak (e.g. The Bunny).

    What can I say about Eminem? I was a big fan, saw him on his Slim Shady tour (“I am now about to drown myself, MANCHESTER!”), played The Marshall Mathers LP to death, though later while revising for university exams (a wonder I learned anything with that racket going on).

    The last proper pop star in the Elvis/Michael/Madonna global game-changer mould, the only chart topper you’d seriously consider in the running for the greatest rapper of all time (except maybe one and he’d probably say his greatest strengths were not as a vocalist) . At his best he was like a Shakespearian anti-hero, speaking his own language, impossible flows of ludicrous, lurid vitriol, waving his fist at the shittiness of life, a bad seedpod sowing the seeds of evil in every young mind, a youth corruptor of whom Jagger and Rotten could only have dreamed. At his worst: Jeremy Clarkson with talent, ‘I’m sticking it to the establishment by bullying these marginalised groups’. Actually, at his very worst, he was just really boring but that comes later and probably not on here.

    On TRSS, there’s a bit of his best and worst, the cheeky, parent-baiting South Park meets Fight Club side (‘spitting in your onion rings’) and as Tom detailed, plenty of impressive vocal set-pieces but also, as many have pointed out, loads of pettines. Eminem is a reactionary prude who’s peeved about ‘the president getting his dick sucked’, kids seeing sex on the Discovery channel, gay marriage, pop stars giving head, pop music. He comes across like Brighton Rock’s Pinkie: sex disgusts him, he fears and despises women, he longs to lash out at the powerful but ends up all too often bullying the weak and kicking round his bunch of followers. All this comes to me now, years after the fact, at the time, it seemed like great obnoxious fun but even that ‘hi, I’m back to fuck shit up’ vibe he’d do much better on (I think) future bunny from his next album.

    7 because in every single person there *is* a Slim Shady lurking but no more than 7 because on this evidence that’s not necessarily a good thing.

  4. 34
    swanstep on 31 Mar 2015 #

    I hadn’t paid much attention to ‘My Name Is…’ for some reason, but TRSS was inescapable. I’m a little surprised it only got to #4 in the US because the vid. was as big as it was possible to get on US MTV.

    Anyhow, I’m feeling a little torn. I loved TRSS at the time. It was exciting to have an Axl Rose-level talented-but-no-fakin-I-AM-a-vicious-little-snake guy on the scene again, and this record was so fiendishly rewindable – you had to to catch all the jokes – and so well targeted that both the TRL-ers and poppers (who had senses of humor) liked it as well as those who actually did resent (or worse) the whole TRL/tween/pop-wave that had taken over since 1998. It felt massive, as though Em. was a one-man alternative nation restoring the pre-1998 regime. The harpsichord part *sounds* like it’s heralding the restoration of a literal ancien regime – musical wit to match the verbal fireworks.

    Yet, listening now (certainly without the vid.) TRSS is thinner and not as engaging as I remember (I guess that this is what people are meaning to get at when they call it ‘dated’).

    I’ve given the track an 8 for now, but may go higher.

  5. 35
    Tom on 31 Mar 2015 #

    “The last proper pop star in the Elvis/Michael/Madonna global game-changer mould”

    Yeahhh, I dunno if you’ve been reading The Wicked And The Divine but all the stuff in that about incredible excitement when a new god/archetype shows up reminds me a lot of the real actual contemporary reaction to Eminem (and Cobain and Madonna and others, but Eminem is the one I was most There for) – someone incredibly hard not to reckon with. There’s one more 2000 Popular debutant to come who it’s impossible to imagine modern pop without but her game-changingness was more tied up with a scene than with (at this point) herself.

  6. 36
    Jonathan on 31 Mar 2015 #

    There was a real crest of this kind of white boy naughtiness masquerading as rebellion at the time — #33 mentions Fight Club and South Park, and I’d throw in Blink-182 and the American Pie franchise, too. I think that makes this something particularly of its time (but in the best way; it’s an excellent song, even if he contorted his cartoonishness into more interesting shapes elsewhere), but the other problem was one caused by its own success. The debate upthread about whether this crosses over with “real” fans of hip-hop seems easily resolved to me: it did, and the latent respect rappers maintained for Em ensured he would pop up with very ordinary verses on rap records for years to come. And dovetailing with Tom’s point on contemporary trolling in the OP, there’s also the clear influence and acknowledged influence he had on, e.g. OFWGKTA.

    But as well as attracting actual rap fans, he also had a ton who weren’t interested in anything but — I think it’s thanks to them that he has maintained such extraordinarily large sales over time — but also many who were introduced to this sort of thing thanks to him. We’re about to hit the last big dovetailing of black music and chart music, and although Eminem seemed a shockingly singular voice at the time — people would call him the best going, which was silly; his talent was very easy to spot, but it was a limited skill set — but within the next few years, Ludacris would be getting #1 chart hits in the US. And unless you really needed to hear a white kid on the mic, why would you be checking for Em when Luda was funnier, 50 was more threatening, and Jay and Outkast more inventive? White boy naughtiness was legitimately an interesting thing in hip-hop for a while, but folks either tired of the schtick, or, through it, discovered more interesting things.

  7. 37
    Alfred on 31 Mar 2015 #

    It’s time to mention Eminem’s odd chart fortunes in the United States. “The Real Slim Shady” was his first top ten, after which none of The Marshall Mathers LP’s singles get remotely close — not even the ubiquitous “Stan.” His imperial period starts in 2002 when the first three The Eminem Show singles hit the top ten. The peak is “Lose Yourself,” his first U.S. #1 in winter ’02 seemingly forever, keeping Missy Elliott’s “Work It” at #2 also forever (the mightiest one-two combo in American chart history?). He produces a track on The Blueprint, produces and contributes to D12’s album, and is unstoppable for the rest of the decade. In 2010 and again in 2013 he scored multiplatinum albums in America: a rare feat in the streaming age. He’s the only artist in the last decade whose popular success is incommensurate with his critical regard. I don’t mean in the Michael Buble sense either. As late as 2013-2014 “The Monster” was a massive #1 hit yet few critics beside Christgau (still a defender) give a damn.

  8. 38
    Speedwell54 on 31 Mar 2015 #

    To continue on from Alfred@37. In terms of number one singles, the UK had managed a 6-1 lead over the US by 2005, since then the gap has narrowed to 7-5 . All to play for.

  9. 39
    lockedintheattic on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #26 – it would be interesting to see what the public reaction would have been if Eminem had been announced as a Glastonbury headliner instead of Jay-Z or Kanye. Both got huge backlashes for being the ‘wrong kind of music’ (and Kanye for dodgy lyrical content) – I suspect Eminem would have been far more acceptable to a lot of traditional glastonbury-goers.

  10. 40
    fivelongdays on 31 Mar 2015 #

    I can’t really put myself up as an expert on hip-hop. I have the rap albums you’d expect a provincial rocker to have. I’ve got some Beasties, an awful lot of GLC (who are only a novelty rap act if the Stones are a novelty blues act), some Public Enemy, Straight Outta Compton and I think some Cypress Hill (basically, if it sounds like it should be on the San Andreas soundtrack…), so please don’t blast my head off if I get this wrong, but there is some truth in how Eminem was the rapper who appealed to non-rap fans.

    I always rather liked My Name Is, and this was a fun follow up. The problem for me with Eminem was his voice. It was whiny and annoying and (although I’m not entirely sure what makes a great rapper) I was always rather surprised by the claims he was the greatest rapper ever. But what would I know? The point of this song is that is feels like a rather snotty ‘fuck you’ to things that annoyed him. And what’s so bad about that? Hell, I worked in McDonalds once, and someone who had sworn at my Mum for no reason? Let’s just say their coke had a little extra in it…

    Aaaanyway, the idea that Eminem was ‘the future of Metal’ (which was something a faked-up NuMetal kid – more on which later, else the Bunny’ll keep hoppin, hoppin, hoppin – told me once) died a death when he headlined Reading 2001’s rock day and brought a whole new meaning to the word ‘tedious’, despite Marilyn Manson popping up to make hip-hop shapes. The last thing I heard – and this is some time ago, rap fans – he was rapping about how someones arse made his peepee go doing doing doing. Oh dear.

    This one? As I said, I rather like it, but I don’t think I’d ever want to listen to it a lot. Seven is about right.

  11. 41
    Andrew on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #35 that’s a generous reading of the LeAnn Rimes story

  12. 42
    JLucas on 31 Mar 2015 #

    I’m afraid I can’t really be objective about this one. It appeared at precisely the wrong place and the wrong time for me. I was fourteen and just at the point of seriously coming to terms with my sexuality. Like a lot of gay people, my peers knew it long before I did. My classmates (the male ones, anyway) loved this song and Eminem in general, so his every hateful utterance was digested and spat right back in my direction. Not only that, despite being in a Catholic school (also no fun for all the obvious reasons), the charts really were my religion at this time. Here was a widely celebrated number one that told me in no uncertain terms that the thing I was afraid I was, was something disgusting and laughable.

    Was it all irony? Frankly I couldn’t care less whether Eminem was more Jim Davidson or Al Murray the Pub Landlord. The vast majority of the people who routinely called me a faggot in school are perfectly lovely, non-homophobic people now. Everyone gets shit for something in school, maybe all Eminem did was give them the particular stick they used to beat me with. But I can’t see past the ugliness of with this record to appreciate the talent that could so easily have been employed *without* casually trampling on a generation of vulnerable youths on the way up.

    To add insult to injury, he also kept the glorious Gotta Tell You by Samantha Mumba off #1 here. The monster.


  13. 43
    lmm on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Wonderful. Starts hard and just keeps going. The thing I remember most was how much it pissed off my parents’ generation – always a noble cause – while displaying a level of technical ability that made it impossible to dismiss. It’s the ultimate answer when someone starts waxing lyrical about the merits of, say, the Sex Pistols.

    Of course offense is a necessary piece of this – and I remember Eminem catching public outrage in a way that others were struggling to. http://www.theonion.com/articles/marilyn-manson-now-going-doortodoor-trying-to-shoc,459/ was, at the time, funny because of how true it felt.

    Soft targets? Maybe, though the Christina and boyband cases aren’t punching down as such. The homophobia side plays into a wider narrative about liberal responses to race and culture – honestly hip-hop at the time was full of aggressive, violent homophobia (going far beyond what we’ll hear from Eminem) that a certain strand was unwilling to criticise for fear of seeming racist; while I’m under no illusions about his intentions, I think Eminem ultimately did some good by bringing that somewhere where it couldn’t be ignored.

    In the forthcoming bunny (I can only think of one, massive and memorable, so I’m unsure where Tom is coming from) we should get to talk about the Pet Shop Boys, which is one way of answering that side on Eminem’ s own terms.

  14. 44
    grace on 31 Mar 2015 #

    @43 – just curious who you’re referring to when you say hip hop at the time was generally as homophobic as Eminem?

  15. 45
    Andrew on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #37 I count three bunnies(!) – Easter?

    #42 incredible payoff. Justice for Mumba.

    I was also a gay teen conflicted over Eminem, but I loved ‘The Real Slim Shady’ and The Marshall Mathers LP. I suppose I invoked some kind of South Park defence – he was a cartoon, etc. I don’t feel so comfortable nowadays with a heightened understanding of white male privilege and the real-world problems adjacent to bigotry-as-entertainment.

    And even then I couldn’t ever listen to that disgusting murder anthem ‘Kim’

  16. 46
    mapman132 on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #37-38 I think Eminem’s relatively poor showing on the Hot 100 during this time was due to the same reasons as Britney’s and the big 3 boy bands’ relatively poor showing at the time: a heavy skew away from single sales and toward radio airplay. Certainly all of these artists had a boatload of album sales and MTV play in the US at the time. Despite my own habit of religiously quoting from it, the Hot 100 really needs to be taken with a huge dose of salt until the download era kicks in near the end of the decade (at which time it can be taken with a smaller dose of salt).

    While on the subject of Eminem and chart oddities, how about the fact that his biggest UK seller is unbunnied … and is also one of the biggest sellers for his singing partner, who has quite a few bunnies herself (including a 10-weeker no less!).

  17. 47
    AMZ1981 on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #44 When asked about homophobia in his songs Eminem’s response was that he was belittling other people (normally other rappers) by insulting their masculinity rather than attacking the gay community as such – although of course the implication that homosexuality is something to be ashamed of is pretty offensive. He probably got the best word in on his next album when he began a track, `Have you ever been discriminated against/ I have, I’ve been protested and demonstrated against`. To be fair homophobia in hip hop was rife at the time and in recent years he has distanced himself from that. I also think he might have appreciated the Pet Shop Boys’ joke at his expense a few years down the line.

    I’m sure you can find plenty of collections of homophobic statements made by rappers in cyberspace, I’m not going to go searching for one. I believe Nas was one of the worst offenders.

  18. 48
    Tom on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #46 I didn’t know “Love The Way You Lie” was his biggest seller here – it did get to number one everywhere in the universe other than Britain though. A dreary record, if memory serves.

    #43 Yes, I’m not claiming it’s punching down, more punching weakly (if stylishly). Like I suggest in the review, if the most imaginative thing you can think to say about a female star is that she must suck industry dick then you’re not exactly stretching yourself. It’s similar to the discriminated/demonstrated quote in #47 – “people are mean because of what I said so now I’m the one being discriminated against” is real starter-kit troll stuff. Eminem isn’t an ideas guy, basically – which is fine, nor are a lot of great rappers, and his delivery at this point makes up for it. But after 15 years rubbing shoulders with my fellow whiney dudes on the internet, I’m sick of the ideas he does have, all they do is annoy me, so I have been sent here to, er, give him a few lukewarm Popular write-ups.

    Re. the homophobia: I don’t know if Eminem is less or more homophobic than his peers. It seemed to me he was on a lot more gay people’s radar as being so, but he was on everyone’s radar a lot more than most rappers. What is the case, I think, is that his use of homophobia in his tracks was a little different from battle rappers who would casually use slurs to put down opponents – which is presumably what Eminem is claiming in the paraphrase in #47. But that isn’t at all what’s going on in the original “My Name Is” before Labi Siffre made him change the lyrics, or in his next No.1 – there’s no battling going on there. Or frankly, in “if we can fuck dead animals and antelopes then there’s no reason why a man and another man can’t elope”. I dunno if it’s better, I dunno if it’s worse, than using the f-word as a lazy diss, but it’s not the same.

  19. 49
    JLucas on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Does it matter if he was more or less homophobic than his rap peers? At the end of the day, he’s the one who broke out and permeated popular culture in a massive way. The attitudes he espoused may have been questioned, but they were broadly tolerated – and widely broadcast – because he was considered cool and edgy, and also because he was much more marketable (read: white and pop culture referencing) than the likes of Tupac and Notorious BIG.

    If you want to create a sliding scale of offensiveness within the rap scene, that’s a discussion I’m not particularly interested in. All I know is that in terms of the music that was playing on the radio, on music television and in my common room, his was by far the loudest and most hateful, and whatever shades of nuance might have been behind it (I recall some mealy mouthed justifications whenever he was challenged, but it’s not like he was doing GLAAD adverts) were in my experience completely lost on the majority of his audience.

    In that sense my distaste is as much for a media that built him up so much and challenged him so little as it is for the man himself, whose personal feelings I can’t and have no interest in speaking for. It might have been necessary to go through Eminem to get to the position we’re in today where (I hope) artists like him wouldn’t get a free pass. But I’m sure as hell not going to thank him for it.

  20. 50
    grace on 31 Mar 2015 #

    @49 sorry, you’re absolutely right. I just don’t much like the argument that all rap is equally bad and most rappers are as homophobic (and misogynist for that matter) as Eminem when I don’t think that’s actually true? It kinda gives Eminem a pass I think. And at the very least it ignores actual gay and female rappers

  21. 51
    Mark M on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Re49/50 etc: I’d love to be able to say that hip-hop isn’t (hasn’t been?) homophobic, and that Eminem was a worst offender, but that just isn’t true. Much of it isn’t even done to shock, it’s just kind of there, just a part of the furniture. For instance, Nas’ ‘Versatile, my style switches like a faggot/But not bisexual, I’m an intellectual’*. People who might have been expected to know better – Public Enemy – were as bad.

    Ego Trip’s Book Of Rap Lists – my go-to-hip-hop trivia source – inevitably has a selection of homophobic lyrics. The prize one – because of the way the search for rhyme makes a nonsense of the offensive metaphor – is Audio Two’s ‘Word to Giz, I hate faggots/They living in the Village like meat on some maggots.’

    My feeling is that things have got somewhat better over the last five years or so, but I don’t listen to enough current mainstream hip-hop to be sure.

    *Apparently, apparently, he avoids that line now.

  22. 52
    Andrew on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #51 Part of the furniture sounds about right, and for a long time the media were complicit.

    I remember NME interviewed Cypress Hill around 1999/2000. One of them said something along the lines of [can’t find it online] “I don’t understand fags, man. When you can have pussy.”

    It went completely unchallenged by the interviewer.

  23. 53
    Shiny Dave on 31 Mar 2015 #

    #51 – it’s certainly not gone away completely, though I think misogyny is more prevalent than homophobia now.

    Now that I know the “artists aren’t bunnied, tracks are” rule, I can freely mention Macklemore as a particular example here. Clearly, there’s the parallel argument in terms of race – and by then there was more widespread discourse calling out his white privilege than there was in 2000, presumably at least in part because of Obama – but even his calling out of homophobia in hip-hop floundered because there are more than a few LGBT rappers, and the bunny off the same album has a second verse that’s dripping in misogyny. But more on that in twelve and a half Popular years. (2021, if we go at a “six months per real year” pace between then and now.)

    I’ve seen the argument (can’t remember where, annoyingly) that homophobic and misogynistic black rappers get promoted by the big labels deliberately, as a way to perpetuate stereotypes. Kind of want to see more evidence either way on this, but certainly the Popular story as it stands does far too little to challenge the idea.

  24. 54
    Alfred on 31 Mar 2015 #

    I speak only for myself as a critic, listener, and gay man: I’d rather hear Eminem’s slurs than Macklemore’s good intentions.

  25. 55
    Mark M on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Re52: I know this is going to sound terrible, but part of it (I think) was it just got boring and felt futile. Certainly in terms of reviews, if you’ve only got 120 or 250 words, how many times are you going to say ‘It’s great but there’s at least one hideously homophobic moment on here’?

    Interviews? Well, depends on the circumstances, I suppose. We’d like to think we’d say, ‘hang on a minute…’ but I can’t swear that I would have done. I don’t think any of the rappers I interviewed were the kind of people who said that sort of stuff, anyway.I did once do a news story for Q about homophobia and Jamaican dancehall, and got into a fairly edgy conversation with a bloke from a (London-based) specialist record label, but a news story is a different beast from an interview. All of which is to say that in a very minor media career way, I’m probably as guilty as anyone else.

  26. 56
    swanstep on 31 Mar 2015 #

    To support my ‘Em was the new Axl’ thesis (#34), it was notable that Elton John was duly wheeled out to give his blessing/absolution in 2001 with a memorable Grammy performance with Em of Em’s next bunny. Go here for the vid. and the story. The messaging was clear: Em was the one vicious little snake it was OK to enjoy (at least in small doses), just as Axl had been a decade before.

  27. 57
    thefatgit on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Not sure how to feel about Macklemore tbh. I read stuff on Tumblr attacking him and defending him in equal measure. By the time Popular gets there, I’ll probably have a much different perspective on him (“who remembers this guy?” style of thing).

  28. 58
    Tommy Mack on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Tom @ 35: I’ve not read it. Whenever you write about comics, I start reading it, think ‘ooh, this sounds really interesting, I should stop reading this and pick up a copy of the comic’ and then never do. Plans that seem to come to nought or half a page of scribbled lines. Maybe next beach-type holiday, I’ll take a massive stack of comics and do some serious catching up.

    The 2000-debutant challenging Em for role as last proper pop star: if you’re talking about who I think you are (I don’t know why we’re doing this when it’s tracks that are bunnied!) then yeah, I’d agree she belongs in the hall of fame. I’d argue Em still last as she was already an established star who (like MJ, to be fair) evolved from leader of a superior group to undeniable so-big-you-can-see-it-from-the-moon icon whereas Eminem was more like Kurt Cobain or Morrissey, a fully-formed curveball no-one expected. (BTW, I’d say there have been loads of important pop gamechangers and better stars since (and loads of minor figures in sales or recognition terms who end up sending out ripples further than you’d expect) but there’s definitely a more limited pantheon of ‘changed the world and music and everyone knows it’ uberstars)

    Is Eminem more homophobic than his peers? Yes, he’s obsessed and deranged. As others have noted, most rap homophobia amounts to calling a rival a faggot or ‘I hate fags because they are fags’ ignorance. Eminem is fixated on gay sex to the extent he created the Ken Kannif character (an ugly, ugly gay=pervert stereotype) to play his obsession for laughs (or hide his true sexuality in plain sight, depending on who you believe). The only real defence you could possibly consider is that Eminem is disgusted and enraged by most things, not least himself and as such, gays are hardly singled out in his lyrics (‘so much anger aimed in no particular direction, just sprays and sprays’).

    It is incredibly frustrating to hear a guy who clearly had the smarts and the skills to attack some deserving targets indulge in such ugly, misanthropic prejudices.

  29. 59
    flahr on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Doing some actually bothering to listen to Eminem as a result of this thread: the lyric to “My Name Is” is really quite staggeringly unpleasant – although my copy is from the B-side of “Bun” so it’s possibly some sort of super-explicit version. If not, then Christ, I shudder to think what it was like before Labi Siffre cleaned it up! Rare case of the cleaned-up-for-radio version being better. (Although I can think of a perhaps unexpected bunnied example of that being the case!)

  30. 60
    pink champale on 31 Mar 2015 #

    Yes, agree with Tommy Mack (and others) “obsessed and deranged” captures it neatly. With a lot of other rappers I sort of feel they’re homophobic just because it’s never occured to them not to be, whereas Eminem gives the impression that he’s thought about it far too much and that it’s part of a much wider revulsion at sex and physicality – being straight doesn’t seem to bring him much job either. There’s a later, ostensibly “sexy”, bunny where his presence just adds an extra layer of wierdness to a record that’s already unsettling (if really good)
    Of course, none of this is much comfort if you’re at the sharp end as JLucas has eloquently set out.

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