Eminem’s Use of Identity Politics



Mitchell Rolling

“Eminem is back,” read the headlines on Facebook and YouTube last week in reference to the rapper’s new freestyle cipher, The Storm, performed during BET’s award show.

But considering the clever imagery Eminem used in his video, I would offer a more fitting headline: “Eminem, welcome.” Welcome to the nasty game of identity politics.

In this recent video, Eminem went much further than using controversial language. His final verses he was seen extending an ultimatum to any of his fan’s that might simply be Trump supporters; “you’re either for or against,” he sang.

But that wasn’t the only thing people took from this. Commentators on the mainstream media were quick to acknowledge that Eminem isn’t the best spokesperson for morality. The commentators almost always brought up Eminem being from Michigan, a state that Trump won, and how the famous rapper will most likely end-up alienating some of his fanbase. Others, like Matt Lewis and John Philips on CNN, said it wasn’t the best they had heard and made reference to Eminem as an “aging guy clinging to relevance.” And some, like Joy Behar from the View, described this move as brave, claiming that it’s rare to see someone care so little about his popularity.

Yet none of these analyses caught the big picture.

While it may be true that it’s rare to see someone damage their own popularity willingly, I would hardly describe Eminem going on BET and calling the president racist as one of these moments. People like Lewis and Philips underestimate the influence Eminem still has in the rap world, and they only highlight the disconnect they have from that culture by denying how good his freestyle will be perceived.

Even though it has quickly disappeared into background headlines, Eminem’s freestyle is very relevant for today. His beliefs highlight the lack of understanding in political discourse nowadays, and it will encourage more ignorance of many on the Left who already agree with the accusations Eminem made against the president. If that was not enough, Eminem used identity politics to ensure his message was clear.

The fact that only black people were standing behind Eminem (which the camera kept filming during tense, race-baiting verses), that he himself was wearing all black, that he chose BET to present this message, and that the message was full of racist-accusations were not all coincidences. These were all clever designs to not only appeal to the many African-Americans watching that night, but to accuse many others of being complicit in the Left’s made-up narrative of Trump’s perceived racism.

Eminem’s cipher will not convince anyone to switch sides and it was not a brave act. Eminem said exactly what he thought, just like he always has, on a network that he knew would be very sympathetic to his message. The only difference was that he used the entire African-American community to push his agenda. He used the faces of black men to declare his opinion the only one that is not racist and by doing so he declared every Trump voter a racist.

Eminem’s cipher will not bring anyone closer to understanding each other, only to more lines being drawn in the sand based on false accusations of racism.