Gen Z tries to cancel Eminem
March 25, 2021
In the hip-hop community there exist a few consensuses: Jay-Z paved the way for Kanye; Biggie and Pac are perhaps two of the best lyricists of all time; and above all, Eminem is un-cancelable. Since his first commercially successful album, The Slim Shady LP, Eminem has successfully peddled controversial and explicit lyrics to the masses. On the track “97 Bonnie & Clyde,” the seventh cut from the project, Eminem raps, “oh, where’s Mama? She’s takin’ a little nap in the trunk,” and, “there goes Mama splashin in the water, no more fightin’ with Dad, no more restraining order.” Eminem’s lyrics from the get-go have been crude, explicit, and demeaning of women. However, this is how Eminem built a career and any time that he was questioned he struck back harder than ever.
One example of this came in May of 2001 when the FCC fined a Colorado radio station $7,000 dollars for playing Eminem’s “Slim Shady,” despite it purportedly being the clean version of the song. Although the FCC is a federal agency, Eminem did not care and promptly fired back on his 2002 track “Without Me.” On this cut, Eminem highlights his various scrapes with federal regulators rapping, “so the FCC won’t let me be, or let me be me, so let me see, they try to shut me down on MTV, but it feels so empty without me.”
Despite Eminem’s legal battles, brash lyrics, and malignment by the media, none of it has stuck over his twenty-plus-years in the rap game, and he has remained an international icon. According to NBC News, this newest controversy kicked off in February of 2021 when a young Tik-Tok user posted a video drawing attention to Eminem’s 2010 hit featuring Rhianna, “Love the Way you Lie.” The user argued that Eminem’s lyrics “glorified toxic relationships and domestic violence.” Say what you want to say about the lyrics, this song is perhaps one of Eminem’s most commercially successful, boasting a staggering 12X Diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America(RIAA).
Although the Tik-Tok user drew upon Eminem’s lyrics to construct their argument, I think they overlooked the whole point of the track, as it was released following Rhianna’s separation from her former boyfriend and abuser, Chris Brown, in 2009. Brown beat Rhianna viciously resulting in wide-spread media coverage. Although Eminem’s lyrics on the track are harsh, like when the then 37-year-old lyricist says, “if she ever tries to f**king leave again, I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire,” it is a mere artistic expression. Eminem and Rhianna are both extremely talented artists, and respectfully deserve to speak unfiltered through their work.
Although Gen Z apparently has it out for Mr. Mathers, it is not like he has not been in hot water before. In 2001 Eminem pled guilty to charges stemming from his pistol-whipping of someone outside of a bar in Warren, Michigan, and in 2017 the Secret Service paid a visit to his home due to some inflammatory lyrics on his 2017 album “Revival” that implicated then President Donald Trump.
In the aftermath of the new controversy, Eminem released a track in response titled “Tone Deaf,” essentially restating that he does not care what people think. I am surprised that Eminem even responded, given that he has made a career out of people taking offense with his lyrics. One of my favorite lines from Eminem’s extensive discography where he highlights how he feels towards his critics comes from the track “Crack A Bottle” featuring Dr. Dre & 50 Cent. The track debuted on his sixth full-length project Relapse in 2009. On this cut Eminem raps, “kiss my butt, lick the from-unda-cheese from under my nuts, it disgusts me to see the game the way that it looks, it’s a must, I redeem my name and haters get mushed.”
Although I have not been a huge fan of Eminem’s most recent projects, his works through 2013 are absolute masterpieces and should be treated as such. No one would attempt to deny Michelangelo from painting the Creation of Adam, nor would anyone try to cancel Dave Chappelle for one of his outrageously funny stand-up routines. Art is meant to be unfiltered, and if that offends you then don’t listen.