Eminem and his disputed legacy

By SAMUEL FARRAR | September 6, 2018

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with Eminem, arguably one of the most well known rappers in the genre. 

One of the most talented lyricists ever, he is a legend in hip-hop. His influence is massive, and he is credited with bringing significant popularity to the genre. 

On the other hand, the popularity he gave to the genre came with an even greater backlash to it, from his raunchy, violent and slur-filled lyrics. 

Then again, his background is one of poverty, disenfranchisement and subsequent empowerment, all things the genre is based on. 

His dominance still gives me concerns about whitewashing the genre, and the idea of his cultural appropriation is always in the back of my head, along with the likes of Mac Miller, Logic and worst of all, Iggy Azalea. Again, it’s complicated.

However, Eminem has not found much success with his recording career as of late. 

His 2013 album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 received critical praise and featured some well-constructed and well-produced tracks that made it on to the Billboard Top 100 but failed to live up to the “most hyped album of 2013” tag it received. 

His album Revival was a flop, selling the least since his debut in 1996. 

It is simultaneously an attempt to take an introspective look at himself, while also turning his lyrical bite beyond the rap industry and into the political realm. 

In its premiere track, “Walk on Water,” Eminem attempts to reveal his insecurities and fears as the self-proclaimed Rap God, but the end result is a slow, corny, monotonous monologue and frankly makes me doubt the featured Beyoncé is an actual deity. 

Last week, Eminem released his response to the fireball of hate and disappointment he received in the form of his latest studio album, Kamikaze

Its beats are simple, but the album is as lyrically as complex as they come, and it harkens back to his Slim Shady character, a character with ludicrous, raunchy and often violent lines. 

He abandons any and all introspection or serious political commentary. Instead, he dedicates the majority of the album to criticizing the new generation of hip-hop — SoundCloud rappers, mumble rappers and even going after some other rap royalty, like Drake.

He dedicates much of the third track, “Lucky You,” to dissing the triplet flow that has been so universal in so-called “mumble rap,” but he does so by using the triplet flow himself.  

His goal is not to show that triplets are a bad medium but to show that all the artists who overuse them that he is better than them at their own game. 

In the second verse, he says “Hatata Batata, why don’t we make a f*ckin’ songs about nothin’ and mumble ‘em,” a reference to a 2014 interview of Snoop Dogg where he makes the same complaint. 

The bars are the most caustic on the album’s first track, “The Ringer.” “Not even dissin’, it just ain’t for me,” he says, regarding “people like Lil Yachty.” This is the equivalent of a parent saying “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.” It is by far the most lyrically complex song on the album, but still mocks some artists’ simplistic styles with interspersed mockeries of “Gucci Gang.” 

He eventually calls out everyone for plagiarizing, even himself, saying if he went back to his style on The Marshall Mathers LP (his highest rated album, arguably his magnum opus), he would become a clone of himself, just like “everyone else in the industry.”

Kamikaze is far from perfect. The album is extremely front loaded, and for an album with 11 tracks, this is a problem. The punches would have had much more force on a three to five track EP, without the deadweight of the final tracks. 

Inherently, the style of this album has limited effect. Each punch he throws is weaker than the last, and by the end of it all, the music sounds just as repetitive as the music he criticizes.

This is not the thing that kills the album for me, however. In his earlier years, Em received criticism for homophobia due to his careless and constant use of gay slurs. 

He resolved this, at least with his critics, at the 2001 Grammys, where he performed with Elton John, one of the most famous openly gay musicians of all time. Since then, criticism of Em’s homophobia has been quiet. 

That is, until this album, where on the 10th track he tried to diss Tyler, the Creator by saying ”Tyler create nothing, I see why you called yourself a f*ggot, b*tch.” Last year, Tyler came out as bi on his album Flower Boy.

At the end of this album, I found myself in the same situation I have always been in with Eminem. 

His talent is indisputable; however, he’s just not an artist I can put my heart behind. 

He is a vocal critic of Donald Trump and hate speech outside of his music, but the rhetoric in his lyrics normalizes homophobic and misogynistic messages. 

If we are to take Eminem’s art as the untamed, uncensored and unadulterated version of himself, we must hold him personally accountable for his messages.

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