eminem Archives - The Jose Vilson


Rock Wilk

Let me start off by saying that, with many in the poetry community, I’ve gotten a reputation for my honesty and borderline snobbery when it comes to writing. I don’t intend it that way; I just have a certain quality of writing I ask for. Whether it’s morose or uproarious, I ask for few things, but they’re all important and centered around this idea of “care.” I got a fair amount of criticism when I first brought this up a while back, but it’s true. Qualities like taking one’s time with a piece, working extra hard on refining one’s craft, and having a sense of earnest in the things you say, no matter how outlandish. It’s those qualities above elements like verbal dexterity and hyperbole I truly appreciate.

This past Saturday, I witnessed a great example of this idea, seeing Rock Wilk’s one-man show, Broke Wide Open. As is typical with one-person shows, he tries to convey a whole life’s story in a matter of a couple of hours and a couple of acts. The difference between his show and others I’ve seen is that, as effortlessly as he skated across the stage, dancing in the projected images around him, he obviously worked really hard to give the illusion of simplicity.

With him, I also started toying with the idea of why I like an artist of any craft, in levels:

    1. They try to convey their message, and we’re meant to hear it and like it.
    2. They convey the message, hoping we’ll sympathize with them.
    3. They convey the message well, and get us to empathize with them.

      That last level is so critical too. I feel like the closer you feel like you’re in the person’s shoes when the person’s in their “art avatar”, the better the artist is for me, no matter how reserved they are when doing interviews or in normal conversation. Ignore that I’m not Jewish, I’ve never been adopted or married, never lived in Los Angeles, and haven’t had so many of my close relatives die within a few years of each other.

      I didn’t just feel Rock; by the end, I almost felt like Rock himself.

      And that’s an awesome feeling. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Marc Anthony dance and sing with us on the floor of Madison Square Garden, Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium where we were shoulder-to-shoulder on the field all bopping along, and now in a small black box theatre where a man was practicing this thing we call performance poetry, a different animal than slam poetry. (All of them from pretty close range, too). In all these instances, the artist has this way of captivating the audience because they don’t just ask you to join them in their stream of consciousness; they lend you their shoes and ask you to strap in.

      The quiet man in the corner of our poetry workshop had all these words to share with us, and so many of us knew it, too. While a friend and I sat there thinking of poets who emote this sort of feeling to us (and we came up with about 4), I said, “This is what poetry should feel like.”

      Like we were him, and our hearts were broke wide open.

      Jose, who supports local artists, and don’t you forget it …




      So, what you’re saying is that you don’t think it’s right that Benzino and the Source are calling Eminem Elvis?”

      “No, it’s like they’re using the pro-Black agenda superficially to garner the respect of the hip-hop community, and it’s gonna backfire because everyone knows it’s not true. It’s just personal BS from the Source ownership.”

      Since the battle between Ja Rule / Murder Inc. / Source vs. 50 Cent / Aftermath / XXL boiled, I’ve had plenty of discussions about Eminem as a pivotal figure in hip-hop history. Almost every one of my friends agrees that they were on 50 Cent’s side, and that’s evident from the rise of the latter contingent and the precipitous fall of the former. For many, the attacks on Eminem were the last draw since, for many, bringing up the race issue when Em fought so hard to be included within the pantheon of furious rhymers were unjustified. Even after the tape with a younger Eminem rapping about the “nigger”tude of his ex-girlfriend, rap audiences forgave him and supported his records, no matter how drug-induced.

      Myself included.

      With Eminem, I’ve always appreciated his rhyme skills, his comical, zany, and vicious approach to lyricism, technically adept, and accurately syncopated rhythms. I’ve bought almost all of his albums, each with its own flavor of ingredients specific to Eminem. And yet, I have a sneaky feeling every time I hear him murdering his wife or vowing to tear some woman’s insides out. It’s the same nagging feeling I get every time somebody decides to make an anti-gay speech when they see a lesbian couple, or when a teacher calls one of our students animals. And it’s the feeling that I have a hard time shaking.

      I contemplate it overnight, and try to understand the feeling in my gut. Is it because I know Eminem, who has explicitly said kids shouldn’t be listening to his stuff because it’s so graphic, still has a presence with impressionable youngsters all over, like many of his contemporaries do? Is it because, unlike many rappers, his off-the-mic life is a rather accurate reflection of his mental state on the mic? \

      Or is it because, as a consumer of his product, I’m implicitly supporting the message on the record?

      Can I make it clear that I don’t support the misogyny on his album but support the artistry when I’m buying the record? Can I see him as just like any other fiction writer in other art forms? Or is it because I’m a male that I am not as horrified by it all the way a woman might be? My honest answer is “I don’t know.” I feel as many others in the hip-hop community do that we do stand for consciousness and better opportunities for our communities but the province of our headphones, speakers, and dance floor is governed mainly by us.

      That’s where I stand. Maybe when I’ll have kids, I’ll have to cut down on most of this as to set a better example for my child, but right now, I may indulge in more murder and mayhem. At least until I’m mature enough to have my music coincide with my beliefs.

      Jose, who hopes God forgives him for what his pen do …