The Manhood Series: About Eminem And My Own Slight Conflicts

Jose VilsonJose5 Comments



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 …

Comments 5

  1. Well written Jose, I feel this way a lot when listening to main stream hip hop. I no longer buy Eminem’s albums or listen to his music because for me, the misogyny was just too much. As I get older I notice that I am much more sensitive to such things. I will never deny Eminem’s talent, I just choose not to listen to it.

  2. I understand the conflict because I, too, respect his talents as an artist. I especially respect his story and background-he’s from Detroit and not too many good things have come from there since Motown. B.K. (before kids) I listened to a lot of stuff that I would not listen to now or allow my oldest to hear, but I listened to a lot of music for the music: 9 times out of 10 I didn’t know what the heck they were saying anyway! Trust me, as you get older and when (or if) you have kids, your perspective will change. At least you have the ability to recognize the conflict between the message and your beliefs. That’s a lot more than I can say about other people.

  3. This is a conflicting issue – the whole idea of separating form from meaning is not a new one. I remember my mother and father having heated debates over Wagner, at one time my father’s favourite composer.

    I love Eminem for giving voice to a certain experience when it hadn’t been heard before. Because we don’t like a part of what he says, does it make everything else he does less worthy as well?

  4. Post

    Shivon, that’s a pretty good synopsis of how I’d feel in general once I have children. I’d have to hide away in a closet somewhere listening to the hardcore stuff if I’d like to indulge. I wouldn’t want my child to be exposed too early to that madness. As they got a little older, then we’d be able to have a better discussion on what rap means, and why it’s so out there.

    Monise, recognizing the difference has been the easy part. Actually, based on people I know, it’s not. Which leads me to …

    Tracy, I don’t think I can just categorically deny what Eminem because of some of his more violent themes, and I gather you don’t either. I know it’s an experience that we know Eminem has had, and others as well, and he’s expressing his frustrations through his music when he says what he says. I just wish he’d lay off the women for a second.

  5. detroiter, parent and eminem fan here… what marshall raps about is what established him as eminem; what his fans have become accustomed to hearing from him and want to hear. does that mean what he spits for profit/entertainment defines who he is as a person? is it saying he really lives what he records to earn a paycheck? for me the answer to that would be no more than “the shinning” means stephen king supports/believes in/upholds going crazy and making an earnest attempt to kill your wife and child (the shining) in an abandoned hotel he’s caretaking.

    marshall is selling a gimmick, no other than any other art form of any other form of media. we make the mistake of attaching the “theme” of the art form to the person creating it when it’s contained in music because of how it hits us, makes us feel and makes us think. unlike with books, articles, blog posts or any other one dimension art form, when it comes to music we tend to attach meanings and intentions to the artist because we can hear the emotion the artist puts into the project. and based on our belief that we speak what we mean/feel, we draw the same conclusion when it comes to artist/art form. once we get past that point we tend to (most likely) feel because we like said song/album there must be some truth link between the music and ourselves, then try to make an assessment that because we enjoy such entertainment we too can be unfavourably defined by the theme of the artform. i personally think that is unfair. we never question why we unquestionably put stock in love songs, even when we aren’t in relationships or find ourselves “against” the norm of what society’s definition of “love” is. i dunno… i’ve never beat my significant other up, placed them in a garbage bag, placed them in the truck of my car then drove them out to a beach to dump their remains in a body of water… but i love “’97 bonnie and clyde” just the same. it’s entertainment, people.

    to make this novel a novella, art and artist are not always as intimately intertwined as we listeners assume, and being a listener of a certain “theme” of music does not automatically link you to the deviance in said theme. we like what we like for a myriad of reasons branching from actually feeling the stimuli to finding it to be an example of what not to do. as far as being a parent who likes that type of music, as long as you have open communication with your child and aren’t replicating what’s represented… you are good and there’s no need to change your preferences once you cross the threshold.

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