Earlier this week, Eminem dropped “Rap God,” an epic six-minute cut from his highly anticipated The Marshall Mathers LP 2. The song, with its rapid-fire, seemingly eternal string of spits, garnered praise from many corners — but not everyone’s so thrilled.
“Eminem is every bit the same lazy, offensive bile-spewer he was back then,” writes The Week, “back then” being when Eminem released his original Marshall Mathers LP in 2000. “Eminem’s ‘Rap God’ is full of homophobic slurs,’” reads a Huffington Post headline. Salon also held Em responsible, calling him “a grown-ass middle-aged man” who should know better.
What’s everyone talking about? Mainly about the following lines from “Rap God”:
Little gay-looking boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-looking boy / You witnessing massacre like you watching a church gathering taking place-looking boy / ‘Oy vey, that boy’s gay,’ that’s all they say looking-boy / You take a thumbs up, pat on the back, the way you go from your label every day-looking boy.
Even though I walk in the church and burst in a ball of flames / Only Hall of Fame I be inducted in is the alcohol of fame / On the wall of shame / You fags think it’s all a game ’til I walk a flock of flames
Those lyrical nuggets come about midway through the song. Earlier, in the first verse, Em raps:
I attempt these lyrical acrobat stunts while I’m practicing that / I’ll still be able to break a motherfuckin’ table / Over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half / Only realized it was ironic I was signed to Aftermath after the fact
So, Eminem’s still using homophobic slurs to insult his rap foes and competitors. He’s been getting in trouble for his harsh homophobic imagery for more than a decade now, and it seems not much will change this fall when MMLP2 drops. But other things have changed — namely, the state of hip-hop and its newfound determination to be gay-friendly. Many have pointed to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ marriage-equality anthem “Same Love” as the new model for rap, a genre that has a place for the Frank Oceans of the world. A genre, some say, that shouldn’t have room for the Eminems of the world.
Of course, Em himself knows that. He’s been doing this for years, and he’s too smart to not know how lyrics like that will be perceived. For him, that seems to be half the point. During the song’s introduction, an announcer says, “Six minutes, Slim Shady — you’re on.” Slim Shady, as most know, is one of Eminem’s favorite — and darkest, most f—ed up — characters. How much do Slim’s views, anxieties, and personal issues correspond with those of the real rapper? It’s usually too murky to tell, especially for a musician who in the past has performed with Elton John, endorsed same-sex marriage, and, more recently, gotten sober.
Either way, Eminem’s happy to let everyone else do the dissection for him while he sits back and rakes in the cash. Take these other snippets from the song:
Got a fat knot from that rap profit / Made a living and a killing off it / Ever since Bill Clinton was still in office / With Monica Lewinsky feeling on his nut-sack / I’m an MC still as honest / But as rude and as indecent as all hell
As well as:
You get too big and here they come trying to censor you / Like that one line I said on “I’m Back” from the Mathers LP1 / Where I tried to say I take seven kids from Columbine / Put ‘em all in a line, add an AK-47, a revolver and a nine / See if I get away with it now that I ain’t as big as I was
Well, is he getting away with it? The critical accolades are certainly still there; Time called “Rap God” “divine,” and the Salon post, while upset at the slurs, did concede Eminem is “brilliant.” Which leads to a tricky situation, rap fans. Do his sometimes offensive lyrics dampen your enjoyment of him as an artist? Will this affect your decision to buy The Marshall Mathers LP 2?