By JUN YUN
Eminem’s defiant anti-Donald Trump freestyle, which aired at the BET Hip-Hop Awards, has taken its effect in the political and musical communities. Eminem is known for his history of bold lyrics directed at Donald Trump, but no soliloquy has imparted such an impact. This was Eminem’s most detailed and significant critique of Trump yet. While many athletes have taken a stand against Donald Trump, either verbally or symbolically, musical artists have also bashed Trump publicly, with less public attention. Eminem breaks this trend and re-institutes the importance of pop culture as a means of political criticism.
Eminem is from a white, working-class family that often resided in black, working-class neighborhoods. He is not shy about discussing his blue collar upbringing in Detroit. Eminem’s message is crucial because he is one of the few musical artists with first-hand experience of black and white tensions in our country. His insights into racial tensions are emotionally raw; his lyrics are incredibly and palpably genuine. Not many musicians have Eminem’s platform and personal experience with race, culture, and identity. Eminem stands in a position to combine his personal frustrations with Trump with his clever lyricism; it’s the epitome of the harmony between music and politics, something we need in our current political climate.
Eminem’s rap touched upon racism, national anthem issues, disrespect of military veterans, and political ineptitude on the part of the President. In my opinion, commentary from a musical artist was desperately needed at the time to balance the anti-Trump rhetoric from the sports community. While Eminem has not been actively producing and releasing his own music for the past couple years, his re-emergence in the spotlight speaks volumes to his commitment to tackling political issues in his rap. This commitment only makes his political commentary more genuine and valuable.
The rap itself is vulgar, but the vulgarity serves a purpose. While some of the lyrics seem unnecessarily violent and unfitting, its intent is clear. It is Eminem’s release of frustration towards the political ineptitude of the Trump administration. Eminem’s vulgarity is a rhetorical weapon against Trump’s own vulgarity. The rage and apparent violence in Eminem’s voice perfectly aligns with his frustrations over American politics. In the context of today’s polarizing political atmosphere, Eminem’s musical style makes the rap more vigorous and the political message more significant.
The substance of Eminem’s rap was not ground-breaking social commentary; we have listened to these stances against Trump for a while. However, what makes Eminem’s rap significant is its audience. The most daring element to Eminem’s freestyle is the political divide that he establishes. “I’m drawing in the sand a line: you’re either for or against. And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split on who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this.” Eminem alienates many of fans in an effort to deliver his political message and he does so without shame or hesitation. But why would Eminem risk his musical fan base for the sake of politics?
It is already noted that the solid majority of Eminem’s fanbase originates from a white and more rural demographic. Eminem explicitly states that a portion of his supporters are not welcome in his community due to their beliefs. By that same logic, a good portion of his supporters appreciate Eminem’s commentary; Colin Kaepernick was one of many athletes who took to Twitter to express his gratitude for Eminem’s verse. His audiences are split over Eminem’s political stances, yet his willingness to instigate such a split conveys a powerful stand–that white supremacy and bigotry are unacceptable, and that one should condemn such beliefs even at the cost of his own career.
Politics are frequent themes in Eminem’s music; music and politics are intertwined in a way that not many viewers may realize. Lyrics are a powerful catalysts for change. Music can be a form of protest. Music of the sixties shared a common anti-Vietnam War and anti-establishment agenda. Political music has proven to a viable resource in enacting social change. Eminem’s most recent dialogue can spurt such a revival in the utility of political music.