On Tuesday (Oct. 10), Eminem rocked the hip-hop universe when he eviscerated President Trump in a five minute-long freestyle at the 2017 BET Hip-Hop Awards. His blistering diatribe targeted Trump’s delayed response to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma and Maria, his divisive comments against NFL players, and his inability to unilaterally condemn white supremacists.
While Em’s unflinching approach was applauded by the masses — including Colin Kaepernick — his decision to drag Trump comes after a bevy of celebrities and hip-hop stars previously thrashed the nation’s Commander-in-Chief. Trump’s woeful performance in the White House has been highlighted by the likes of LeBron James, JAY Z, J. Cole, Diddy and more. Interestingly enough, YG and Nipsey Hu$$le audaciously slammed Trump on wax prior to his presidency when they released their scathing record “Fuck Donald Trump” in 2016.
Despite African American celebrities and hip-hop stars coming in droves to obliterate Trump, in comparison to Eminem, none have been able to push the needle quite as far as Shady. Eminem’s incendiary freestyle earned a whooping 2.1 million tweets in just a matter of two hours after its unveiling Tuesday night. While it’s beyond commendable that Em was able to sack number 45 for his lackluster performance in the White House thus far, it does overshadow the efforts made by those of color who have made similar strides.
On Wednesday (Oct. 11), YG commented on Em’s cypher performance on Twitter by bluntly tweeting: “So we don’t get no credit for dissing TRUMP a year ago?” Maybe it’s because YG lacks the track-record or star power of one of rap’s biggest stars, but he did denounce Trump from the onset with a “FDT” video, remix, and even a tour. Still, despite his efforts, he didn’t get the same standing ovation that Em’s five-minute freestyle earned.
Mainstream media gave effusive praise to Eminem after watching him pummel President Trump. Keith Olbermann dubbed his verse as the “best political writing of the year,” while Ellen conveyed her appreciation on Twitter with a heart emoji. Then, the juggernauts of late night TV including Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert lauded Em’s politically-driven verse without any hesitation. What’s mind-blogging is mainstream media’s decision to label Eminem as the paragon for, “Hey, finally somebody had the balls to say something,” when in actuality, it’s been said dozens of times before, especially by African American MCs.
Another problem to consider is Eminem’s chequered history. Throughout his career, Eminem’s homophobia and misogynistic lyrics have proven to be a dark cloud hovering over his legacy. Despite befriending Elton John and performing “Stan” with him at the 43rd annual Grammy Awards in 2001, it’s hard not to ostracize him for his previous usage of homophobic slurs. Though he admitted that he has no issues with gay people, his lyrics say otherwise.
When he released “Rap God” in 2013, he was lambasted for using the word “gay” three times in five lines. “Little gay-looking boy/ So gay I can barely say it with a straight face, looking boy/ You’re witnessing a massacre/ Like you’re watching a church gathering take place, looking boy/ “Oy vey, that boy’s gay!”, that’s all they say, looking boy,” he spews on the track. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Em scoffed at the criticism placed on him for his excessive usage.
“It goes back to that battle, back and forth in my head, of wanting to feel free to say what I want to say, and then [worrying about] what may or may not affect people. And, not saying it’s wrong or it’s right, but at this point in my career – man, I say so much shit that’s tongue-in-cheek,” he said. “I poke fun at other people, myself. But the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all. I’m glad we live in a time where it’s really starting to feel like people can live their lives and express themselves. And I don’t know how else to say this, I still look at myself the same way that I did when I was battling and broke.”
So while Eminem deserves all the fire emojis for his earth-shattering freestyle, do we still champion him despite his blemishes, which do resemble number 45, who has a history for bashing gays and women? And even after a multitude of African American MCs have spoken out against Trump whether it be through interviews, songs and videos, can they receive some shine for their candor and willingness to step up to the plate, as well?