January 2003
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EMINEM - Rock & Roll's Biggest Pain In The Ass
By Natasha B., Grade 12 student, Fredericton High, Fredericton, NB

Eminem Eminem
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The average rapper wouldn't be able to grace the pages of Rap Pages, VIBE, Rolling Stone, Spin, The Source, and go on a national tour months before his major-label debut album is released. Then again, Eminem isn't your average rapper. He's phenomenal. But not all of FHS seems to think so. I interviewed several students and teachers about what they think of Eminem's lyrics, message, language, so-called anti-gay lyrics, and apparent disrespect towards women featured in his music.

Eminem's albums are notorious for diving into the mind of a violently warped and vulgar yet extremely talented MC, containing some of the most memorable and demented lyrics ever recorded.

For Eminem, his potentially controversial songs strike a chord with a multitude of hip-hop loyalists who believe they have little to lose and everything to gain. "I'm not alone in feeling the way I feel," he says. "I believe that a lot of people can relate to my sh*t – whether white, black, it doesn't matter. Everybody has been through some sh*t, whether it's drastic or not so drastic. Everybody gets to the point of 'I don't give a f**k'," says Eminem.

The media seems to harp on Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers about his lyrical content and the message he sends to his listeners. “Even if he thinks the message is meaningless, just a song, he still influences hundreds, maybe thousands because as his position as a pop star. I think some of his songs are so wrong—because of the language and anti-female message. That has to shape the way young men think about women and the way young women think about themselves” says Mike Gange, an English, Journalism and Media Studies teacher at FHS. Gange also clearly states that he would never let his son listen to anything like Eminem. But when I asked Mr. Gange if his parents had any objections to his selection of music as a teenager he said, “Of course, some of my music introduced the F-word which was for shock value. But the message of my generation’s music was mostly about equality and love and peace”.

Each tune by Eminem is sure to paralyze meek listeners with his relentless lyrical assault. "I do say things that I think will shock people," he says. "But I don't do things to shock people. I'm not trying to be the next Tupac, but I don't know how long I'm going to be on this planet. So while I'm here, I might as well make the most of it," says Eminem.

But not all listeners share the popular teacher's opinion on Em's lyrical content and if he does indeed send a particular message to his listeners. Jeremy C., a Journalism student says, "It does, but he has also told listeners outside his music that he doesn't really believe all that or do it all. Now whether they listen or not, that's not his fault". Another student seems to share the same opinion. "He's not trying to convince people to kill or hate or anything, he's rapping about how he feels," says Christopher C.

Em isn't saying things just to get you mad here. This time he's rapping because the world has pissed him off, not the other way around. "If y'all leave me alone, this wouldn't be my M.O.," he says on "My Dad's Gone Crazy." But as always, Em's most potent weapon is his ability to counter his critics by accepting his vulnerabilities and turning them into song.

The two women in Eminem's life that figure big on The Eminem Show (his newest album). His divorce from Kim Mathers fuels the slow Southern bounce of "Superman," and his relationship with his estranged mother creates "Cleanin Out My Closet," possibly the record's most powerful moment. Amid a list of atrocities and venomous threats, he shows glimmers of remorse before delving back into unchecked anger, much as he did on 2000's "Kim." "See, what hurts me the most is you won't admit you was wrong," he raps before blasting, "but how dare you try to take what you didn't help me to get? You selfish bitch, I hope you F-ing' burn in hell for this shit." I asked Christopher, a Journalism and Media Studies student, if he thought twice about listening to Eminem’s music when he was questioned and protested against for his supposedly ‘anti-female’ lyrics. “Eminem expresses hatred for some women. Not because of their gender, but because they’ve wronged him in some way. If that’s anti-women, we’re all chauvinists!” Stacey C., another Journalism and Media Studies student says, “People need to think for themselves and not believe everything they hear.”

Eminem recently stated in an interview with Rolling Stone that he allows his six-year-old daughter, Hailie-Jade to listen to the censored versions of his songs. I asked Christopher what he thought about this situation. “I think it’s fine. Keeping kids away from hot topics has never been a good answer. The fact that Eminem lets his kid listen to his music, in a climate wherein she can understand what he means in the songs, proves he’s a more thoughtful parent than most.” Stacy agrees “I think it’s fine because she has the opportunity to ask her father questions. His own personal choice on parenting.” Not everyone has the same positive perspective on the situation. “I don’t think that is the best thing to do, I mean once she is older, and if she chooses to, then maybe I would let her. But not when she’s six.” states journalism student, Jeremy C.

Em's love for his daughter, Hailie, produces his singing debut, the tender "Hailie's Song." The tune's sweet message is stronger than the music, as Em reaches for notes that don't exist. A more effective moment comes when Hailie herself shows up to kick-start the chorus of the ridiculously catchy "My Dad's Gone Crazy."

This was the year when he acted out all the most demented, most ignorant, funniest, ugliest, stupidest and liveliest sides of his psyche -- sometimes humiliating himself, sometimes dazzling with sick brilliance. Eminem summed up why he matters with his summer smash "Without Me," a song that captures everything there is to love and hate about him. It's his catchiest hit ever, the first one where the music behind him is every bit as extraordinary as his rhymes. But does the average Fredericton High School student listen to Eminem? Anthony, a grade twelve student at FHS does. “Yeah, I listen to Eminem because he’s a hardcore rapper. He lets the people he doesn't like know how he feels about them."

He's a public figure who knows how to keep his audience riveted even when he's ranting about how much he hates us. He's a dad who gets more violent and misogynistic with every album. He's one of hip-hop's funniest lyricists, except once he's off the mike, he has no sense of humor at all.

Jeremy, a grade 12 student, listens to Eminem sometimes. “Now his music is beginning to surpass his stereotypes. I find that he is one of the only rappers that raps for a reason, and not just to tell everyone how rich he is and how many girls he can get. I respect him for that.” When I questioned Jeremy about his opinion on Em’s language in his music, he said, “It’s horrible. But, it’s getting better.”

Em might have taken his angry-blond stand-up act as far as it can go. After four years as a showbiz professional, he can't keep getting away with his product-of-the environment excuses for his problems -- we've already heard the one about the ex-wife he doesn't like so much, and enough already about his mom. Katie F., a student of journalism at FHS assertively states that she “Can’t stand the style of music.” When I talked to Blake, asking him if he listened to Eminem he said, “No, he scares me…but he’s hot.”

On his debut album, he still had real life to complain about, rapping about bad jobs and high school. On The Eminem Show, he's mainly rapping about the usual high-life irritations. Although Katie Flann admits that his music is often catchy, she says she is “often offended by the lyrics.” Strangely enough, Katie’s choice of music consists of Slipknot, Pantara and Marilyn Manson…

Eminem will have to think of more ways if he wants to hold on to his audience, and more than that, do something with that audience. Also, he's run out of harmless white artists to have heavily publicized, utterly meaningless beefs with -- he's already run through Christina Aguilera, Everlast, Insane Clown Posse, 'NSync and Moby. We all have our least favorite Eminem moment. Em had his all-time most embarrassing moment as a star this year at the MTV Video Music Awards, when he tried to pick a fight with a hand puppet. Surrounded by bodyguards, trying to bully a piece of mangy brown fabric, Em just looked pathetic.

His movie debut, 8 Mile, proves that Eminem acts a hell of a lot better than Jennifer Lopez sings. But the really amazing thing about the movie's success is that so many people, including FHS students, were willing to wait in line and pay ten bucks for a chance to spend two hours inside of Eminem's head -- there were probably just as many people who gladly would have paid ten bucks to not have to hear about the guy for two hours.

In 2002, Em was the only imaginable star who could cross so many boundaries and invade so many other people's lives. Finally, in his own scattered way, in his own mind, at least, Eminem is fighting for something a little bigger than himself. His daughter, Hailie, is right, in the words she sings on one of the best song from The Eminem Show: Her dad's gone crazy, and his craziness is part of the package he's selling. The Eminem Show makes it clear that “Mr. Just-Don't-Give-a-Fuck” still won't leave. He can't leave rap alone. The game needs him.


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