Eminem’s Freestyle Was Paramount, But It’s Hardly Novel

By the time Eminem completed his visceral freestyle on Tuesday night’s broadcast of the BET Hip Hop Awards, he’d left a Shady-sized crater at the intersection where rap and politics meet. Even in middle age, Marshall is one of the biggest rappers in the world, and the rippling social impact that his anti-Trump verse has had in just 12 hours reflects that. Rightfully so, the freestyle was truly a sight to see. But rushing to view it as the most imperative performance of its kind—a widespread response to last night’s broadcast—discredits a wave of rap that’s been on Trump’s head since his presidential campaign.

Em closing out the cipher festivities was poetic to begin with—an all-time great lyricist preparing to hold court in the foreground of a handful of today and tomorrow’s torchbearers. And it was fun to see another white man—shout out Pop—speak directly and angrily about the Buffoon-in-Chief instead of crouching behind buzzwords and neutral forms of expression, afraid to tip the scales. Tip? Em see-saw’d them.

Any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his
I’m drawing in the sand a line, you either
for or against
And if you can’t decide on who you like more
and you split
On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this…

Fuck you!

Pulling the cards of those wishing to “stay out of it” is an exercise in which too few celebrities are willing to engage, and Shady hit the nail on its head. That and the spectacle of the event being nationally televised and anticipated aside, however, how much was there to truly, excitedly write home about? Have we not seen this before? Last summer, YG framed his entire sophomore album campaign around the phrase “Fuck Donald Trump” months before he’d even been elected president. A single and video, a national tour, merchandise, stage design. Dude was talking Trump down waiting in line at the airport in conversation with a TMZ paparazzo.

Earlier this year, A Tribe Called Quest slammed Trump and the Muslim ban at the GRAMMYs, punctuated by Busta Rhymes referring to Trump as Agent Orange during a broadcast that did its best to swerve every opportunity to take on the obvious political paradigm shift head-on. It was one of the more daring instances in live performance history where it pertains to rap, but there were hardly calls of Q-Tip and company having pulled off something revolutionary. From Rapsody to Vic Mensa—who physically stood in protest with indigenous people in North Dakota as Trump pushed to ravage their sacred land with the Dakota Access Pipeline—rappers have been outspoken about the president, his administration, the circus Washington D.C. has become and much more over the last 18 months to nuanced acknowledgement. Em isn’t even the first white rapper to take this route; G-Eazy and Macklemore hopped on the remix to YG’s “FDT” last summer.

Furthermore, under the light, Eminem’s performance isn’t exactly a searing bullseye. He opened with wobbly attempts at humor—“That’s an awfully hot coffee pot/ Should I drop it on Donald Trump? Probably not”—and rarely strayed from his dismantling of Trump, a practice that ultimately distracts from the larger picture at stake. “We love our country and we love our military, but we fucking hate Trump,” rapped Em at the end of his freestyle. To spend that much energy on one individual—a vessel, a pawn really—while millions buckle under the pressure of a system designed to produce the society we currently live in actually suggests that Em is almost there, but even he may not fully understand what time it is.

To that point, there are a bevy of rappers who have displayed an understanding of the bigger picture. J. Cole talked about control of Congress being the issue on David Letterman’s show in 2014, while Obama was still president. Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker the Berry” highlights America’s configuration and presentation of the black experience as a grassroots issue. That dropped in 2015. Vince Staples told the one percent, the government and the president to “suck a dick” on “BagBak” last year.

Look, I’m not just a disgruntled Eminem non-enthusiast screaming whataboutism chants from the rafters. But far too often, folks wait until there’s a proper megaphone to get behind before championing a supposedly necessary movement. Kudos to Em for going there on BET last night, but the train he hopped on was already moving full speed ahead.

Related Posts


Eminem Ethers President Donald Trump In His BET Awards Freestyle


Donald Trump Loves Eminem


Eminem’s Message to the World: “F*ck Donald Trump”


Eminem Finally Joins the Presidential Race Conversation, Drops New 7-Minute Cut, “Campaign Song”


2016 BET Hip Hop Awards Cyphers: Still No Wu-Tang Cypher


Latest News

westside gunn Features

Westside Gunn and the Great Griselda Takeover

Respect the Almighty, no matter what language it's in
offset Features

Offset’s 15 Best Verses of 2017

Woo! Woo!
serious jones Video

Stairwell Freestyle: Serius Jones

Serius as a heart attack
antwon Music

The 10 Best Underground Mixtapes of 2017

You up on this?
adam22 Features

Adam22 of the ‘No Jumper’ Podcast Smashed the Like Button for SoundCloud

"When I'm getting hate, I can tell how to translate the hate into what they want from me"
donald trump Features

Donald Trump’s 31 Worst Tweets of 2017 (So Far)

He still has 21 days left for more misery
grownboitrap Video

Open Space: GrownBoiTrap

"Haitians don't play about that"
21 savage Features

21 Savage’s 10 Biggest Surprises of 2017

A weird 12 months for one of the year's breakout stars
remy ma Features

Wonder Woman: How Remy Ma Changed The Game For Female Rappers in 2017

"Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a bully. I actually bully the bullies"
J. Cole sitting on a porch in hockey jersey Features

Reexamining J. Cole’s ‘4 Your Eyez Only,’ One Year Later

This is a novel, everything else was the Cliff's Notes
Mixtape Art

Star Wars Meets Hip Hop On DJ Chong Wizard’s ‘The Last Mixtape’

You should be as excited about this mixtape as the movie
hopsin Video

Open Space: Hopsin

"If I feel like I'm a piece of sh*t, I'm going to be the coolest piece of sh*t to ever walk the earth"
Morlocks Knowledge

Knowledge Darts Vol. 30: Why Underground Rap Will Never Die

I'm still underground like a motherf*cking Morlock
beenie man Features

Murda She Wrote: Beenie Man, Konshens, Tarrus Riley, Aidonia x Govanna

The best real dancehall music right now
pineapple citi Music

So What If 50 Cent Stole Her Song? New Jersey Rapper pineappleCITI Is Moving On

The last thing she wants is for 50 to outshine her music
g herbo Video

Smoke a Blunt with G Herbo

“You need to be paranoid when you ain’t on some weed, ‘cause shit be going over your head.”