eminem

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

Video
Video

Eminem Ethers President Donald Trump In His BET Awards Freestyle

News
News

Donald Trump Loves Eminem

News
News

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

Music
Music

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

Music
Music

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

Ad

Latest News

lena-waithe TV

The First Trailer for ‘The Chi’ from Lena Waithe Arrives

After an Emmy win for ‘Master of None,’ the comedian gets dramatic for Showtime
drone News

The LAPD Probably Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Have Drones

Let’s be honest, their track record sucks
roger goodell addressing the media during the nfl's fall meetings, 2017 Sports

Commissioner Roger Goodell Says He’s Trying to Rid the NFL of All Protests

This man is dense
gucci-mane-wedding News

30 Unanswered Questions About Gucci Mane & Keyshia Ka’oir’s ‘Mane Event’ Wedding

Why tho?
young-dolph Music Video

Young Dolph Exits the Hospital in New “Believe Me” Video

First day out the beds
ezri Video

Stairwell Freestyle: Ezri

“Step up to the throne like, ‘Gimme, that’s ours.’”
Handiedan Art

Investigating Femininity, Handiedan Time Travels To ‘The Fourth Dimension’

Flush with thought, not peek-a-boo cuteness
hayward injury Sports

The New NBA Season is Already Insane

“Hayward came down so hard. Oh, Hayward broke his leg”
Rosati Crystallizations Music Video

PREMIERE: Rosati “Crystallizations” Video

Some Left Coast sh*t
dj-premier Video

Off The Record: DJ Premier Speaks on the Making of Nas’ “N.Y. State of Mind”

“As soon as I heard the piano, he was like, ‘Yo! Can you hook that up?’”
master-p Sports

Master P Wants To Team Up With Kaepernick And Start A League of Their Own

P’s Bout it Bout it—and he’s not the only one
Music Video

Method Man Smokes the Latest Wu-Tang Joint

“If time is money/ Hood go bang”
popeyes-fried-chicken News

Long Beach Restaurant Caught Selling Popeyes Fried Chicken As Their Own

“It’s the best chicken” —Sweet Dixie Kitchen Manager
Tom Taylor Features

Comics, TV and Plays for the Stage: Tom Taylor Pens Them All

Is there anything this guy can't write?
frontline Graffiti

The Oral History of FRONTLINE, Pioneers of the NYC Hardcore x Graffiti Scene

An excerpt from the book ‘Urban Styles: Graffiti in NYHC’
Kendrick Lamar says "FEAR." has his best bars. News

Kendrick Lamar Says Verses On “FEAR.” Are His Best Yet

Real spit