Eminem recently dropped a surprise album titled, “Kamikaze” in which he took aim at a few rappers and addressed the poor reception he received for his last album “Revival.” On first listen I will say Em was “rappin’ rappin” (say it twice for full effect). He definitely had something to prove as it was beginning to feel as if he lost his touch. Lyrically he’s always been top tier, however, last year during the lead up to the release of Revival and on the actual album, it felt as if Eminem was chasing commercial success by talking about hot political issues. He had a freestyle during the BET Hip-Hop awards that garnered attention from everyone other than who it was addressed to, Trump. Then he made an entire album that seemed to pander to a Black audience. It did not go over well as listeners were able to see through the move, however genuine it might have been. Fast-forward to 2018 and the release of Kamikaze and people are once again on the Eminem train. I’m not a hater, nor do I dislike Eminem, but what I do have a problem with is people calling him a “Rap God” or the G.O.A.T. At this point in his career it is indeed undeniable that Eminem is a talented emcee, one of the best, but to anoint him as a rap God is, dare I say, disrespectful to the culture of Hip-hop.
Let’s be clear, Black people created hip-hop as a means of survival and adaptation. Music had been taken out of the schools, and the upscale disco clubs were not inclusive, to say the least. Young had people find a way to let the music in their hearts out, so they found ways to create it, whether it was with their bodies (beatboxing) or being able to creatively capture the small drum breaks of those same disco songs by switching in between two vinyl disk on a turntable. Hip-hop was created for us by us. What has Eminem done to move the culture forward in a way that we can call him a rap god or the greatest of all time?
Again, he is supremely talented in his ability to put words and phrases together; even his production skills are worth mentioning. He has the record sales and the accolades that put him in the conversation with the greats. Some might feel it is a matter of preference or opinion, and that’s fair, but I would again ask what he has done musically that separates him everyone else? We’ve heard his fast double-time rap flow by others, and we’ve also heard skilled white rappers. Plenty came before him, and there will be many that come after that will have lyrical talent. It is just frustrating that every time he does something that comes EASY to us, people love to crown him as if it has never been done before. This might be another case of black people inviting everyone to the barbeque again (people are still calling Bill Clinton the first Black president in 2018 like he didn’t sign the 1994 crime bill that probably put some of their family members in jail, but I digress).
Whether he knows it or not Eminem is a representation of white America thumbing their nose at Black people and Black culture. He is their way of saying “anything you can do we can do too,” and we sit there and nod in agreement. I personally think Eminem cares about Hip-hop as a culture, and he takes his craft seriously, but to give him a title of rap god is like accepting a lord and savior that looks like your oppressor, from your oppressors.
Malcom X. Bowser is a writer, curator, and founder of Urban X.