The Homophobia Continues: Is Eminem Getting Another Pass With “Rap God”?
Early last week, Eminem dropped “Rap God,” a six-minute long highly-offensive and homo-antagonistic cry for help, also known to some as a song, and the world was kind of indifferent about it.
Actually, that’s not entirely true: A number of folks, mainly gay rights organizations, supporters and entertainers, including Boy George and Elton John, who once performed alongside the controversial rapper, have publicly denounced both the song and the rapper for dropping “f*g” numerous times on the track and for using the term “gay” in general as an insult. But in many respects, the outrage, specifically in the media, has been tempered – if not blatantly absent. Even former ’80s “Karma Chameleon“ Boy George took to Twitter to note, “Isn’t it sad how the media just accepts abuse of gay people? F**ked.”
Indeed, especially when you check out a sampling of the song’s lyrics below:
“I attempt these lyrical acrobat stunts while I’m practicing that / I’ll still be able to break a motherf**kin’ table / Over the back of a couple of f*ggots and crack it in half / Only realized it was ironic I was signed to Aftermath after the fact…”
And then there is this:
“Even though I walk in the church and burst in a ball of flames / Only Hall of Fame I be inducted in is the alcohol of fame / On the wall of shame /You f*gs think it’s all a game ’til I walk a flock of flames…”
“Little gay-looking boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-looking boy / You witnessing massacre like you watching a church gathering taking place-looking boy / ‘Oy vey, that boy’s gay,’ that’s all they say looking-boy / You take a thumbs up, pat on the back, the way you go from your label every day-looking boy.”
Even as the Hip-Hop community continuously bares the brunt of accusations of being a bastion for homophobia, and society as a whole starts to understand how words like “f*g” are hurtful and just not polite, Eminem clearly has no interest in caring about either. And why should he? Not when TIME magazine can overlook the homophobia completely and instead just call the track “divine.” And not when Rolling Stone magazine also didn’t bother to mention the homophobic tirade at all, instead focusing on his warp-speed delivery and whom he might be paying homage too. Even the New York Daily News, who mentioned the controversial stuff, still didn’t see the need to quibble over the song’s homophobia, nor its misogyny, and saw it as nothing more than a “throwback to rapper’s playful prime.” Also noticeably absent is the lack of critical op-ed pieces not only denouncing, but also deconstructing what a song and its homo-antagonistic lyrics means to mainstream youth – and more importantly, how Eminem himself is a reflection of that culture. Instead, it appears to be an ambivalent undertone within this reaction – or lack thereof – to the song.
In some ways, it is understandable: Mr. Slim Shady has been using homophobic slurs and imagery in his music for more than a decade now, drawing all sorts of controversy and protest in the process. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, or GLAAD, declared Eminem’s lyrics on The Marshall Mathers LP as “the most homophobic and hateful that GLAAD has ever seen in the past 15 years” and even protested the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards, which gave a platform for the Detroit-native to perform his now infamous duet with Sir Elton John. Not only did Eminem receive a standing ovation and a hug from the gay musical legend, but he managed to show how little he gave a crap about the GLAAD protest or the awards in general by raising both middle fingers to the audience.
And that has pretty much been the gist of how society has responded and dealt with Eminem’s homophobia. In essence, the Great White Hope of Hip-Hop, who has been a darling of the music and cultural critics, has sort of received a pass from the same level of scrutiny and flat-out hostility as some of his equally vile, and browner homophobes and misogynists. Somewhere, Chris Brown is listening to the track, whining and probably angrily punching a wall, or a puppy, at how his horrible transgressions warrant, on average, a public declaration a week on how much everyone should hate Chris, while some defensive music critic is once again, trying to convince us that Eminem’s abusive gender and sexual politics (as well as his past, which involves domestic violence incidents with ex-wife Kim) are all just a matter of clever wit and ironic wordplay, which us Philistines are incapable of processing (and yes, those articles exist too). And on that account (and only on that account) Breezy would have a point.
Outside of the realm of Hip-Hop and more into popular television, music and film culture in general, there does appear to be a tendency to ignore or excuse and even normalize misogynistic, homo-antagonistic and phobic deeds and words, which come by way of white entertainers and their even whiter writers. It seems that when they do it, it’s ironic or artsy. But when brown-skinned folks do it, it’s a cause. In no way am I suggesting that black rappers should get a pass as none of it is right. I’m just saying that the standard should be raised, applied and held for all, including the real Slim Shady.