Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Well, sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.
As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is me, Andre Grant and Ural Garrett. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here’s this week’s “Stray Shots.”
Are Eminem’s lyrics the issue, or is it the problem of the society that birthed them?
Andre: I’m not gonna sit here and say that the world hasn’t changed. When we all decided to commodify ourselves for each other’s entertainment we became subject to the rules of objects. That is, of course, that objects do not post nascent Eminem lyrics on the platform created for us to turn our personal lives into a spectacle. And objects, also, do not shirk from the place that we have defined for them. Objects are what we say they are. This unidentified kid now finds himself in a particularly sticky kind of maelstrom. He is what we say he is, and his particularly angry message — perhaps born out of the frustration and absurdity that comes with being teenaged — expressed itself through Eminem lyrics. As an entertainer and thus an object himself, Eminem is a vehicle for that anger, but he is not a conduit for turning those thoughts into actions. His work is not propaganda.
The angry white male has been in the news a lot lately. The seeming evil of police officers; the Charleston Church massacre, and multiple school shootings has everyone on high alert. Could we as a society have stopped those crimes if we had only looked harder? This is what is on the minds of everyone when they report someone barfing song lyrics on social media to express their rage. Rage is dangerous, they think. This person could hurt people. That fear is justified, no doubt, but it is in itself dangerous. The human mind is a mixed bag, and we still don’t know what to do about people expressing those things in a public forum. So, for now, we have what are the equivalent to thought crimes setting off alarms. As usual, we are worried about the wrong things.
Cognitive dissonance is a part of America. We all know someone who has gone through an ordeal so mind-bogglingly unfair that it’s simply been sewn into the fabric of the land. Like when my homie told me he had to join a gang in his high school or they’d kill him. Or when that small town cop pulled a gun on me because I was lost in a rich neighborhood. Now, I won’t let him all the way off the hook. He needs to know what game he’s playing. And he needs to realize that he is not privileged. He does not necessarily deserve his girlfriend or the football team or good parents. But he doesn’t deserve to be treated as an object by proxy. He does not deserve to take on the shroud of an angry set of lyrics. That does not deserve to be his scarlet letter.
So now folks in the social media are facing what minorities have always faced: that you’re dangerous by nature and must be watched. And now we must all decide if we’re going to let social media ruin art for us. No, Eminem’s lyrics are not to blame. These issues are systemic.
Ural: Seems like the Fresno, California kid had some major issues outside of living in Fresno, California. Besides of birthing greats like Planet Asia and Fashawn, I regret the few times I’ve spent there. But, that’s beside the point. According to The Fresno Bee, the unidentified 15-year-old kid recently dealt with the death of his mother, broke up with his girlfriend, quit the football team and had shitty grades. Of course, people described him as a “loner” or “socially awkward.” Besides losing one’s mother (which sucked for me at 26-years old, let alone mid-teens), he seemed like your average Northern California adolescent boy with typical high school problems. Feeling alone and displaced from his social hierarchy, of course, Eminem would inspire some empty Instagram post. Instead of looking at the root of the problem, Shady’s lyrics gets the blame. Then again, we live in a post-Columbine and zero tolerance America. Idol threats are taken just as seriously as blatantly real ones. Hell, I remember in Jr. high I yelled I’d blow-up my school over what I perceived as undeserved after school detention. The end results were hilarious and ridiculous. Then again, the homie did eventually hook me up with his copy of The Anarchist Cookbook. Eventually, I grew into the less angry and more friendly guy I am today. Life just works out that way sometimes.
This is exactly the problem with almost every aspect of American society. Being reactionary to the symptoms instead of attacking the problems head earlier on. In terms to Em’, his life could have gone in a totally different direction if he didn’t have to deal with having an absent father or storied issues with Deborah Mathers? Regardless, he used Hip Hop as his expressional outlet. His lyrics reflected a young angst, anger and pain that many could relate to. He just had the masterful delivery and wordplay to articulate his point better than many of his peers today. It really isn’t different than the War On Drugs that spawned Gangsta Rap in the 80s. Clearly, Shady’s darker content loses its punch now that the Detroit spitter is in his 40s. And yes, I still stand by my statements in regards to his current content that promotes violence against women. Just like emcees over 40 still claiming to sell drugs or brag about some unrealistic body count. Deranged childlike fantasies just aren’t cool once one reaches adulthood because in that reality shit can get mad real.
Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.