Tha Dogg Pound rapper sat down for an interview with The Art of Dialogue, where he was asked about Melle Mel’s recent controversial comments about Slim Shady, who he said is only considered a top rapper because he’s white.
The Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five pioneer’s remarks came after Em was ranked No. 5 on Billboard’s Top 50 Greatest Rappers of All Time list, ahead of The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Wayne, André 3000 and others.
Kurupt initially responded by disagreeing with Melle Mel, arguing Eminem’s skills on the mic are undisputed, regardless of his race.
“That’s his opinion. That’s not our opinion,” he said. “The way Dr. Dre took Eminem subject matter-wise is one thing; the way Eminem rocked — he’s a battle rapper, so he’s Hip Hop, no matter what color he is. Dr. Dre took him in this way, so that has no bearing on his skill. His skills are renowned.”
He added: “But that’s Melle Mel’s feel on it. Melle Mel is an icon of Hip Hop … Remember, he’s the original Hip Hop so Melle Mel speaks from that standpoint. For my generation, hey, Eminem is our monster. His color is irrelevant.”
However, the West Coast rap veteran — who Eminem named as one of his favorite MCs on 2002’s “‘Till I Collapse” — later acknowledged that Melle Mel was right about one thing regarding the self-proclaimed Rap God’s white privilege.
“He does have a point, Eminem being white,” he added. “He might have got away with a lot of things, like him talking about all these different artists and shit, you know what I’m saying? And not having no backlash to where he’s blackballed.
“But not from his skill. [Being] white had nothing to do with his skills. But he might have got away with a lot of things. Shit, we got away with a lot of things once we became successful! Once you’re successful, you can do whatever you fucking want, and the game accepts it because they make money off of what you’re doing, so they give you that pass.”
Eminem has ruffled plenty of feathers throughout his career, both within and beyond Hip Hop. His initial rise to stardom in the late ’90s saw him poke fun at pop culture figures like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera — most notably in his music video for “The Real Slim Shady.”
More bitter feuds followed in the 2000s, including with Ja Rule, Everlast, Canibus, Mariah Carey, Insane Clown Posse, Benzino and The Source magazine. His lauded lyrics have also been laced with shots at sitting presidents, the LGBTQ+ community and his mother Debbie Mathers and ex-wife Kim Scott.
Eminem has never shied away from acknowledging the advantage that his skin color has afforded him, though. “Let’s do the math: If I was black, I would’ve sold half/ I ain’t have to graduate from Lincoln High School to know that,” he famously rapped on 2002’s “White America.”
His verse continued: “When I was underground, no one gave a fuck I was white/ No labels wanted to sign me, almost gave up, I was like/ ‘Fuck it’ until I met Dre, the only one to look past/ Gave me a chance and I lit a fire up under his ass/ Helped him get back to the top, every fan Black that I got/ Was probably his in exchange for every white fan that he’s got/ Like, damn, we just swapped, sittin’ back lookin’ at shit, wow/ I’m like, ‘My skin is startin’ to work to my benefit now’?”
In a revealing cover story for XXL last year, Eminem admitted that he was “hurt” by the white rapper criticism he faced early in his career.
“When things started happening for me, I was getting a lot of heat, being a white rapper, and XXL wrote something about that,” he wrote. “I remember going to one of those newsstands in New York when the magazine had just started out, and I bought that and a couple of other rap magazines. I flipped to the last page first and XXL was dissing me. What the fuck?
“I don’t even know if I read the whole article — I was used to reading things like that about me — but it hurt because I felt they didn’t know me to make that kind of judgment. Coming up, I had to deal with that a lot. I wanted to be respectful because what I do is Black music. I knew I was coming into it as a guest in the house. And XXL, The Source, Rap Pages and VIBE were Hip Hop bibles at the time.”
He continued: “I understood, at the same time, everybody’s perception of a white guy coming into Hip Hop and all of a sudden things start happening for him. So, if XXL would’ve even had a conversation with me, maybe they would’ve understood me more.”