Eminem has never been more himself (whether he realizes it or not) than with his freestyle rap at the Black Entertainment Television Awards on Oct. 6, 2017. In case you missed it, Eminem went after United States President Donald Trump in one of the most explicit, brutally honest and hate-filled freestyle raps in recent history.
In his evisceration of the president, Eminem forces his fans to choose: him or Donald. “And any fan of mine that’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand/ A line, you’re either for or against, and if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split,/On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: F— you,” the rapper stated.
Given the president’s appeal to the poor white working class, it is fair to say that there is a sizable overlap between Eminem fans and Trump supporters. Publicizing his unfiltered disdain of Trump made the obvious visible to Trump supporters. Eminem signs his rap by throwing up his fist and saying, “The rest of America, stand up, we love our military, we love our country.” Then, at the top of his lungs, Eminem yells, “But we f——— hate Trump!”
Eminem’s career in the hip-hop and rap industry is the epitome of double standards. On a night that celebrates black artistic achievement, the white Detroit native used an art form that is directly rooted in African American culture. Although the context and reception of the freestyle is a double standard, the lyrics, vulgarity and raw emotion from Eminem should not go overlooked.
Eminem entitled the freestyle “The Storm,” the perfect name for the tumultuous times under Donald Trump. The most important point that Eminem instills in every American’s mind is that Donald Trump is evil and immoral. By doing so in the form of a freestyle rap on a nationally televised award show, Eminem uses his platform to address those who are blinded by Trump’s empty promises and bigoted ideologies.
Jordan Almodovar, film and TV major at FCLC and avid hip-hop listener, said that Eminem’s fervent hatred of Trump is momentous. The number of white musicians that have publicly called out Trump is equal to the amount of good the president has done during his time in office. “Not many white musicians, pop stars, have really come out and expressed their views in this election,” Almodovar said.
To fully understand the importance of the freestyle in its entirety, Almodovar said it is important to consider Eminem’s background and audience. The Detroit native spent much of his youth in a poor working class community. “I still feel like his [Eminem’s] story and his fanbase still reflect that working white background. And one way or another, Trump’s election relied heavily on appealing to the working class and white families in poverty,” added Almodovar.
It is clear that in the age of Trump, one is either for or against the current administration. Dr. Tom McCourt, associate professor of communications and media studies with research interests in communication technology and music and cultural studies, explained that Rage Against the Machine’s album, Evil Empire, ushered in a wave of musicians subtly jabbing and/or calling out politicians by name. Dr. McCourt stated, “It all escalated from [Rage Against the Machine on Reagan],” said McCourt. “In terms of hiphop, the Last Poets and Gil Scot-Heron were very politically oriented in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, then not much until Public Enemy in the ‘80s.”
Eminem’s freestyle differs in that he directly calls out Trump. “Until relatively recently, few politicians were called out by name,” McCourt added. “I’d say calling out politicians is largely a 21st century phenomenon.”
To Eminem, the president is “orange,” “ignorant,” a liar and a racist – at least that’s what the rapper could utter in four minutes.
Eminem is not the first celebrity to join the “I Hate Trump” party. Public figures, most notably Colin Kaepernick and Jemele Hill, are using their public platform to inform audiences about the injustices done by the Trump administration, though Kaepernick’s protests were not originally against the President. The difference between the reception of Eminem’s comments versus those from Kaepernick and Hill: praise. Vocal Trump critics like NBA superstar LeBron James, daytime talk show host Ellen Degeneres and rapper J. Cole were just a few of these who took to Twitter to commend Eminem.
As the rapper continues to garner admiration for his freestyle, Colin Kaepernick is still blackballed from the NFL and Jemele Hill is serving a two-week suspension for ESPN. And though it’s fair to claim the context and reception of Eminem’s rap to be a double standard, perhaps it takes someone like him to reach Trump supporters.
The laundry list of head-shaking statements and decisions continue. Eminem put it best: Trump is in “quicksand.” The rapper added, “It’s like we take a step forwards, then backwards.” Instead of focusing on the displacement of families and ongoing tragedy in Puerto Rico, reforming gun laws or addressing the Northern California fires, the president sharpens his “Twitter fingers,” plays basketball with paper towels and works on his golf game.
Considering the freestyle in its syntax and delivery, this is not Eminem’s greatest rap. But, it is certainly the most important during the storm that continues to pour down. Calling Trump a bitch, telling his supporters “F— you,” and stating that the president gets his rocks off with racism was the best way, and maybe only way, Eminem could have voiced his thoughts.
As tensions rise and “drama pops” as Eminem puts it in “The Storm,” hopefully this storm dies down and a rainbow waits for Americans on the other side.
Dominic Arenas, FCRH ’18, is a digital technologies and emerging media major from San Francisco, California.