When I say I like Eminem, some people translate that to I support and endorse misogyny, hate and an overall lack of character. They couldn’t be any more wrong. I want to at least share why Eminem is someone I look up to in a positive light and have no shame in my support for him as a world-class entertainer and an entrepreneur.
I won’t try to convince or persuade. I can’t, I won’t. But I can tell you how I feel about Eminem and what I see. More effectively, many of these qualities can be applied to other entertainers even if you’re not a fan of their celebrity.Mathers’ lyrics have been pumped through my ears since middle school since The Slim Shady LP in 1999. I’ve purchased every single album from him since then. Sure some songs weren’t exactly pieces of work I loved. Perhaps the skits of murdering his significant other were a bit over the top and I’d just hit skip. His skits targeting Insane Clown Posse as engaging in Fellatio was also over the top. His skits depicting the stress between Interscope Records manager, Steve Berman, were unnecessary, but it was an expression of the pains he felt through the music business.
With every album release with him, it’s a surprise. I was surprised by his unsurpassed lyrical creativity applied to every track. His talent can’t be duplicated. It’s why there has been no other musician who stepped forward to compete with him – if so, I’d hear it. Instead, they step forward and join him and complement his style. This is found in people like Drake, Nicki Minaj, Lil’ Wayne and only a few others. (And in this context, competition is healthy; it keeps the game alive.)
Every track tells a story. Sure he uses expletives; sure he says “faggot” and other epithets; sure he has some misogynystic overtones in his songs. In this sensationalistic society, if you don’t piss someone off, you don’t get noticed. He accomplished that. But what no one seems to remember is the more heartfelt, meaningful, and intimate songs. His love for his daughter is felt on numerous tracks. His passion and respect for friends is felt. But nobody says anything about those tracks when they are played. In fact, two of these are one of my favorite tracks of his.
Growing up, I felt loss. I felt inadequate. I was an outcast. I built up explosive moments of rage with no outlet. There was no blogging, Twitter or Facebook for me. Eminem was able to identify with me. He sang what I couldn’t. He helped me see that even if you are an underdog, you can achieve your goals and to flip the bird to your haters. It goes without saying; he experienced much more opposition in his career and life. I am a non-conformist and so is he.
As his celebrity and fame increased, so did his problems. No longer was his abuse of drugs merely recreational. It was addictive and you could feel the lack of creativity and talent in his Relapse album. That one stood out – and I’m sure sales and his peers helped him see the problem at hand. After going through treatment, he came out a new man. After he released Recovery, it was a faithful sign for his fans that he didn’t fade away. At 38, he still has the fire and passion he had at 28. He did away with the bleached hair. He just is himself. He doesn’t have to change that. He still has the same loyal fans who attracted to him like I did.
Most notably, he toned down his tracks in Recovery. He still refers to women as “bitches,” but doesn’t everyone? He still uses all the grammatical uses of “fuck,” but he doesn’t overdo it. Nevertheless, the content of the songs have been more heartfelt. Less lyrics that rhymed, but they have been more genuinely expressing his experiences — that’s what I appreciate. Just as therapeutic it is to listen to his raps, you can listen to how therapeutic it was for him to pen down his verses. Even if you written off Eminem as a mature adult, I encourage you to listen to his album.
The media gave him a chance. One of the last outlets I’d expect give him a fair chance to speak to mainstream America, Mathers appeared on 60 Minutes. It was evident he did a lot of thinking and maturing over recent years. Just as expected, they focused on him, not his music. That’s what I love.
It’s more than what he lays down on music tracks. That’s only one side of it.
He’s an entrepreneur. He doesn’t commoditize his brand and sell out and do the minimum. He had no shame in admitting his problems and his strengths. His lyrical compositions are amazing – but not to the degree of unconsciousness like Lil’ Wayne. His brand is strong and the real “rags-to-riches” story that he lives through is quite inspiring. Watch 8 Mile; it’ll give you an idea of what life was like for him in Detroit.
And he made it. He doesn’t need to rap anymore. He gets to spend time with his family. He gets to do endorsements for Detroit and Chrysler. He is a free agent. He is his own record label. He is his press. He is his talent. He doesn’t need anybody else to help him become great.
My only criticism of him is one that seems fair from where I stand.
I look at all the influence and authority he has in the media, the loyalty his fans have for him, his connections in the industry and the ability to get behind a message and tell the world about it … and how he doesn’t have one … at least, none that I can tell. I think about other people who aren’t as privileged as him and they’d love to meet him and get inspired. These people are inner-city and rural youth who don’t have goals, motivation or a record company to get their views out. It would be great if he would tell his story to high schools across America and give kids advice on the hard lessons he’s learned. They’ve all listened to his stuff – and it would be a great way to give back.
He’s not perfection, but he is a story. Even as I write, I think about what it would feel like to be in his shoes and help others and all it can do is bring tears to my eyes. I think about what it would feel like to have him inspire others to make the right choices and to take pride in who they are. I know I needed that when I was younger and surely many others need it, too.
This criticism isn’t a major flaw, but it shows how much I respect him for his talents and ambition. While he doesn’t seem to have a true purpose, I can’t help but appreciate how he got where he is. He embodies many qualities I appreciate.
Next time you hear me reference the artistic, professional and entrepreneurial abilities of Eminem, this is why he’s my hero. He was there for me when I needed him and I am thoroughly entertained, guided and inspired by his success.