Eminem portrays anger, emotions of his generation
By Daily Bruin Staff
Feb. 11, 2001 9:00 p.m.
Spencer is a fourth-year English student.
By Traci Spencer
Since his first commercial release in 1999, Eminem has been the
subject of widespread controversy in every facet of American
society. From hearings at the Senate floor regarding violence in
the entertainment industry to a lawsuit filed against him by his
mother, Marshall Bruce Mathers III has become a household name
spoken by young and old alike. His Technicolor journey through the
processes of extreme physical violence, hateful slurs and tender
moments has earned him an unprecedented Grammy nomination for Best
Album, the first of its kind for hip-hop music.
Hip-hop music was born some 20 years ago out of the rubble that
resulted from the construction of the Moses freeway in Brooklyn,
New York. Thousands of residents who lived in the torn down housing
projects were left with an environmental disaster or mountainous
piles of rubble, huge dust clouds and an impoverished community for
According to Robin Kelley, professor of history at New York
University, street MCs were the products of this massive
displacement of African Americans. They began performing
“toasts” on street corners, local burger joints and in
the middle of all those broken rocks. These toasts were based on
quick wit, rhyming ability, braggadocio and often times
“dozens.” Most importantly, they quickly developed into
hip hop, giving disenfranchised people a voice for political
outcry, social critique and even a lighthearted perspective. Hip
hop comes from the likes of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,
right on down to Eminem. Yes, Eminem.
Eminem’s Grammy nomination is the culminating point for
this predominantly African American art form and a well deserved
one at that.
Many of Em’s critics cite his violent lyrics and often
times touchy subject matter as a divisive and overall negative
influence on America’s youth. But the flip side of that
argument is that Eminem brings a very important component to
hip-hop music, and the lives of his listeners that has long been
Geoff Boucher, of the Los Angeles Times even referred to Eminem
as “this generation’s poster child for malcontent
Violence, politics and street tales, long prevalent in the
African American community, have historically fueled hip-hop music.
Eminem acts as the catalyst behind those emotions. On both
“The Slim Shady LP” and “The Marshall Mathers
LP”, he takes his audience on a psychological journey through
his own life, often saying the things that many think but
don’t want to say out loud.
Eminem forces his audience to confront the basis of their
emotions and says that it’s OK to feel that way. It’s
OK to feel violent, be angry, get upset and explore the negative
emotions that are so frequently repressed in our society. He also
combats them by telling his audience that it is unacceptable to act
on those emotions, particularly in his song “Stan” from
“The Marshall Mathers LP”.
Since Em’s emotional confrontation of sorts, other artists
have followed and have begun to include more raw and heartfelt odes
to personal attacks, loss, grief, stress and emotions that were
previously untapped in the genre of hip hop. The likes of Dr. Dre,
Lil’ Kim, Jay Z and a plethora of other artists have also
begun to shed their violent facades. They now include more personal
recordings that cross long-standing boundaries in music and reach
through to the heart of their audiences.
Will Eminem win the Grammy? Probably not. However, with this
nomination, he has won validation for his art form, something that
has long been sought after in hip-hop music. This nomination is
something he deserves for his invaluable contribution to a long
line of pioneers in his field and something that will have a
lasting effect in the hip-hop community.