I recently pulled up in traffic next to an expensive looking Jeep driven by a mid-twenties white guy. He had the official cube worker uniform blue button-down shirt, nice tie, Dockers. On the seat beside him was a Cisco networking manual. So, up to that point, I could identify with him I too am a cube rat, working in the IT industry. Although I was about 15 years older than him, we had more in common than not.
Until the next track on his CD started up, and incredibly loud and vile rap music blared across the intersection. At this point our paths diverged. My feeling about rap music and its culture goes far deeper than a simple dislike for the songs. The image of an urban professional co-opting a culture of violence and brutality as the soundtrack of his life is unsettling. The notion of this person reproducing is depressing beyond belief.
When I was growing up, in those pre-MTV days of the seventies, I was an Alice Cooper fanatic. My first concert was the Billion Dollar Babies tour, and I played my copies of “Killer” and “Babies” daily. Comfortably ensconced in white bread suburbia, I enjoyed the guitars and the pounding drums, but I never for a moment suspected that the person performing as “Alice Cooper” really had feelings about “Dead Babies” or actually loved the dead, as the song went. And when I saw him in concert, I knew the snake was a prop, and that Cooper didn’t actually defeat a giant tooth. I went from Cooper to the Clash, Zeppelin to the Ramones. I lived and breathed rock and roll, and still do.
Now I’m the parent of a 14-year-old boy who watches too much wrestling on TV, and always turns up Eminem when it comes on the radio. Now hearing the edited version of “Slim Shady” is one thing, but there is no way in hell he’s ever gonna sit down and listen to the The Marshall Mathers LP, at least not on my watch. Although he’s a bright kid, constant exposure to the homophobic rants, simulated murders and general negative portrayal of most everyone in the world can certainly have no good effect on the developing psyche of a young boy. So when I see the 20-something network professional tapping his foot to a musical world where a man is not a man unless he packs a Glock, where women are hos and bitches and homosexuals are at best objects of derision, if not violence, I see a person who has nothing to pass to the next generation.
People have attempted to argue the point that the music of Eminem or any other such rapper is no worse than the music of my youth, the Alice Cooper’s or the Clash.
Sexual braggadocio has been one of the hallmarks of rock music since Ike Turner recorded “Rocket 88” and started the whole damn thing. When I listened to “The Lemon Song” by Led Zeppelin with its “Gonna squeeze my lemon till the juice runs down my leg” I found the image interesting, I guess. What about the kid who is titillated by the following lyric from “Kill You”?
“Shut up slut, you’re causin too much chaos
Just bend over and take it like a slut, okay Ma?”
All the years of parental training and teaching to try and explain the difference between sex and violence out the window. Because in the world created by rappers, there is no difference between the two. Any woman on the planet (seemingly, their own mother included) is just a fluid receptacle; one that needs to just shut up and take it. By the time you get to the song “Kim” where Eminem “kills” his wife, you realize that you are dealing with a seriously disturbed little boy. Either he believes the crap he says, which is scary, or he is just playing a role the Andrew Dice Clay defense which is pathetic, to say the least. Either way it doesn’t matter. Because to a large portion of the rap music buying public (which are mainly white suburban kids), Eminem is a real person, talking about real things that exist in a real world. Or soon will, if the following lyric from “Who Knew” is any indication:
“So how much easier would life be
if 19 million motherfuckers grew to be just like me?”
I will defend any ones right to say damn near anything at any time or any place, even crap like Eminem. But dear god, don’t let me grow old in their world.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times.