Sadly, from that point things started to go downhill: Each Stage was timed to the second and your total times were all added up to give you an overall total. Anorak 5 ANTED re! Infact, Fasting unto death is used as a means of ritual suicide though glorified as a spiritual attainment in the said religion by the elderly monks and sometimes even the elderly laity.
Parker God sent me to piss the world off. And harder still than isolating historical moments is discerning the quickly changing present, to say nothing of presuming a singular future. At the time of this writing, a new Eminem album is anticipated within the year. The essays in this book—Gilbert B. As the author of this introduction the same goes, so a note on how these particular essays came to compose this book: Receiving a number of recommendations, I was able to attract the variety of voices I sought and am happy to include here.
But while there is no cohesive take on Eminem herein, several con- sistent patterns do emerge, among them: These common themes hold the core of the book together such that the divergent angles of approach and response can essay freely. To start, what even is rap? Aaron Apps, for example, considers Eminem as poet; Darin Flynn examines.
The appeal of an artist—and a rapper especially—is his way of being in the world: Genius is never sui generis. In a review of Detroit: An American. The broad strokes of Eminem biography relate to luck and success in at least one other respect. One does not necessarily follow from the other. CD sales peaked in those years; MTV still played videos at least part of the day.
Traditionally, much of the best rap has taken the form of real or imagined witness narratives that speak of and for but no longer just to groups of people the speaker encounters in daily life. Without regular infusions of new content, the autobiographer who writes himself into existence risks writing himself right back out of it.
He tells Ice-T in Something from Nothing: The challenge of craft is not merely complexity, though, but the method of conveying that complexity as well. The Sequel are more meta than ever, regardless of their nominal content. His use of explicitly autobio- graphical material can be troubling in this regard, as it invites the very mis- take it seeks to expose: His art is his art.
It should be equally appar- ent that Eminem and Rihanna are performing. Eminem asks literally for a pass to say whatever he likes, but some- times he seems to want to mean what he says. While he expects his audience to be able to distinguish between the literal and the ironic in his work, the use of straight autobiography in the ironic mode invites real-life trouble.
Kim is forced to live in the confusing gap between literal and actual, while fans heap real scorn and wish real harm upon her.
Adult Homemade Spy CamAnd Kim? Dre, speaking about his vision for N. He took it way more serious than all of us, that mother- fucker. One recurring claim in this introduction is that rap operates ironically and is always to some degree self-referential.
This claim might be construed to imply that persona is the product of the lyrics, but the causal arrow points in either direction: The core of that character has to match the core of the rapper himself. We care about them. We love them or hate them. And we start to see ourselves in them— in a crazy way, become them. But of course, the story is more complicated.
Mar- shall Mathers is the author of both personae and is himself a third major persona in the music. Adam Bradley shows how complicated these rela- tionships are even at their least complicated: His drift over the course of the following decade into reclusion supports this reading of a literal statement for either or both interpretation s.
The withdrawal might be a necessary consequence of fame—how much easier it is to see ourselves, in the Jay-Z fashion, in the despondency of The Slim Shady LP than in the celebrity of The Eminem Show. In their contribution to this volume, Julius Bailey and David J. Leonard consider this latest iteration, which they term Eminem 2.
Relevance for artistry. Eminem as virtuoso. Does any of this seem like a surprise from the vantage of ? I had no choice but to get used to it. In America, mainstream media is targeted at the most desirable consumer group: Eminem is authentic. Eminem is good-looking, gifted, popular, and Eminem is white.
When he did appear, the problem for me was that he received all this analysis and psychoanalysis that black rappers never got. There was no effort in the media to deconstruct who he is or where he comes from. May we lay you down on the couch? What is your prob- lem? Instead, we were fascinated with him. However, extensive white participation in black culture has also always involved white appropriation and attempts at ide- ological recuperation of black cultural resistance.
Music-focused Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. And regardless, the authenticity rap represents is always, for the white speaker, borrowed and therefore inauthentic. David Foster Wallace essays this awkward gawk- ing cum appropriation in Signifying Rappers: Jay-Z meets produces? There is this tendency to only value the voice of the white critic, no matter what the situation.
According to Bozza, this a small group: Perhaps it is for this reason that only four of the sixteen African-American critics, academics, and artists whom I approached for interviews for this book agreed to talk to me. Do you care how white I am or the contributors might be? While Eminem deserves a book like this as much as any rapper does, there are many who deserve it equally.
Chapter Notes 1. With the exception of Rodman, from , all works in this book are new. Harvard Uni- versity Press, , Adam Bradley, Book of Rhymes: BasicCiv- itas, , 11 7. Scribner, , Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Wesleyan University Press, , Turner, eds.
The Eminem Collection New York: Bradley, Jay-Z, Decoded New York: Spiegel and Grau, , Adam Bradley and Andrew DeBois, eds. Yale University Press, , xxv. Bozza, Rose, Jay-Z, Eminem, quoted in Bozza, Ecco, , Rose, 5. Rose, 6. Gates, xix. Tricia Rose sounds prophetic considering it was in that she wrote: Wallace and Costello, Palgrave Macmillan, Race … and Other Four Letter Words: Rodman End of the world: We had to develop a methodology that taught us to attend, not only to what people said about race but … to what people could not say about race.
On the contrary, people of color continue to be regularly depicted as dangerous criminals who threaten to destroy the existing social order; as exotic primitives to be feared, despised, and controlled; as helpless chil- dren dependent on charity from the technologically superior West; and as Although Cosby presented a far more uplifting public image of black people than had previously been the norm on U.
This is especially true in cases where the borrowing that takes place is recognizably more about love than theft: As a white man working in a musical idiom dominated. Norm Why is it that the only forms of popular culture that apparently have some sort of direct effect on audiences are the dangerous ones?
The Cosby Show as noted ear- lier was unable to usher in an era of racial harmony and tolerance, but edgy cartoons such as South Park will supposedly turn otherwise angelic, well- adjusted children into foul-mouthed, misbehaving delinquents. Or so the story goes. It would be going too far, after all, to claim that popular music has no recognizable impact on social values, or to suggest that, behind his foul-mouthed, criminally psychotic facade, Eminem is really just a misun- derstood, lovable little ragamuffin.
In this climate, any public statement about Eminem is implicitly obligated to focus on his multiple offenses against good taste, common decency, and fundamental moral values. To be sure, there are real and important issues at stake in the public furor over Eminem, especially around the questions of misogyny and homophobia.
And it would be easy to respond to this very traditional sort of condemnation of the dan- gers of popular culture with the very traditional litany of rebuttals: And that frame desperately needs to be broken. And so what I want to do for the rest of this essay is to tease out some of those silences in the public debates about Eminem: Such, at least, is the major rap against Eminem: Buried not very far beneath the surface of this critique, however, is a dicey set of assumptions about the relationship between art and reality.
When Ice-T or N. As Tom Carson describes it: When push comes to shove, then, whether Eminem really means what he says in his songs is, quite literally, an example of the canonical loaded question: To be sure, this particular slippage is partially enabled by the discourses of authenticity that play a crucial role in rap aesthetics and hip-hop culture.
Perhaps more crucially, we need to remember that authenticity must always be performed in order to be recognized and accepted as such. Of course, as a white man, Eminem seems an odd person to fall victim to such a bias … but that actually leads directly into the next part of my argument. Race Is Eminem the Elvis of rap: Or—alternately—is Eminem … the Elvis of rap: On the contrary, questions of race and racial politics are absolutely crucial to understanding any and every major form of U.
Where essen- tialist models of musical culture run aground is in failing to recognize that the history of U. Rather, they are culturally con- structed articulations: For instance: Either way, such arguments amount to a form of magical thinking: And these are forceful threats that Eminem should follow through on more fully.
Perhaps the easiest road into this piece of my argument goes through Miami and draws on another controversial rap act: The moral panic over Eminem and his music is much the same phe- nomenon, only on a larger and more threatening scale. Eminem, after all, has reached a loftier level of stardom than 2 Live Crew ever dreamed of, and so his cultural and political impact real or imagined is of a much higher magnitude.
Eminem, on the other hand, is already one of the top selling artists of all time, with more than 25 million units sold as of June Put another way, the vision of itself that mainstream white America works overtime to perpetuate is a vision largely devoid of hate, violence, and prejudice. And Eminem clearly knows all this. Race … and Other Four Letter Words Rodman 31 long shot—but the manner in which he does so is rare for someone at his level of public visibility.
Unlike the Beastie Boys, Eminem comes across as someone who cares as much if not more about maintaining the overall integrity of hip-hop culture as he does about his commercial success. Tellingly, however, 8 Mile ends on a much more subtle note. In moving toward my conclusion, though, I want to focus on a slightly different class-related question—one that turns the harsh glare of the spotlight or is that a searchlight?
Fuck, shit, piss, cum, tits, cock, dick, balls, asshole, cunt, pussy, ho, bitch, slut, faggot, jack-off, cock- sucker, motherfucker. Nor is it less insightful simply because it comes in a package that includes four-letters words and unchecked rage. But why should he? He clearly understands that language is a powerful tool— and a powerful weapon. But part of what I think that we—as cultural crit- ics—should value about Eminem is precisely that we can look at him and see bits of ourselves that we should acknowledge.
A good example of what this sort of nuanced criticism looks like comes from Ms. A knee-jerk reac- tion to violent hip-hop is often a case of kill the messenger. With respect to gender and sexuality, the silence we most need to shat-. Mainstream U. While peo- ple of color still remain far more likely to be poor than whites are, the vast majority 68 percent of the people living below the poverty line are white.
With respect to race, the silence that Eminem is best positioned to help us break is the powerful taboo against miscegenation: Coda In an earlier draft of this essay, that last sentence served as my closing thought. But then, suddenly, the ground on which I was working shifted beneath me: This is one of the occupational hazards of studying contemporary culture popular or otherwise.
Was the moral panic over? Or had he simply lost his edge? While his detractors often prefer to understand Eminem as completely tal- entless—or, perhaps more generously, as someone who wastes his talent on unworthy, amoral endeavors—the double-edged failure of Encore under- scores how tightly his skills as an auteur and a provocateur are intertwined with one another.
African American Cultural Criticism Minneapolis: Television and the Struggle for Blackness Minneapolis: Lewis, Enlightened Racism: Westview, There are many sources for more detailed arguments about these particular discursive silences and evasions, but some of the best are bell hooks, Where We Stand: Class Matters New York: Rothenberg, ed.
An Integrated Study, 4th ed. New York: Williams, Seeing a Color-Blind Future: A small portion of this literature includes Maurice Berger, White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness New York: Essays on Race and Culture New York: The Social Construction of Whiteness Minneapolis: From the s to the s New York: Routledge, ; David R.
Harlem Moon, Head Niggas in Charge: New York University Press, Da Capo, Where Are the Critics? Lynne Cheney vs. Sometimes the object of the panic is quite novel and at other times it is something which has been in existence long enough, but suddenly appears in the limelight. Sometimes the panic is passed over and is forgotten, except in folklore and collective memory; at other times it has more serious and long-lasting repercussions and might produce such changes as those in legal and social policy or even in the way society conceives itself [quoted in Stu- art Hall, Chas Crichter, Tony Jefferson, John Clarke, and Brian Roberts, eds.
The moral panic is also frequently a means of attempting to discipline the young through terrifying their parents. Routledge, This is a time-honored, if not exactly honest, rhetorical device when it comes to moralistic condemnations of popular culture. Harari, reprinted in James D.
Faubion, ed. Essential Works of Fou- cault, —, Vol. New Press, , Novelist Zadie Smith rebuts this attitude by noting that Salvador Dali was an asshole. So was John Milton. Sometimes people with bad problems make good art. The interest- ing question is this: When the problems go, does the art go, too? See http: Touchstone, ; bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom New York: Routledge, ; bell hooks, Where We Stand: Routledge, ; Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Oxford University Press, ; and Patricia J.
Laura Kipnis, Bound and Gagged: Gaonkar, eds. In the context of an album Strange Little. Beats by Em Ben Hoerster It would be difficult to argue with anyone positing Eminem as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Even music fans who are turned off by cer- tain controversial aspects of his lyrical content, his distinct vocal tone, or perhaps even the color of skin, are at the very least going to be able to rec- ognize his athletic, almost gymnastic, abilities as a rapper.
His vocal delivery conveys a sense of lyrical dexterity matched only by the greats. He creates intricate, mathematical rhyme patterns and makes it look easy. However, an examination of his work in this realm reveals Eminem as a talented producer with a plethora of skills, that he has honed to create monster hit records in three decades and multiple eras of hip hop.
On the mic, Eminem is a singular entity, presenting his personal stories and sketching ideas that are integral to his own narrative. In contrast, his musical productions throughout the years are almost always the result of collaborations. He nonetheless has found success working with other musicians and producers to construe his musical ideas.
He possesses other tools as a producer that have contributed to his successes, including an ear for catchy melodies and a fair amount of perfectionism that binds him to the studio, where he patiently and meticulously tweaks sounds to create unique tones.
Beats by Em Hoerster 45 key element of his success as a producer, demonstrating the powerful effec- tiveness of working together. The coherent musical statement presented in his music is created by him shaping and being shaped by his collaborators.
From his earliest days working with fellow Detroit citizens Proof and Mr. At this point, identifying Eminem-involved productions is an easy task. His revelatory, political, and confessional tracks use brooding, minor chord phrasing to amplify his intense emotional tenor.
His warm, thick synthesized bass lines roll and pulsate during up-tempo numbers and trudge when he slows things down. In addi- tion to their work capturing the burgeoning hip-hop scene in Detroit, the brothers also worked with funk music legend George Clinton and electronic group Tycie and Woody. In this era, these producers and others were mining old jazz records looking for rich, warm tones to sample like the sounds made by the Fender Rhodes electronic keyboard, and mid-tempo musical phrases to loop.
Laid back melodies were often matched with sharp, snapping snare drums, crisp high hats, and booming kick drums. These warm, airy samples were perfect templates for the new breed of virtuosic MCs led by Nas, Biggie, and members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Both songs have at their core a sophisticated musical phrase employing the signature Rhodes keyboard, propelled by a sharp crack of the snare and warm thump of the kick drum.
They were also looking back and experimenting with sounds and techniques from different parts of the country and from pre- vious eras. And rap music as a whole was beginning to change stylistically. Eminem and his collabo- rators were able to adapt to these changes effectively. Hip-hop artists near the close of the century began to abandon the use of samples more and more.
This change was partly driven by artists and record labels fearing litigation from copyright holders and partly driven by the abuse and overuse of certain sampling techniques by producers such as Diddy Puff Daddy at the time sampling entire phrases of musical com- positions that were top ten hits barely more than a decade prior. Beats by Em Hoerster 47 The move away from sample-based music was also instigated by other factors, including the rise in popularity of southern music.
One of these groups was Organized Noize; they used live instruments and programmed drum patterns to create hits for Outkast and Goodie Mob. Dre began to experience success using original com- positions as well. Likewise, the Bass Brothers increasingly began to move away from using samples. Because they were already adept at playing instru- ments and were plugged into the larger music scene in Detroit outside of rap music, they easily made this transition.
Working with these musicians gave the Bass Brothers the tools that allowed them to recreate some of the desired sounds and tones they and other producers had previously captured via sampling. Luckily for him, the Bass Brothers were more than capable of helping him achieve that. Dre was moving toward produc- tion techniques that eschewed the use of samples, although for Dre this was more of a return to form.
Dre began demonstrating an ear for discovering compelling funk samples and matching them to the right artists, as evidenced by his production work for the D. Now that Eminem had hooked up with Dre and brought his collabo- rators the Bass Brothers with him, the three entities blended and melded their styles together to create a coherent vision in The Slim Shady LP.
Eminem was involved in the production in multiple ways. Em used these experiences to learn more about production tech- niques and song composition. He maintained his collaborative relationship with The Bass Broth- ers and Dr. Dre but also sought out new musicians and songwriters as he developed as a producer. On this journey he would ultimately plant himself at the dead center of popular music, producing some of the biggest hits of the decade.
First, Eminem—who was already expanding his empire into other ventures artist development, cin- ema —knew that producing music for both himself and artists in his stable would lead to more revenue. By all accounts, Em is a studio rat. Numerous reports speak of the time and care he puts into crafting his verses. In an interview with Zadie Smith, Eminem dismisses the notion that some rappers are able to write verses in twenty minutes.
It seems likely that he would take as much care with his musical compositions. Creating his own soundscapes allowed his verses to merge with them more completely and discretely. For someone who pioneered a rhyme style and thematic oeuvre, it is a testament to his abilities as a producer and musi- cian that he was able to craft music that would complement it.
By , a year that featured the release of both The Eminem Show and the soundtrack. Still maintaining his habit for collaboration, the Grammy-nominated The Eminem Show had him collab- orating with his usual cast of characters: His production work on two pivotal albums in the early s is demonstrative of his status as a heavyweight producer at the time.
No easy feat for any rapper, especially considering Jay-Z was hitting his own peak right about that time. The dark, brooding, men- acing melody builds and crescendos repeatedly throughout the song. The instrumentation used here was smoother than on other tracks he produced at the time. Blueprint is often noted as a return to form for rap as a genre.
It show- cased beats from Kanye West and Just Blaze featuring glimmering soul sam- ples, sped up and bolstered by additional drums. Blueprint was a statement. Producing tracks for Nas and Jay-Z during their feuding years served several purposes. Em demonstrated that he could deliver produc- tions that were clearly in his own style but that were also myopically designed for the artists he was giving them to.
He effectively revisited this. Throughout the decade, Eminem produced a plethora of songs for himself, for artists affiliated with his label, including Obie Trice, 50 Cent, and D12, and for other major stars in hip hop such as T. He worked with Luis Resto to produce every song on the album outside of the bonus tracks. The Eminem Show released in was the most concentrated demonstration of these ele- ments.
This album was stuffed with compelling musical compositions tailor-made to support and add context to the subject matter of his raps. There is no nuance here. The fact that some beats on the album are repetitive is not necessarily a weakness. He showed he could create a beat tailor-made for a certain artist that remained per- meated by his DNA as a producer.
At this time, Eminem was also cultivating a collaborative relationship with his touring keyboard player Luis Resto. This song also showcased his ability to craft party songs. During this period, Eminem also focused on creating more dynamic songs. His collaborations with Resto allowed him to craft songs with more complex phrasing and song structure.
To have a song played consistently on the radio requires focus groups and rigorous testing from radio program directors. Surviving in this era means Em has developed all of the tools necessary to be a producer: For Eminem, it also requires staying true to his roots. His loyalty to early collaborators such as Dre and the Bass Brothers is clear, as he has collaborated musically with both throughout his long career.
He has left himself with little to prove. Perhaps more impres- sive than his commercial feats has been his ability to produce several iconic songs that have connected strongly with music fans and have made room for themselves in a hip-hop canon staunchly defended by hip-hop classicists with little interest in productions made after the Golden Era.
However, rap music continues to progress. Beats by Em Hoerster 53 new songrwriters and producers to collaborate with. Rap music continues to transform and is shifting into a new era. Little is known about his next album, projected to come out in late One intriguing development is that he has been collaborating with No I.
Throughout his long career No I. He also is adept at working with musicians, utilizing them to add texture and bolster his sample based music as well as creating original com- positions. The pairing of these two seems promising, and working with a new producer who has stylistic differences but a similar pedigree to past collaborators should serve to reinvigorate Eminem.
Eminem has acknowl- edged that he developed his skills as a rapper by rapping along to his favorite artists. The Fanatic Lyric: Eminem as Poet Aaron Apps This essay begins with a difficult task: How does one describe the mechanics of poetry without tearing into the engine case to see how the pistons move?
How does one say anything about a verse without quoting the verse itself? Such a constraint throws a wrench into all efforts aimed at close reading. And, just maybe, the lyric unto itself becomes more of a crutch than a guide. The Fanatic Lyric Apps 55 meter, and diction is set always over and above the content and politics of the poem, and this move that focuses on the workings of the poem has a politics of its own that attempts to keep writing in the domain of the self- referential, self-contained aesthetic object.
Hip hop samples, steals, defaces, quotes, and is always already political. Hip hop is hostile and contentious territory. Eminem crafts or comports into images as much as he creates music. That circling feels like a truer gesture toward getting at the rhymes. As I sidestep the intricacies of the lyric in order to talk about public persona, I want to mention and hold up scholarly efforts that delve into the lyric because they are accomplishing important work in terms of pushing rap into the realm of poetry, where it deserves to be.
Lyrically intricate rap verses deserve to be elevated both for their complexity and for their social and economic content. Eminem creates poetry of worth and substance in this sense, but Eminem is his own monster, his own amorphous body of pop- and socio-cultural problems.
I want to acknowledge that rap is poetry, and that Eminem is among the most skilled living writers of verse literary poets, slam poets, and rappers combined from the outset of this argument. What happens when we crack open the myth and turn the rapper back into a man?
What happens when we take the public persona and fold it back into the rhymes? How do they relate? How do they clash? To do this work, to make these connections, to step into the pastiche of his image in order to get at the reality of his lyrics, I want to cut Eminem down a few notches in order to build him back up.
I think the problem is more complicated, and is rooted to a degree in the style and content of his lyrics. Again, the lyrics are important, but I want to take a different angle in as to why they are. The threads Eminem connects to his audience make his success under- standable quantitatively. Simply put: And suburban kids outside of those conditions often imagine themselves in such conditions, or are only a generation removed from them.
Eminem is seductive to the helplessness, anger, and alienation that this audience feels. In short, I like to read internet comments because they provide a strange lens into the fan community. What makes Eminem stand out? Then, what gives? Before I got caught up in the strange problem of writing about the lyric without quoting it, I was caught up in the problem of writing about Eminem himself.
Calling rap poetry on par with the rest of contemporary, oft-academic poetry functions in a similar way: Tossing rap up into the poetic stratosphere is a win-win situation—such acts make things more inclusive and create a space where we can look at literature for reasons other than its high-thrown status as literature, as cannon.
Is he, as most of the anonymous internet claims, the greatest living MC? Of course not, and who cares? But then how do I answer the previous question? Where do I position him within that vast spectrum? And, why does he remain so much more seductive than other MCs of his lyrical ability? When I taught a hip hop course at the University of Minnesota titled Prophets of the Hood, a course that used rap lyrics to focus in on the existential nihilism that is produced in the face of political and social oppression, at some point the students devolved into playground antics of deciding who were the top ten rappers of all time.
Sure, it was a self- selecting audience of students who decided to take a summer course focused especially on creative writing and hip hop in the state of Min- nesota , but it also seems quite apropos in retrospect. Audience connection aside: That approach to hip hop as central force in the development of his lyrical voice, combined with an ability to cross over to the mainstream because of his race, skill, and connections to Dr.
Signing to Interscope Records pushed him to the next level, but being rooted in a certain cultural lineage allowed him to prosper. Of course, the above list of things race, class, image, etc. It ultimately comes down to how those lyrical origins transfer over to the public persona.
Eminem, Slim Shady, and Marshall Mathers do not rely only on swag or persona to connect to the audience, there is always the lyrics to back that persona up. There are always those verses that touch, prod, and shock the listener, both with their content and with their skill. There is always something at stake in the background.
There is always verse. The Fanatic Lyric Apps 61 between the bars that prevents the audience from classifying Eminem as another joke in the league of Vanilla Ice. His skillfulness is always already rooted in the sense of performance and raw skill that such environments demand, and unlike many other MCs with similar roots, Eminem was able to transfer that skill built around live, inti- mate, high-pressure performances into an active and successful writing practice.
To get an idea of how this difference between the two approaches to the lyric plays out in other artists we might contrast Black Thought of The Roots and Pusha T of Clipse in order to see how these two approaches to the lyric stand apart. In short: What is so impressive about Eminem is the way he is able to shift between these two juxtaposed lyrical poles.
The Sequel under the group name Bad Meets Evil shows Eminem at his most lyrically playful and metaphorically complex, but even in the atmosphere of a semi- competitive collaborative work Eminem writes in a mode that is accessible to the listener. At his best, he mixes the two seamlessly. The music fades to silence and then an MC introduces the two rappers who are going to battle.
Eminem has both a smoothness of delivery to hook the lis- tener, and the complexity of lyric to hold them there for multiple listens. The Fanatic Lyric Apps 63 heart of it is, even as it has exploded in size to include such a massive and wide-ranging audience. Even if he does reach a substantial following, it is a following that gleans its members from a vast number of backgrounds, and it includes the working class folks Eminem claims roots in.
And it all comes back to battle rap: There is a need to be sharply clever, and to have a razor-edged wit, but there is also a need to do it in a way that is understandable to the audience in the immediacy of the moment. When that clear delivery gets combined with the mad and obsessive desire to create lyrics that stand up against some of the most complicated verses ever made, the result is an artist who has both credibility on the lyrical end of the spectrum and a level of unprecedented accessibility.
The combination of this intimacy of place and performance with an artist who stands on top of the TRL charts for record periods is what makes Eminem stand out. It also remains true that the Eminem is also always larger than the lyric itself; he is always the public Poet with a seductive backstory and comic delivery. He dresses up like Britney Spears, hosts shows on MTV, and fetishizes violence, but he also simultaneously is rooted in a working-class authenticity that comes through in the rhymes.
And as much as I can drift away from the lyric itself in order to talk about public reception, I feel always drawn back to it in an inescapable feedback loop. Without his lyrical skill and roots in battle rap, Eminem would both lack the credibility to exist as a rapper within the rap community, and he would lack the ability to create such simultaneously seductive and complex songs.
Eminem is a Poet with a huge public persona, but what is a Poet without their poetry? The soci- olinguistics and psycholinguistics behind Marshall Mathers and his music, though, are deserving of a PBS documentary. Eminem capitalizes on his lin- guistic genie with as much savvy as he does on his alter egos. The Sequel. As its title suggests, this essay focuses initially on the fact that rap is deeply rooted in black English, relating this to Eminem in the context of much information on the language of Detroit blacks.
This linguistic excur- sion may not endear me to readers who hate grammar or to impatient fans , but it ultimately helps to understand how Eminem and hip hop managed to adopt each other. Eminem Sociolinguistics: The Sequel brings up the gap between the rich and the poor: I can think of no better introduction than this to sociolinguistics.
Nobody knows for sure. According to renowned sociolinguist Walt Wolfram, this restriction has spread to black English dialects in northern cities like Detroit: For example, in urban Northern AAVE [African American Vernacular English] there is no evidence of 3rd plural -s in The dogs barks even though this trait was a characteristic of some earlier regional varieties in the South.
For example: This point can be empha- sized by focusing on the use of verbal -s in third-person singular. Importantly, in his landmark study of four dozen black Detroiters,6 Walt Wolfram found. Working-class speakers omitted verbal -s at much higher rates The second chart additionally shows that the rate of -s absence varies according to gender: Figure 1.
Percentage of s absence in third-person singular present indicative in the speech of Detroit blacks according to class. Rather, speakers tend to shift their speech style in different contexts. The latter were conducted in an informal atmosphere to record naturalistic conversation. The reading passage was a coherent narrative, focused on a conversation about a basketball game, but as a reading task, it elicited a more careful or formal style of speech.
The dramatic rate changes are shown in Figure 3, adapted from Wolfram. So what about the language of hip hop? What style is most appropriate for hip-hop artists to slip into, and do they do it? Rap music is aimed pri- marily at young urban working-class blacks, as John and Russell Rickford emphasize: Figure 3.
And black urban youngsters follow artists who roam the world implied by the neigh- borhood language of black urban youngsters. This is largely true of rap in general. As Adam Bradley states: This is precisely what H. Samy Alim did with two black rappers: He then recorded interviews with each artist Figure 4. As Alim states: So it is clear that both of these artists display the absent form more frequently in their lyrical data than in their interview speech data.
This may be viewed as a conscious, linguistic maneuver to con- nect with the streets as a space of culture, creativity, cognition, and con- sciousness. Hip Hop artists, by the very nature of their circumstances, are ultracon- scious of their speech. As members of the [Hip Hop Nation], they exist in a cultural space where extraordinary attention is paid to speech.
Speech is consciously varied toward the informal end of the continuum in order to maintain street credibility. Examples include: As for verbal -s, Eminem very rarely omits it in third-person singular. Here are some examples:. There may be several reasons for this. For example, in the presentation of black English in the documentary Voices of North Carolina, Phonte introduces fellow rapper Joe Scudda: Cutler suggests that white hip-hoppers may also avoid overusing black English because normally they do not have native-like control of its gram- mar.
But this is not true of Eminem. Some examples have already been given—verbal —s absence. Eminem was crazy, perhaps even recently, but he is no longer crazy. He was in Newark, he was with the Outsidaz. So he been in the hood before he got on. So I think it always been in him. Jonathan Scott offers a warning in this connection: Mathers is a poor kid from industrial Detroit, not a middle-class bellet- trist….
Below I offer a list of grammatical features that many would assume to be black English, and Eminem may well deploy them as such in his black-rooted music. Object pronouns are especially common in con- joined subjects; for example: This is a well-known pronunciation feature of black English.
This fact really stands out because all whites always pronounce their r sounds in Detroit unlike in Boston or New York City. Outside the hypermasculine hip-hop nation, this pronunciation pattern is some- times described as sounding effeminate or gay. This pronunciation is widely associated with southern Americans as well as northern blacks. So for instance, when he is composing a song during the bus-riding scene of 8 Mile, he instinctively chooses words that end in voiceless consonants, to ensure that the last vowel remains constant as [aI] not [aa]: Bridget Anderson reports that most black Detroiters now pronounce [aI] as [aa] before voiceless consonant,.
Percentage of [aI] pronounced as [aa] in the speech of black Detroiters, by gender and context. According to Anderson, blacks adopted the [aa] pronunciation before voiceless consonants from white Appalachians who migrated to Detroit. The short answer is that Eminem is accomplished, period. About three hundred songs are powered by his unrelenting voice.
But the question lingers and invites longer answers from different perspectives hence this book. The proper nouns in Slim Shady are also homophonous with adjectives. Homophones are common—repre- senting over forty percent of English words, according to some dictionar- ies—and we ably use context to get around their ambiguity. The goal, as stated above, is for his pen and paper to cause chain reactions in our brains.
It is not, as some misunderstand, only to make puns. None of this is meant to be funny, it seems. Eminem aims more directly to sustain simultaneous meanings that are activated in our brains by homophony and associated memories. He notoriously wields them to go Slim Shady on various people: Shady silences his critics and gets them to see his way by tearing out their vocal cords, which he then uses to connect their eye sockets to electrical outlets.
The Sequel , respectively. Eminem has also become legendary in his use of homophones to play off more than two meanings in his lyrics. To give just a few recent examples: The last example deserves special attention. Eminem leaves no doubt that he is the second of this duo. It is a Detroit-born genre that Eminem honors with his Slim Shady persona and his extraordi- nary lyrical skills.
The goal—apart from rhythm and. In particular, psycholinguistic experiments show that rhyming words prime each other. For example, try completing the following sen- tence: The man walked into the bank and slipped on some ice. This effect is documented for everyday speech,26 but is much stronger in rap, of course. What about words or phrases that do not rhyme perfectly?
Such words can prime each other, too. In Dr. Again, priming is crucial to pulling this off. In all these cases, a preceding sound structure is carried over partially to a following word, a form of priming. This is a legitimate pronunciation in many parts of the U.
For instance, your brain responds more strongly to a word if you were just exposed to another word that begins with the same consonant or consonant group alliteration. The brain response in question is somewhat negative, however. It is clear that Eminem is aware of grammatical priming. The Sequel has the purposely convoluted construction: I also have the impression that Eminem recycles grammatical con- structions through much of his lyrics, something that is predicted by gram- matical priming.
To summarize, psycholinguistic experiments reveal that hearing or saying an utterance causes a huge variety of words and phrases that are. As psycholinguists have observed: If so, then poetry, puns, and other forms of wordplay should not be viewed as exceptions to normal lan- guage use. Indeed, they may provide useful insights into the organization and operation of human language.
Conclusion Much like Eminem consciously primes our subconscious brains with his lyrics, my essay aimed to make explicit a selection of what his fans already know implicitly. For example, Eminem was included twice in a recent list of worst rap lyrics from the last year or so. This may be the. Fans can only appre- ciate this change in connotation, whether it should have come from two decades of rapping experience, or from a split-second schizzo-switch to Slim Shady.
The general point I am getting at is one made long ago by Tim Brennan, whose rhetorical questions serve well as an envoi: What if one claimed that the pleasures of rap—like the colors of Da Vinci and the polyphonies of Bach—had to be learned, deliberately, as in the art appreciation courses?
Or that those who could not, at least by projection, understand such pleasures were in some basic sense uneducated? Paul Toogood, producer, Something from Nothing: Indomina, Cam- bridge University Press, , Studies of Transported Dialects Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Schneider, eds.
Mouton de Gruyter, , Lisa J. Cambridge University Press, , Center for Applied Linguistics, John R. Rickford and Russell J. Rickford, Spoken Soul: Wiley, , Basic Civ- itas, , Samy Alim, Roc the Mic Right: Routledge, , Cecelia Cutler, Crossing Over: North Car- olina Language and Life Project, Green, Language, In northern cities this pattern is unique to black English.
Matthew J. As in: Lotto battle, was played by an actor with the same last name Jerry Mathers. David N. Rapp and Arthur G. The foregoing relates to the phenomenon of rhyming slurs—when people use a short phrase to conjure a slur that the phrase rhymes with.
Joseph P. Elsewhere, he actually embraces such priming mistakes precisely because they improve the rhyme or rhythm of the song. Eminem also gets away with such bending because our brains restore words. For instance, psy- cholinguistic research has long shown that if you edit a recording by substituting a cough noise for a vowel or consonant in the middle of a word, listeners will hear the edited word as if it had been pronounced perfectly and as if the cough had happened just before or after it Traxler, Psycholinguistics, Chingy hails from St.
Christine A. Sevald and Gary S. See Ben- jamin K. See Roger W. Grammatical priming is difficult to apply because rhyme takes precedence over grammar in rap. Eminem illustrates this while poking fun at pretentious grammar in one of his Wake Up Show freestyles: Note also generally negative comments below article.
Comments there are generally negative, too. One of the fundamental building blocks of rap, as it is for all types of music, is rhythm. Because many of the terms used in this essay have multiple musical meanings, a note is required. That is, the term rap does not refer to the genre as a whole. If a listener conceives of the musical not poetic rhythms To help safeguard the users of this service from spam, we require you to enter the characters you see in the following image.
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