Eminiem VS Trump (and Stan Too!)

BET Hip Hop awards last night featured a who’s who of the years hottest Hip Hop–but all anyone cares about is Eminem.  The real Slim Shady stole the internet with his cypher devoted to a full-body takedown of Donald Trump.  ICYMI, you’re welcome:

The interwebs and cable news outlets buzzed with all sorts of love and accolades for Marshall Mathers, from Diddy and Kaepernick himself to LeBron James, another star who recently roasted Trump with a simple “U bum”.

So by midday, everybody is really feeling Em, and Trump’s tinny Twitter triggers haven’t banged out a response (though Trump did take the time just days ago to tweet at ESPN, calling for Jemele Hill to be fired).  Shortly thereafter, Eminem is declared President of the United States according to the rules of rap battles.

Except that Eminem is not the president.  Once the high wears off, the fact remains Eminem is about the 306,547,999th person in America to yell ‘Fuck Trump’.  I swear even my mother has said it.  He’s not even the first celebrity, or rapper to say it.   There is no shortage of rappers that have spit that fire at the Orange House–Kendrick, Qtip, Kweli, Jay. Where were you this spring when Joey Bada$$ stole my heart with those three little words: fuck white supremacy?

But there is one thing Eminem did that is worth noting–he attacked his own fans. Most of his cypher was directed at Donald Trump but a few bars of the freestyle were directed at his own Stans.  As one of the most popular white rappers, Em has–spoiler!–a huge white fan base.  And like the rest of white America, it’s safe to assume a portion of them are Trump supports, maybe even a few alt right thrown in, if they made it past White America. With an album scheduled to drop November 17, Eminem refuses to tread lightly with his more hate-inclined fans to make that paper.  Instead, he went in on his own bread and butter, telling fans:

And any fan of mine who’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:
Fuck you!

Like confronting your drunk racist uncle at Thanksgiving, Em models the way that we each have to confront the people we care about.  We’ve all done it, lost friends, sometimes even family over the racist and sexist beliefs they refuse to stop embracing.  With these last few lines in a video bound to go viral, Eminem shows famous white people how famous white people can and should talk to their potentially racist fans: forget the money–cut them off. This is worth clapping it up.

The fight for racial justice requires all people of good conscience to do what is hard, to confront those closest to us, and to put ourselves in harm’s way to get to justice.  It’s not about finding the best way, or the most important way, but just the way that is open to you, right now.  Writers, write.  Painters, paint. Organizers, organize, and Eminem raps. We each must pick up the tool we are most skilled with to dismantle racism.  We have to take real risks to say what is true to people we love, to people who love us. Shedding friends, fans, and fakers is the only way we’ll get to justice.

Black (Celebrity) Lives Matter (more)

Weeks of protests across the country have been missing lots of your favorite black pop stars, including one formally pink-haired princess.  Nikki Minaj has been silent on the issue of police misconduct and brutality.  Turns out, even though she has assured us that she is both a monster and a boss bitch, that she is worried about taking a hit in the pocket if she stands up for black lives.  Not so tough now…

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In a recent interview in Rolling Stone Minaj said that she feels like she can’t speak out about racism in society without her career taking a hit:

“I feel like when Public Enemy were doing ‘Fight the Power,’ we as a culture had more power — now it feels hopeless,” Minaj says. “People say, ‘Why aren’t black celebrities speaking out more?’ But look what happened to Kanye when he spoke out. People told him to apologize to Bush!”

Minaj must not have notices tens of thousands of  people around the country participating in die-ins:  laying on cold streets, in traffic, on highways, and across the sticky floors of malls.  These people– many young people squarely in Minaj’s demographic–have been unafraid to speak out and to literally lay down to stop the world and make people hear their chants of black lives matter.

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Some of these people left work or class to participate in protests risking all kinds of consequences.    But most of the protesters are not famous, and few are likely to have a corporate record deal, so admittedly, most of us have a lot less to lose than our favorite rapper.

141124_seattle_maclemoreThen again, look at Macklemore who has made a career in rap speaking out.  From celebrating thrift store swag to same sex rights, Macklemore has made millions, topping charts and hearts with his uber-unity rap.  Even Eminem, the bad boy of rap, has spoken on on a variety of social issues like suicide and poverty.  Em didn’t get black balled, he got put in car commercials .

What could possibly be different between Kanye and Nikki and Macklemore and Eminem?  Black artists don’t get the same pass, don’t get to play the same parts that their white counterparts play, even in the land that blacks created–hip hop.  Black artists can easily be labeled as radioactive for the same stances that we swoon to see white stars in.  Bill Gates can dump money wherever he wants, but when Dr. Dre gave a massive donation to USC he was criticized for not giving black enough.  Critics questioned Wyclef’s work in the wake of the Haiti earthquake.  And of course, there’s Kanye.

Of all the spheres for black celebrities to orbit, hip hop was supposed to be the genre where black lives–and voices–really did  matter.  Truth is, there is lots of great hip hop talking about these issues, but to Minaj’s point, that is the game of mainstream media.  Market forces determine the lowest common denominator for pop stars to aim at, hoping to please the bland palate of the masses while ignoring the issues of the smaller classes in the audience.  the risk is real, but is that an excuse?LeBronJames1

Despite having offered an apology to George Bush, Kanye persists. Despite the potential backlash, dozens of sports stars have made their voices heard.  Despite the cold, Black Lives Matter Protests persist.  So what’s up, pop princess?  In the face of racism we each have to chose how we will respond.  When we choose to sit on the sidelines and not risk what we have despite our best intentions, racism persists.

Minaj bemoans the hoplessness of these times–I feel her.

“[Kanye]was the unofficial spokesman for hip-hop, and he got torn apart,” she says. “And now you haven’t heard him speaking about these last couple things, and it’s sad. Because how many times can you be made to feel horrible for caring about your people before you say, ‘Fuck it, it’s not worth it, let me live my life because I’m rich, and why should I give a fuck?'”

We create these stars when we buy their shit, but they cannot be bothered to say in public that your life matters.  Go ahead, Nikki and live your life, because fuck it, it’s true–you’re rich and why should you give a fuck.   Selling out pays well.  But if you ever want to see what a real star looks like, look at the bodies dotting the pavement.  They’ll be out there, holding you down.