The title of Eminem's upcoming album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, is a direct callback to the title of popular and wildly controversial The Marshall Mathers LP. It's been more than a decade since that album won Best Rap Album at the Grammys. Since then, the entire culture of hip-hop has changed — but if his deeply homophobic new single "Rap God" is any indication, Eminem is every bit the same lazy, offensive bile-spewer he was back then.
"Rap God" is Eminem's rapid-fire, six-minute anthem to himself, and it's peppered with brazenly and violently homophobic rhetoric. In the first verse, Eminem boasts of his ability to "break a motherf----r's table over the back of a couple f-ggots and crack it in half." In the second verse, Eminem goes off on a bizarre, homophobic rant: "Little gay-looking boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-looking boy / You witnessing massacre like you watching a church gathering taking place-looking boy / 'Oy vey, that boy's gay,' that's all they say looking-boy / You take a thumbs up, pat on the back, the way you go from your label every day-looking boy."
The song is bad enough — but even more disheartening has been the way that so many websites have praised Eminem's rapping on "Rap God" while ignoring the song's problematic lyrics entirely. Time called the single "divine." Rolling Stone analyzed the song's influences without commenting on its content. MTV News took the time to collect Eminem's array of pop-cultural references without noting his homophobia. Worst of all is Just Jared, which took the time to painstakingly transcribe the six-minute song's lyrics — and took the coward's way out by writing "[?]" over every homophobic lyric in the song, as if they suddenly couldn't hear his crystal-clear vocals whenever he said something offensive.
It's worth pointing out that Eminem — who has built much of his career on the notoriety of his deliberately offensive lyrics — knows exactly what he's doing here. He admits as much in the third verse of "Rap God": "Sometimes when you combine a pill with the skin color of mine / You get too big and they come trying to censor you like that one line on The Marshall Mathers LP one / When I tried to say, 'I'd take seven kids from Columbine, put 'em all in a line, get an AK-47 a revolver and a nine' / See if I get away with it now that I ain't as big as I was."
We've been through this before. In 2001, Eminem responded to those who attacked him for the homophobia of the original Marshall Mathers LP by performing his hit single "Stan" as a duet with Elton John, who is openly gay, at the Grammy Awards. "If I thought for one minute that he was [hateful], I wouldn't do it," said John at the time. GLAAD issued a statement expressing their disappointment in John's decision, arguing that Eminem "should not have another platform for his hateful lyrics."
More than a decade later, I'm inclined to side with GLAAD, and I don't particularly care what Eminem actually believes — I care what he's preaching to the "new school of students" that he brags about having on "Rap God." Since the height of Eminem's popularity, hip-hop's biggest names have made major strides to tear down the once-entrenched homophobia of the genre. Last year, Frank Ocean declared that he'd once fallen in love with a man. Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, and Kanye West have all spoken out in favor of marriage equality.
With The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem had a similar opportunity to demonstrate growth as both an artist and a human being — and once again, he failed to take it. Instead, he's turned his considerable talents as an artist to the same regressive, lazy garbage he was spewing in 2000. Don't download Eminem's new single, and don't buy his new album. We've heard this all before, and there's no reason any of us should be subjected to it again.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 10 things you need to know today: September 30, 2014
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Are hedge funds doomed?
- 11 surprisingly apt lessons from Machiavelli's The Prince
Subscribe to the Week