Rapping on Empty: Eminem

By Rosen, Jody | The Nation, January 10, 2005 | Go to article overview

Rapping on Empty: Eminem


Rosen, Jody, The Nation


Several weeks ago the 32-year-old hip-hop superstar Eminem, America's staunchest and most spectacular amoralist, found himself in an unusual position, suddenly cast as the moral hope of his generation. The occasion was the release, just days before the presidential election, of "Mosh," a torrid anti-Bush protest single that endeared the rapper to the sort of older blue-state listeners whose musical taste runs more to James Taylor than 50 Cent, and who would otherwise have steered clear of a man known for his extravagant political incorrectness. Here was an Eminem song that a Nation charter subscriber could love: "No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil," Eminem bellows over a glum piano line and a martial beat. "No more psychological warfare, to trick us to thinking that we ain't loyal."

This brutishly effective piece of musical agitprop was accompanied by an animated video, directed by Ian Inaba of the activist group Guerrilla News Network, which concluded with images of a black-hooded Eminem leading a youthful throng on a march to voter registration tables. The video shot to the top of MTV's countdown and spread like wildfire over the Internet; for a few days Air America buzzed with hopeful talk of an "Eminem factor" in the upcoming election. But for some of us who found the idea that Eminem could deliver swing-state votes farfetched, "Mosh" held another kind of promise. The rapper's previous album, The Eminem Show (2002), had been a mess. Might the forthcoming Encore mark a return to form?

Well, let's just say it's been a dispiriting autumn all around. Encore, which arrived in stores nine days after Kerry's concession, has a strong claim to being the worst blockbuster record of 2004. It's dreary, it's plodding and, what's worse, it plods drearily at epic length. Encore is seventy-seven minutes and twenty songs long (a bonus disc adds three additional tunes, rounding the running time up to a neat hour and a half), and every song is buried under an avalanche of words. Eminem has always been prolix, but on earlier records like The Slim Shady LP (1999) and The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) his lyrics whizzed past in a blur of rhythm and wit. Encore, though, simply drags; for all the words spoken here--a torrent of pop culture references, invective and potty humor--you can't help feeling that this talented motormouth has run out of things to say.

And he knows it. "I don't even gotta make no god damn sense/I just did a whole song and I didn't say shit," Eminem raps at the conclusion of "Rain Man," the album's clomping centerpiece song. It's an amazingly cynical boast--I don't even gotta make no god damn sense--a veritable caricature of superstar complacency; but one listen through Encore will dispel any doubts that he's serious about his devotion to nonsense. Several songs are hitched to infantile singsong choruses that dissolve into a patter of gibberish. ("Da doing doing doing"; "poo poo ka ka"; "Oh ah ah ah oh ah"; etc.) Then there's "My 1st Single," a song that glories in its own meaninglessness. "This was supposed to be my first single/But I just fucked that off," Eminem raps. "Hey! So fuck a chicken, lick a chicken suck a chicken, beat a chicken/Eat a chicken, like it's a big cock, big a big cock." These lyrics are delivered over a jittery beat, punctuated by farting and belching sound effects, in a voice that occasionally squawks in imitation of a chicken--none of which, I can assure you, makes them any more amusing on a CD than in the pages of a journal of politics and ideas.

Such tin-eared attempts at humor would be annoying on any record; but they're especially depressing coming from Eminem, who has made some of the best comic art of the past decade. When he burst on the scene in the late 1990s, Eminem was a novel character: a self-proclaimed "white trash" rapper, up from a hardscrabble Midwestern childhood, who courted scandal with a fervor that was equal parts Johnny Rotten and Bart Simpson. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rapping on Empty: Eminem
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.