From the desk of the Editor:
“That’s Why they Call me Slim Shady”
It is has been twelve long years since Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers, leaped from the hip-hop heights on to the larger national scene with his album, The Marshall Mathers LP. He has always been a cultural foil, aka mirror, now as he prepares to release a new album, it is time for a look back and a deconstruction. One of my mentors, Jim Peacock, liked to say ‘a fact is a precept seen through a lens.’
“The Real Slim Shady” was the hit song that pointed a lens at our culture(1) at a distinct moment(2) in time. Released in May of 2000, and album chart topping, it has sold more than 10 million copies in America. For a metric of just how dated ago that was, there was no Apple iTunes when the single was released.(3)
Many of the pop culture stars Eminem mentions have come and gone. Tom Green humping a dead moose, produces shrugs of incomprehension and indifference from today’s teens. Pam and Tommy who?
Will Smith, on the other hand, has not only gone to Oscar nominations, but has had a resurgence in today’s teeny bopper culture that loves “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.”
Brittany Spears is likely now viewed as that judge on X Factor, and Christina Aguilera, that Latina singer who messed up the National Anthem a couple of years ago, still on the radar, if in a totally different context than the teeny bopper singers Eminem lances in “The Real Slim Shady.”
I think the dated political references, Eminem’s perspective on homosexuality and rebellion, are the most telling markers of a different era, for more weighty than the changes in pop cultural iconography.
“The Real Slim Shady” dropped just six months before September 11th. And regardless of contemporary perspective, in my view, it is quite evident that 9.11.01 will be regarded as a great bifurcation in American history, fifty years on, things will be viewed as before and after 9/11.
Slim Shady took a snapshot of American culture just before things changed. “The Real Slim Shady’s” flippant ease is most definitely pre-9/11. The go along, get along Clinton era where the height of big trouble was illicit blowjobs. Nobody had heard of uranium cake and no American generation had gone to war since Vietnam. We thought the military industrial complex might let us have a peace dividend.
First, Eminem in 2000 on homosexuality, “if we can hump dead animals and antelopes/Then there’s no reason that a man and another man can’t elope/But if you feel like I feel, I got the antidote/Women wave your pantyhose…”
Uh, Em, homosexuality is equivalent to necrophiliac bestiality? And there is an antidote for it? What did Macklemore say? “If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me.” The good news is, if Eminem was pointing his cultural lens at youth culture then, hopefully Macklemore is too, now.
The other political stance in “The Real Slim Shady” is the implicit rebellion of the kid doing donuts in the park and spitting on your onion rings. Before 9/11, this kind of rebellion had one feel, after 9/11, disloyalty and fomenting trouble, even in hip-hop, were regarded though the lens of potential domestic terrorism. Eminem himself embraced that rubric with 2004 video, “Mosh” something surely seen by hundreds of thousands of young people who later participated in Occupy.(4)
Where does Eminem stand in 2013?
Has he moved forward with the times?
It beggars the themes Banksy raised that I wrote about last week… Is Marshall Mathers message strictly mercantilist? “Pay me to talk about me because I am Eminem.”
Or is there something more, Slim Shady?
(1) For a song on the album where Eminem pointed the lens at himself, see “The Way I am.”
(2) Consider it Heisenberg-ally, moments are unique and affected by their measurement.
(3) iTunes 1.0 debuted in January 2001.
(4) Notable for the change between 2001 and 2004, Eminem’s Encore, the album this track appeared on, was the first to sell 10,000 digital copies in a week.
“From the Editor’s Desk”
is written by our Editor: Aaron Mandel
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