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Music Review
Eminem: Eminem for Dummies by Todd Inoue and Jim Harrington

Two writers debate the merits of the man behind Slim Shady

Jim Harrington is a music writer and digs Eminem, period. Metro music editor Todd Inoue is a hip-hop fan from way back (circa 1979) and respects Em's microphone skills but can name 10 MCs who are better. And he loves playing devil's advocate. Let's listen in.

Todd Inoue: So you condone all this faggot-beating, bitch-playing rap stuff? You've got some real explaining to do, pal.

Jim Harrington: Yes, I am very liberal when it comes to fiction and art. I have no problem with Al Pacino pretending to snort coke and shoot machine guns in Scarface. I have no problem with prostitution when it is shown on NYPD Blue. I have no problem with graphic violence when it is detailed in the pages of Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho or, for that matter, John Steinbeck's East of Eden. And likewise, I have no problem with the music of Eminem.

The problem is with people like you who believe music should be placed under closer scrutiny than other art forms. For whatever reason, the same people who have no problem watching Arnold Schwarzenegger gun down thousands on the big screen can't fathom that what is said on record can also be fictional. Stephen King kills basically the entire population of the earth in The Stand, and no one raises an eyebrow. But the fact that Eminem pretends to strangle someone on record is unbearable?

What is really problematic is how people have reacted to his music. Ask yourself why is it that a white rapper is being blasted for spewing much of same lyrical content that black artists have been rapping about for decades? Is it because his words are so much harsher than Tupac's or Ice Cube's? No. It's because a kid with blue eyes and blond hair, we are told, isn't supposed to talk like this.

TI: Are you really a fan of Eminem or just what he stands for?

JH: I'm a big fan of the constitutional right for free speech. And I'm also a big fan of goosing all the PC police and moral watchdog groups out there. Plus, anything that would piss off Tipper Gore is OK with me.

However, Em's sordid politics don't interest me as much as his awesome talent. He could stand for just about anything or, even, on his head for all I care. As long as he keeps making such solid songs, full of lines that make me think twice and make me laugh, I'll keep buying.

TI: But what Eminem is doing ain't nothing new. Lenny Bruce, Sam Kinison, Andrew Dice Clay all made a living out of what Em's doing. The last two caught hell for gay-bashing, too.

JH: You've mentioned the issue of the gay-bashing. In effect, you've done what Eminem hasn't; you've singled out one group to focus attention upon. In contrast, the self-proclaimed "meanest MC on this earth" spreads his bile so evenly, from boy bands and fellow rappers to young women and the disabled that it is hard to take any specific attack seriously.

TI: But he's taking potshots at soft targets like 'N Sync, Moby, even Tipper Gore and Lynn Cheney for Chrissakes. This is hip-hop, not the fucking O'Reilly Report! Aren't there bigger fish to fry?

JH: Make up your mind. First you are dogging the man for shooting at the big targets and now you are sweating him for taking on the small fries.

You ask, "Aren't there bigger fish to fry?" Well, yes. And you get them on The Eminem Show. "White America" takes on race issues that other white rappers wouldn't ever address. Em is consistently challenging both friends and foes. Most importantly, Em is not afraid to get scrappy with his own mystique. He builds himself up only to deflate his own superstar image. He is the subject of his own boasts and the butt of his own jokes. Plain and simple, he's hilarious. But the funniest thing is that people like you aren't in on the joke.

TI: I refuse to be part of the joke. I especially don't buy that he taps into this frustrated white suburban kid mentality. What does a multimillionaire rapper have in common with the teens down at Nickel City? And don't pissed-off, latchkey kids already have Linkin Park or Limp Bizkit?

JH: Yeah, but neither one of them is nearly as good as Eminem.

TI: Well, Eminem's a hot MC, no question, but I can name tons of rappers that are clearly superior: KRS-One, Mos Def, Kweli, Black Thought, Aceyalone, even Common. Eminem's is way overrated!

JH: Eminem is one of the few cases where the hype is warranted. His three discs -- The Slim Shady LP (1999), The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), and The Eminem Show (2002) -- are as solid a trio of releases as any in recent pop-music history. And he keeps getting better. Eminem's rhymes are intricate puzzles of poetry and pain, hilarity and hijinks held together by his unapologetic panache.

Plus, having Dr. Dre produce is genius. This guy simply knows how to make great songs to bump with the windows down and the system up. In just three albums, Eminem has collected at least a dozen classic hip-hop tracks. The new album's "Without Me," "My Dad's Gone Crazy," "Business," "White America," and "Cleaning Out My Closet" all rank among his best songs yet.

TI: [Concerned mommy voice] "But what about the children?"

JH: Oh, come on. Do you really think Eminem is teaching the children anything that they aren't getting elsewhere? If you are so worried about lyrical content, then maybe we should just shut down hip-hop as a whole. That will solve this problem. Censorship is a great lesson to teach our children. If you want to discuss the merits of Eminem's music, that's fine. But don't give me this "What about the children?" crap. Go listen to Debbie Gibson!

From the August 7-14, 2002 issue of Oakland\'s Urbanview.

Reviews and Comments about Eminem

its good

danny  12/28/2011


tony  10/08/2011

judging others aye.. 
hi my name is i have a question for t.i now doesnt say judge those how u wana be judge..cuase fracully ur judgeing u wana be judged.the same all the time i here from all the singers or rappers thank u to god..huhuh realy did god or jesus tell u to sing songs that will mess kids minds hearts and soul up...i have encounterd allot off people that jesus sent my way dude..i was told shine ur light tell the world i love them and care for them..butt wait here this big thing and listen closly..he said if ur luiq worm ill spitt u out my mouth meaning u cant searve to masters its eather the devil or jesus u chose cuase officully i dont think ur music is lifting att all...jesus all so said come to me who r weary and weard and burden read matthew chapter 11 vs 28..rember brother jesaus is coming reallyyy reallyyyyy realllly soon so if i was u start getting back with jesus..and all so dont think when the rapture comes u wont be cuaght up with jesus cuase ur sing nonses that im preety sure thats not about walking with jesus or prasing the lord wanted me to tell u lett ur homies luaph cuase every knee shall bow and every tougne shall counfess he is king of kings and lords of untill next time t,i ill be praying for u and my self and the others may jesus keep u and ur family safe and that goes for all the rappers and rockers and hip hoppers and all the world jesus loves u and he cares..peace

jahmal mansfeild  02/24/2011

I say Eminem's the real singer. his songs touch me like anything. he specifies truth in his songs

Qadir  05/08/2008

He is the SEXIEST person!!!! He can sing good and all of his songs kick A$$$$!!!!!

Beth  08/31/2007

JH just ripped the s*** it out of TI. I did'nt start listing to em till about 13 and by then I wasn't learning anything heck I learned more and worse of off the tv,net and my friends then listing to rap. Oh TI you say you like hip-hop and then you say and I quote "What about the children?" what you think no other hip-hop songs got those kind of lyrics. Please if thats what you be thinkin you need to go LISTEN to some hip-hop.

R.L.  07/06/2007

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