Music and Politics Essay
Music and Politics
A famous artist can have an influence over entire nations through the lyrics of his or her music. Marshal Mathers, aka “Eminem”, has done just that. He uses his rap lyrics and music videos as a pulpit to express an entire generation’s anger at society and government. Eminem is one of the most controversial rappers to ever enter mainstream music, with songs about abusing females, killing, and doing large amounts of drugs. What many fail to realize is that Eminem is not promoting any of these.
Instead, he is expressing an angry generation’s innermost thoughts, feelings, and psychological issues in such a way that the mainstream media and government cannot ignore them. Some say that Eminem does nothing but influence teens towards drug use and violence. However, unlike most rappers, he does not glorify the lifestyle he has lead. In fact, his lyrics are dark and angry, not in any way appealing. Eminem’s lyrics are simply the culmination of an angry generation speaking out for recognition.
Years after his initial success in mainstream rap, he has spawned an entire generation of rappers that have been largely influenced by his style of music. In 2004 Eminem released a single called “Mosh” that had a different cause and effect than his previous songs. “Mosh” targeted voters of all ethnicities and encouraged them to be active in the 2004 election. Eminem had very clear messages about his political opinions through out his lyrics, stories, and the color settings for the video. The lyrics to this song had strong language and struck a cord in the beliefs of many Americans.
Eminem expressed strong feelings on President Bush’s decisions. He showed his rejection of Bush by using the following lyrics in his song: “F@#K Bush, until they bring our troops home,” “No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil,” “The stars and stripes, they’ve been swiped, washed out and wiped and replaced with his own face. ” Eminem’s lyrics influenced a lot of his fans to vote against Bush in the 2004 Presidential Election. Eminem realized that controversy created interest and that would also create a market for is music and more importantly the messages that are encoded in his songs. Countries have even tried to ban him from entering to play concerts. The following excerpt is from an ABC News story some years ago. “On Wednesday, Ontario Attorney General Jim Flaherty said that the rap star’s lyrics are so violent toward women that the artist shouldn’t be allowed to perform in Canada. “I personally don’t want anyone coming to Canada who will come here and advocate violence against women,” Flaherty told the Queen’s Park Bureau.
He urged federal immigration officials to “make sure the usual procedures are observed” if Eminem enters the country. The officials ruled that the weapons and assault charges that the artist faces in the States aren’t sufficient reason to bar him from performing in Canada. The latest controversy over the star’s lyrics erupted after Valerie Smith registered a complaint with the Toronto Police hate crimes unit on Oct. 4. The self-appointed “media violence” watchdog said the words to songs like “Kim”(in which the he murders his wife) constitute hate propaganda and thus are in violation of the Canadian Criminal Code. (ABC News) Eminem is not strictly anti-Bush, in fact he’s been at odds with Bill Clinton as well, mostly over the fact of the President’s scandal’s.
In the track “Who Knew”, he takes aim at the hypocrisy of a political culture that excuses Presidential infidelity, while demanding censorship of his lyrics. Eminem has said that people should be taking his lyrics “with a grain of salt. ” He says it is not the kids who are repulsed, because they understand that “at the end of the day . . . it’s all a joke. Most of the controversial lyrics are deeply ironic and sarcastic, spoken from the misanthropic mouth of Eminem’s alter ego, “Slim Shady”. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Eminem and his alter ego Slim Shady is that the rapper has come full circle. He has gone from lyrics about beating his wife and doing drugs(which to those who actually intelligently listen to his music know is all about his psychological controversy) to a man going through the hells of rehab, to a then rehabilitated man learning to deal with the struggles of life, while not taking the easy route out through substance abuse.
Starting with the album ,Relapse, Eminem showed us a completely different side than in his previous albums. Previous to this album Eminem had been on hiatus for four years due to emotional turmoil and an addiction to prescription sleeping pills. During this time his childhood friend “Proof” was shot outside a Detroit nightclub. This had a devastating effect on the rapper. ”Everyone felt [Proof’s] loss, from his kids, to his wife, to everyone. But, for some reason, in hindsight, the way I felt was almost like it happened to just me…
Maybe at the time I was a little bit selfish with it. I think it kind of hit me so hard. It just blindsided me. I just went into such a dark place that, with everything, the drugs, my thoughts, everything. And the more drugs I consumed, and it was all depressants I was taking, the more depressed I became, the more self-loathing I became. In the initial recording stages of Relapse, record producer and long-time Detroit collaborator Jeff Bass of the Bass Brothers worked with Eminem on 25 tracks, two years after the rapper had received treatment for his sleeping pill addiction, in 2005.
Depressed by Proof’s death, Eminem fell into a period of writer’s block, where he felt everything he wrote was not worth recording. To compensate for this, Bass chose to follow a production style that would allow the artist to rap “off the top of his head, as opposed to writing a story”. Eminem would then freestyle or record vocals one line at a time before interrupting and then recording another line. At the same time, according to Eminem’s song rights supervisor Joel Martin, the rapper began to collect additional material.
He would often record or produce material initially intended for the musical projects of other artists, but end up with tracks he really liked. “Beautiful” produced by Eminem, was the only song on Relapse that was recorded in these years while he was not sober. Relapse is about Eminem’s struggles with drug addiction and his subsequent rehabilitation. While controversial the lyrics in the album deal with the psyche of a man addled by addiction. The culmination of Eminem’s journey can be shown in the album Recovery.
Recovery features more introspective and emotional content than Eminem’s previous albums. In the single “Not Afraid” The song’s lyrics focus on a positive change from Eminem’s past experiences, including an end to drug abuse, feuds and violence. Whatever dark days Eminem has lived through, he seems to be at peace with himself now. Eminem even chose to use Marshall Mathers rather than his evil alter ego Slim Shady in the song. This song provides some closure to the circle of life of the rapper Eminem and his alter egos. Eminem, who battled an addiction to prescription drugs, thanked his fans at a New York concert for helping him get through dark times. The 39-year-old told hundreds Thursday night that he ‘wouldn’t have gotten out of that dark place without y’all’ before he performed the Grammy-winning song “Not Afraid. ” He said the performance was ‘dedicated to anybody tonight who’s been through personal struggles. ”(Huffington Post) Where the future will lead him, who knows, considering his colorful past.