A few days ago I watched a Youtube video discussing about whether Rappers / Hip Hop artists should retire once they’ve passed their prime. This discussion, in addition to all the trash comments on Eminem’s Facebook page, been bugging me a lot than what I think is healthy. They all made me angry, anxious, worried, and frustrated. So I’m sharing it here to get it off my system.
Guess Who’s Back, Again?
To start it off and to give you a little bit of background, I’ve been a die hard Stan since I heard Stan, 16-17 years ago, I was still in Elementary. I’ve never seen Eminem in person nor have I been to any of his concerts, but he’s been my mentor and my life force during some (if not all) of my toughest time growing up. In fact, he is the reason I started learning English. Now, I know I’m not a music journalist, let alone Hip Hop journalist. I mean, what kind of Hip Hop article do you expect from a Chinese-descent girl living in Indonesia? Complicated racial factors apart, my English vocabulary consists of more curse words than fancy formal words people usually use in more elaborate writings such as this article from Telegraph. Well, I learned English by listening to Eminem to begin with, so it can’t be helped.
However, Eminem has had me sitting on the edge since his last BET Freestyle Cypher, The Storm. I honestly couldn’t care less about U.S. politics, cos my own country’s politic is pretty fucked up too. But since I’m a Stan, naturally I stand with Eminem despite all the backlash he’s received because of it. Trump’s supporters be like “I’m not gonna spend another penny on you, fuck you,” like they own the world lol. I mean I’m over here on the other side of the planet, showing my support to Eminem like, “Hey Em if Trump’s supporters are getting up your nose, come move to Asia!”. And I’m sure lots of Stans all across the world also feel the same way as I do.
Aside from politics, I heard some people criticized that his rhymes are not good enough, some of his wordplays are too corny for his standard, he’s getting old cos he couldn’t catch his breath anymore, he could have done more than that, and all other bullshit that made them think Eminem should just retire already. I mean, here I am just sitting here like, “I’m just happy he’s showing up again, up and about again,” You know? I’m just happy he’s in that new song with Pink, even though it wasn’t a dark twisted sick song, the lyrics were not too snarky, it wasn’t misogynistic and controversial, it’s poppy or whatever, I’m just simply happy he still raps. Aren’t you? What’s up with all you sick fucks claiming to be his fans when you don’t appreciate his persistence in existing? Go fuck yourself.
And I’m sure that Eminem’s already used to getting so much hatred, I’m almost sure that controversy is what gets him off. Haters are his fuel, he wants to prove them wrong, he sworn to make the haters understand him. So I shouldn’t be worried too much, he’s going to rap until he’s fossil fuel. …Or is he?
“Walk on Water” Took an Unexpected Turn
Moving forward a month or so after the said BET Cypher, last week Eminem dropped his newest single featuring Beyonce, Walk on Water. With all the hype, emotion, anger, and frustration left from The Storm, I had expected Walk on Water to be a braggadocious song like Rap God. He claimed to be a God, so now he’s going to Walk on Water. Pretty makes sense, right? I wouldn’t mind listening to him boasting or making fun of people or whatever. Again, I was just too happy that he’s releasing any song at all.
It was 6AM in the morning (GMT+7) when I opened my eyes and put on my earphone. Beyonce’s voice welcomed me as I gathered up my scattered soul from all over the bed.
I walk on water, but I’m not Jesus.
I walk on water but only when it freezes. (Fuck)
I chuckled a bit. The lyric just caught me off guard, like “Fuck, if it’s freezes it’s ICE, not WATER, Em!” The comical curse in the background also added some sense of humor. But once he started his bars, my smile faded. I rushed to Genius to find the lyrics, and by the grace of God it’s already available, already annotated. That’s a hard Vicodin to swallow? Em’s Walk on Water was a bitter pill for me to swallow, too. It’s like Em is showing me my own nightmare coming into reality. The message he brought through in this song is exactly what I’m always afraid will happen. That all the criticism, all the sick fucks who are never satisfied with whatever kind of bars Eminem came up with, all the trashing on his Facebook page, are finally taking its toll on Em.
What I first expected to be a funny cheeky snobbish song turned out to be an entirely different thing. The song sounds very vulnerable, it’s a song about frustration, about hopelessness, powerlessness, yet never giving up and still hard-headedly moving forward while not being entirely sure if you’re doing the right thing. Like, still stubbornly trying to be relevant despite everyone’s trying to silence him. Like, “I’m not done yet!”
All in all it’s a complex song, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Em rap on top of simple piano background, it’s almost like poetry but with more emotion. It made me feel a lot of feelings. It’s almost heart breaking. In fact, by the time he said “Mission accomplished”, a part of me died inside and I broke into tears.
I know Walk on Water has had mixed reactions from people. Some people said it’s not the kind of song they’d listen to everyday and that’s fair enough. I mean even as a die hard Stan, I don’t listen to all of Eminem songs everyday. That being said, even though you don’t listen to it everyday I hope the message he was trying to pass along in Walk on Water will linger in your mind long enough to change your expectations from legendary artists like Eminem, Jay Z, Dre, Beyonce, Wayne etc.
Is it fair for us put them up on a pedestal and expect them to always be better from their last single / album? Is it fair for us to judge, criticize, and trash them should they fail to meet our expectation of what we think they should give us? Did they actually owe us anything?
So, Should Rappers Retire?
A couple days passed after Walk on Water released, as I was watching some reaction videos on Youtube I came across a Dead End Hip Hop discussion video about whether or not rappers should retire to keep their reputation at the high point that they’ve reached so far. Rather than compromising their legacy by trying to stay relevant for as long as they can, despite not being the entirely same entity / having the same passion(?) / dealing with the same problems / producing the same contents that they began with.
In the video, they weren’t talking exclusively about Eminem but I took it to personal level because Eminem is the only rapper I grew up with (I only started listening to other rappers quite recently). It made me frustrated because I don’t have the same power / influence / relevance in answering to them. They are all people of color who “owns” the game, they are all in US, they are all native English speaker. If it’s a concert, I’m like outside at the parking lot only listening to crowd cheering inside the dome.
Tupac will always be remembered as a legend. To that, I believe we can all agree. I loved Dear Mama, the way his words bounce on the beat is almost unreal, right? He’s a legend. Too bad he passed away way too soon. He didn’t have enough time to make mistakes like what Eminem did. Had he lived, though, had he stuck through the game and released 8, 9, or 10 albums. I wonder if people will talk about him the way they talk about Eminem now? I wonder if you sickfucks will tell him, THE legend, THE Tupac, to retire?
Dr. Dre is also a legend. He still lives, even still makes music. He’s an excellent (if not perfect) producer, and everyone in Hip Hop game respects him, right? He’s a legend. He made an album called Detox that he never released, though. Had he released it, though, had he released Detox. I wonder if you sickfucks will rip it apart and tell him he should have retire, he shouldn’t have released Detox?
Cos if that’s what you sickfucks are saying, it’s the utmost disrespect like I can’t even believe what came out of your mouth had gone through any kind of processing. Tupac’s fans all over the world would kill to listen to him still releasing new songs in 2017. Dr. Dre’s fans would kill to listen to Detox. Whether or not they’ve passed their prime according to you sickfucks, is completely irrelevant. So will you please kindly just shut the fuck up about Eminem (and all other artists)?
Moreover, talking about Eminem’s legacy, I think we should clear things up first. Cos what you considered his “prime” is quite possibly a bit different that mine. For instance, you might think his prime time is Marshall Mathers LP or Slim Shady LP. That’s why everytime he spits new contents nowadays you’re never satisfied. You said there’s not enough passion in it like in Slim Shady days, as if he didn’t put years of efforts into releasing the album. You said the rhymes are corny as if it wasn’t corny back in the days. You said his contents are too artificial and not real or not histerically Slim Shady enough, as if in his 40s he should still deal with drug abuse and still bitch about his mom and his ex-wife. As if as one of the biggest artists of all time he should still worry about not having money to buy Christmas presents for Hailie. Fuck you, just go fuck yourself. Just fucking go fuck yourself.
The fact that Eminem is still releasing new singles is his legacy to me. I’ve always admired his stubborness when it comes to not giving up. In Walk on Water when he said in a frustrated voice, “How can I let this mic go without a fight?” That’s exactly the kind of legacy he’s leaving to me. That’s exactly what he’s teaching me. That’s exactly what I need to hear. That’s exactly what I want to remember him as. Someone who’s not giving up, who’s stubborn, who’s trying to keep beating the odds no matter how bad he wants to fall flat on his face and collapse.
If that’s not what you want to hear then you can simply go get fucked, but don’t shut him down. He’s talking to me, and to million other Stans like me.
His newer songs are not even half bad. He learned it from Tupac, the way his rhymes fall on exact beats, the way he bend words so it will fit the music and totally different words can rhyme. Listen to Renegade, it’s loud and clear. Listen to The Hills Remix. Listen to Drop The World. Hell, listen to Here Comes the Weekend, even! The legend of the angry blonde you hear in “Kill You” or “Who Knew” or “The Way I Am” is there in every new song. Different content, different beat, but it’s him. Who could ever rhyme “misogynistic” with “massagin’ this dick” other than Slim Shady himself?
And honestly Campaign Speech or The Storm is a million times better than Gucci Gang. But you sickfucks are already too used to listen to music without processing it in your brain, you can’t appreciate content anymore. And then you blame the artist for making you think too much, or making you uncomfortable, or rhyming too cornily as if there are other artists in the world who’s more talented and have more impact and passion than Eminem that’s actually doing things better than Em.
Dehumanizing Artists to a “Walking Discography”
Now let’s discuss with me what songs in the entire Eminem discography you think is the best. I can name a hell lot but you might not like my list as there will be lots of songs from Recovery and MMLP2. I even liked Encore, and of course I like Slim Shady LP and Eminem Show. Hell, fuck it, I love everything. His whole discography is a journey from a trailer park boy becoming whoever he is now (last time I heard he’s now the clone 1234.7), and I just simply appreciate them all, the bad the good the great and the perfect.
YES there are some songs I don’t like. I listen once or twice and then I never listen again. But since I pretty much grow up with Eminem, I see him almost as a big brother. And as with your biological brothers / sisters, sometimes you agree sometimes you disagree. The way you are now, though, you’re saying to your brother shit like, “Hey I don’t like you when you’re grown up like this so I will disown you and btw you should die.” What kind of sickfuck are you?
So, while you see Eminem as his “Lose Yourself” or his “Stan”, a hell lot of his fans relate to his spirit in a spiritual level. While you think he will never top “My Name Is”, a huge portion of his fanbase think that he’s topped it enough, he’s reached the clouds, so should he reach again above the sky? Probably not, for all we know he can dig deep to the core of earth and his fans take it happily too. As long as he’s still making music, that’s all that matters honestly. As long as he’s still alive and still up and about, that’s all that matters. He can spit lame rhymes every now and then, he can fail once or twice, he can make dad jokes, misogynistic joke, cringy jokes, whatever. He can do all the rappidy-rap shit all he wants, or sing his lungs out, the sales can drop, whatever. But as long as he’s not giving up, that’s what really matters.
Artists are not “only” as good as their last single. They are not “only” as good as their discography. Their legacy is not “only” their best songs. Their whole life and being, their stubbornness in pushing forward, in bouncing back after falling down, in biting back after being hit, those are the things that matters.
Eminem, as so all other legends, are artists and more so than they are a walking discography. They make music because it’s in their blood to do so. It’s their whole being. Saying that they are only as good as their last single is an ignorant, self-centered, asshole thing to do. They didn’t make music to satisfy you in particular. They make music because that’s what they do. And they SHOULD be able to make music for as long as they want, not as long as you think they should / could. And if the music they make is not up to your standards? Well, up yours, sir.
Is Hip Hop a Genre Exclusively About Drugs, Women, and Money?
To end this long rant, I asked myself a question why people dislike Eminem’s newer songs. Some people think the new songs are not as sick as Slim Shady verses back in 1999s / 2000s. Yeah he no longer raps as much about getting high, or about killing his mom / ex-wife. He no longer raps about money problem etc. Lately his contents are more about his love-and-hate relationship with Hip Hop.
Sometimes when he raps about women nowadays the women in question are always imaginary. He doesn’t call out names as often anymore. He’s all out of Backstreet Boys to call out and attack, so he just stand in front of the wall and battle an imaginary self he created himself. Not many good rappers would come up and battle him anymore, not many can compare to him anymore. That’s why his recent songs are more about battling one’s own demons, about not giving up, not backing down. But is it really that bad?
It’s unusual, perhaps. But it’s not very unusual if we take into consideration that Eminem has always kept it real. He keeps us up to date with what is happening inside his head or around him. So when he no longer battles drugs or having problems with money and women, he’s gonna tell us about whatever is left in his head: his spirit, his emotion, his legacy. And c’mon, that’s not even half bad.
Unless the audience expect Eminem to always be the loose cannon that Slim Shady was, and never growing up. But Stans grew up too, you know? I’m honestly so thankful that Eminem’s lyrical contents matured up, because I do. During Slim Shady days I was still a teenager so I understand his contents fit the life of reckless teens not giving a fuck to authority and all that. However, that was 16 years ago. He’s 40 now, I’m almost 30. Had he still rap about the same shit he rap about (being high as fuck, etc), I might not be able to relate to him as much as I do now. His “Not Afraid” was what got me through the toughest time of my life. Had he not release it, had he stay Shady all through his 40s, I don’t know how I could have survived.
All in all, I’m so hyped up for Revival, can’t wait for it to be released. I hope it won’t be Eminem’s last album, but that’s not for me to decide is it. And btw, it’s not yours either, fuckers. Don’t you dare trying to make any of Eminem’s single / album the next Detox. Don’t you dare try and silence Eminem ever again. And I don’t care if Revival is up to your standard or not, cos if it’s not you can just go fuck yourself. It’s a blessing that Eminem still releases new music at all. It’s a blessing that Eminem still lives. It’s a blessing that he is who he is.