Among rap "artists" Eminem stands tall
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 20:02
My music taste is eclectic. I've added some interesting artists to my iPod over the past years. I am fully aware that some of the modern day artists—Britney Spears, Katy Perry—posses minimal talent or perhaps none at all. I'm not perturbed when I hear people say that they are untalented. With their persistent, mindless metronomic beats and easy to memorize lyrics, they are good for shutting off the brain; good gym-going music, as I say. Yet there is one artist on my iPod who I will always defend and do so happily. He is the best crude poet, the most audacious truth-teller and the most misunderstood rap artist of our generation. He's Marshall Mathers, Slim Shady, Slim—he's Eminem.
Eminem's voice is raw and angry. It's distinct and refreshing. His delivery of lyrics gives meaning to the term so commonly used in hip-hop, "spit." Eminem could rap his grocery list or recite names from the phone book and still sound better than half of the hip-hop "artists" who are played on the radio again and again and again—for instance oh, I don't know, Lil' Wayne? His sounds are a disgrace to hip-hop. But before I'm tempted to write a rant on this alleged hip-hop "artist," my main point is that Eminem has natural talent in his sound. There's honesty and experience in his voice, both of which seem to be entirely absent in mainstream hip-hop today. As Eminem states in his song "Cold Wind Blows," from his latest album Recovery, the very reason he came out of retirement is because "rap is a landfill, drop that anvil / these are shoes that you can't fill." I suppose one could call this statement cocky as he acknowledges his own greatness. Rather it seems to me more of a criticism or expressed disgust at the condition of rap today. One thing you can't argue about with Eminem here is that current rap is indeed, "a landfill." He rightfully equates it with garbage.
It's not just Eminem's voice that is easy to absorb. His lyrics are filled with poetic elements—repetition, onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance and any kind of rhyme imaginable. Let's look briefly at some of his greatest lyrics from the song "The Way I Am." This may be difficult to provide the most poetic sounding while keeping it appropriate. Eminem raps: "Sometimes I just feel like my father, I hate to be bothered / With all of this nonsense it's constant /And, oh, it's his lyrical content / The song ‘Guilty Conscience' has gotten such rotten responses /And all of this controversy circles me / And it seems like the media immediately / Points a finger at me." First and foremost, the rhythm of the words here is incredible. With the way he raps them, an unstressed, unstressed, stressed syllable pattern, Eminem's rhythm mimics the intense thumping of a heart—appropriate for a song about a day in the life of his constant battle with the public and media; it's what he lives through.
Similarly, the assonance in those lyrics, the long ‘A' and ‘O' sounds, drag out the sound, yet with consistency. This not only makes it easy to express the syllable pattern, but the elongated sound of the subject matter, in a way, echoes the sense of it; it's an annoyance to him, and it happens again and again and again. The sound reflects the meaning here. It's brilliant.
This is the part of the argument that I love taking part in; the part where I get to talk about how Eminem is just so damn smart…and so much better than Lil' Wayne. I swear Lil' Wayne is a necessary comparison. It just so happens that I get to criticize him in the proving of Eminem's greatness. To do so, it is best to look at lyrical instances of Eminem versus Lil' Wayne in their most popular songs: "The Real Slim Shady" and "Lollipop," respectively. The language is similar in its sexuality, but the messages are indeed quite different. While Eminem uses the language to demonstrate problems of media consolidation and false ideologies, all while being ironic in using the language himself as his censorship prediction came true, Lil' Wayne uses the language one dimensionally in his expression of just how much he enjoys oral sex. Now, I so wish that I could display the lyrics for you right here, but I can't due to the graphic nature. Oh, the irony (I wonder what Eminem would have to say about this instance of media censorship).
Assuming that if you really care this much and don't know both songs already, here is a further explanation of Eminem's genius. "The Real Slim Shady" criticizes the mass media's inescapable presentations of sex and violence, through his own discussion of sex and violence—clever, smart. Meanwhile, despite its vulgar and explicitly sexual content, Wayne's "Lollipop" describes just how much he enjoys receiving and giving oral sex from/to multiple women. It describes just that and only that—simple, offensive—not to mention all of which is "rapped" in the grating, nasal-whine-speak that some consider a voice.