Eminem's Hip-Hop Awards Cypher: Overrated
How good is this freestyle really?
Eminem is many things. He’s a lyrical genius, pop icon, father, owner of Shady Records, and an anti-Trump advocate since 2016. Over the past week, his BET Hip-Hop Awards freestyle has attracted astronomical attention. Many are celebrating him for being so bold about his views on this platform. He even raised a fist for Colin Kaepernick.
But Eminem has always been bold and indifferent to what other people think about him. He’s also been incredibly humble in the past by acknowledging that his white privilege has contributed to his star power. But this power has grown to such ginormous proportions that if you even so much as challenge or question that power, people will think you don’t know hip-hop.
Eminem is one of the most talented MCs to pick up a microphone, but just like any human being, he isn’t flawless. His music isn’t flawless either. Likewise, this freestyle isn’t flawless.
It’s pretty darn good; but judging from the reactions to this cypher, you would think people are about to vote for him in 2020. I like that Eminem used this stage to tear down Trump, but it’s not all that groundbreaking. For most of this cypher, it seems like he’s trying to find something to say as he paces around the room. So many seconds passed in between these bars that I started to wonder if he could finish.
And besides, Eminem has denounced Trump before in songs like “Campaign Speech” and “No Favors” with Big Sean. So is this anything new? Why are people impressed at this magnitude?
This freestyle is literally being examined in college classrooms as we speak. And yet tons of artists have denounced Trump; some were as bold- if not more bold than Eminem. YG went on a crusade with his “Fuck Donald Trump” tour. J. Cole was even able to get a Denmark crowd to slander Trump as well.
Not to mention everyone from Lil Durk to Kendrick Lamar to A Tribe Called Quest have criticized Trump in their songs as well. And yet, none of these songs or movements have received this much attention in such a short amount of time.
It’s gotten to a point where black artists dissing Trump has become the norm and thus expected behavior. Yet if a white rapper does it then everyone loses their mind. Suddenly, it seems like mainstream media wants to throw roses at his feet for saying something he has (a.) already said before, and (b.) black artists have been saying for over a year now.
It’s also incredibly easy to overly praise this freestyle because if there had been any backlash, it wouldn’t have jeopardized Eminem’s career. This is the case for most white mega-stars. Taylor Swift’s career has suffered from backlash on numerous occasions but those instances haven’t slowed her down one bit.
So even though this cypher is overrated, if we’re going to overly praise Eminem for taking a stance then we should celebrate these other artists as well. If you’re going to argue that he didn’t have to do this and we should celebrate him for sticking his neck out, think about what you’re saying. As I’ve already mentioned, he didn’t have anything to lose from doing this. Second, you’re basically admitting how rare it is to see white people fight racism.
Professor Boyce Watkins, P.H.D. has expressed similar views.
So while this freestyle was solid and while Eminem has been a phenomenal artist throughout his career, people are blowing this cypher out of proportion. Mainstream media is easy to impress if you’re white and you’re at least semi talented in black dominated spaces. It’s not Eminem’s fault, but it’s a testament to the bias that exists in mainstream media and in this country.
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