8 Problematic Early Eminem Songs That Wouldn't Fly In 2016
Few musicians have been as polarizing as Eminem, hip-hop’s great white hope and the terror of the religious right. He built a career thriving off of others’ outrage, pushing himself to find the limits of what people deemed acceptable in pop music. At his best when he’s punching up, whether at a bully, rappers that underestimate him, or authority figures, he’s often looked real ugly, like when he’s attacking the mentally disabled.
With the release of his new track “Campaign Speech,” we still find Marshall Mathers dropping the word “f----t” and threatening violence against women (“This much of a cocksucker to go across the buttocks of Vivica Fox with a box cutter”) and the intersexed (“Got knives to slash and slice hermaphrodites in half”).
But it all seems tame in comparison to his past. Here are eight songs by the legendary rapper that, despite their technical brilliance, give us cultural indigestion:
“Low Down, Dirty” (The Slim Shady EP, 1997)
“Bitch getter, hid in the bush like Margot Kidder
Jumped out, killed the bitch and did her
Used to let the babysitter suck my dick when I was littler
Smoke a blunt while I'm titty-fucking Bette Midler”
“Slap dips, support domestic violence
Beat your bitch's ass while your kids stare in silence”
Just your run-of-the-mill murder and necrophilia, with a dash of “support of domestic violence.” But the most unnerving line may be the one about Margot Kidder, who had a nervous breakdown in her late 40s and was found hiding in a bush.
“Murder, Murder" (The Slim Shady EP, 1997)
“Left the keys in the van, with a gat in each hand
Went up in Eastland and shot a policeman
Fuck a peace plan, if a citizen bystands
The shit is in my hands, here's your lifespan”
Police unions turned to political action to protest Beyoncé’s “Formation” performance at the Super Bowl. How would they react to an Eminem hit with lyrics about shooting cops and bystanders?
“4 Verses” (The Freestyle Show, 1997)
“I’m the illest rapper to hold a cordless, patrolling corners
Looking for hookers to punch in the mouth with a roll of quarters”
“Met a retarded kid named Greg, with a wooden leg
Snatched it off and beat him over the fucking head with the peg”
As we’ve proven as a society to be largely unconcerned with the well-being of sex workers,
“Just Don’t Give a Fuck” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
“Doing too much rush had my face flushed like red blush
Then I went to Jim Beam, that's when my face grayed
Went to gym in 8th grade, raped the women's swim team
Don't take me for a joke, I'm no comedian”
Far from the only time that Em has mentioned rape in the first person, but this one is particularly jarring because he follows it up by imploring us that he’s not trying to be funny.
“As The World Turns” - (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
“…I told this bitch in gym class
That she was too fat to swim laps, she need a Slim Fast
(Who? Me?) Yeah, bitch, you so big
You walked into Vic Tanny's and stepped on Jenny Craig
She picked me up to snap me like a skinny twig
Put me in a headlock, then I thought of my guinea pig
I felt the evilness and started transformin'
It began stormin', I heard a bunch of cheering fans swarmin'
Grabbed that bitch by her hair, drug her across the ground
And took her up to the highest diving board
And tossed her down
Sorry coach, it's too late to tell me stop
While I drop this bitch face down and watch her belly flop”
Upset at being excluded and teased for being a weirdo who microwaves his own gerbil, a young Em lashes out at a classmate who had the misfortune of merely being larger than him. The rest of the verse devolves into the absurd, which softens the mood a bit. But it feels icky that the crux of his tale is a vengeful rage against fat women that began at youth.
“‘97 Bonnie & Clyde” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999)
There’s no need to include lyrics on these next two songs, because there’s no one line that stands out -- it’s the concept that’s odious. This track gets a pass for its creepy yet creative narrative structure and his clever flip on the Tupac Shakur classic “Me and My Girlfriend,” but in the end, it’s still about a trip with his daughter to dispose of her dead mother’s body.
“Kim” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
“Kim” understandably gets the most ire from Eminem’s moral detractors; the prequel to “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” that details his ex-wife’s fictional murder, it’s the pinnacle of the misogynistic rage he’d been building up in his early career. As a work of art, it’s stunning; as a mirror on the roots of domestic violence in our country, it’s horrifying. As much heat as he caught upon the song’s release, we have to imagine the firestorm would be even worse today.
“Marshall Mathers” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
“Plus I was put here to put fear
in f----s who spray Faygo Root Beer
and call themselves clowns ‘cause they look queer
F---y 2 Dope and Silent Gay
Claiming Detroit, when y'all live 20 miles away”
Eminem has claimed that when he uses the word “f----t” as a pejorative, it’s got nothing to do with gay people. But when he unleashes an onslaught of gay slurs here to diss Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent J -- a.k.a. the Insane Clown Posse, whose beef with Marshall Mathers’ beef is well-documented -- the vitriol and hatred on display makes it extremely uncomfortable regardless.
“Criminal” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)
“My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge
That'll stab you in the head, whether you're a f-- or lez
Or a homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest
Pants or dress, hate f--s? The answer's yes
Homophobic? Nah, you're just heterophobic
Staring at my jeans, watching my genitals bulgin'
That's my motherfuckin' balls, you'd better let go of 'em
They belong in my scrotum, you'll never get hold of 'em!”
A favorite conceit of homophobes is that literally every gay person wants to have sex with them. Never mind the “hate f--s? / The answer’s Yes” line -- the rest of the bars take Eminem's preoccupation with homosexuality into bizarrely hostile (and defensive) territory.