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Why is Eminem still using the word 'f*ggot'?

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Casper Salmon
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Why is Eminem still using the word f*ggot?

Caspar Salmon on why Eminem’s latest controversy is a tragic last-ditch attempt at attention from an artist desperate to be relevant again

Exciting times for The Culture this week, as last Friday Eminem dropped his latest album Kamikaze, a recording that’s already on track to surpass various music industry records and it doesn’t even have Ed Sheeran on it. On his new opus, Eminem renews his love affair with the word ‘faggot’, which he aims at the rapper Tyler, The Creator.

Tyler, for the record, was once wont to use the slur a fair bit himself early on in his career, but is now more given to rapping about banging twinks. (Incidentally, the fact that there we now have a mainstream rapper dropping lurid gay sex brags has surely not been celebrated enough by the community.)

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On his song ‘Fall’, Eminem – who is five years older than the president of France – spits: “Tyler create nothing, I see why you call yourself a faggot, bitch”. Leaving aside the offensive slur, this is a hilariously factual diss towards someone who casually rapped “Tell Tim Chalamet come get at me” just a few months ago. One somehow doubts that Tyler will be prompted to release a reply to this angry-white-uncle figure, but let’s keep our ears to the ground. 

The fact is that Eminem, who last year stated that he used Grindr, who in 2009 went along with a homo-erotic Sacha Baron Cohen skit, and who in 2014 gifted Elton John and David Furnish diamond-encrusted cock rings as a wedding present, knows that he can still earn traction from his increasingly lazy and desperate trolling of gay people. 

Releasing his new album into a musical landscape which, he must realise, doesn’t even feel slightly empty without him, he is falling back on old ploys that feel increasingly hoary. And while it’s tempting to dismiss his pathetic ‘bad boy’ shenanigans, Eminem is purposefully playing the race card in a way that is insulting and damaging. As recently as 2015, Tyler – who is not white but is queer – was banned from the UK partially because of his use of homophobic slurs.

Conversely, on the tail of the The Marshall Mathers LP, which is replete with homophobic abuse and violent misogyny, Eminem was lauded by Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney as someone “who has created a sense of what is possible” and who “sent a voltage around his generation… through his subversive attitude”. A fitting tribute to the artist who famously rapped, “My bum is on your lips / My bum is on your lips.”

Why is Eminem still using the word f*ggot? 1

Warning: extremely edgy 

It’s impossible to discuss Eminem without addressing his whiteness, which affords him every license to slip up, and rewards him beyond all conceivable proportion: with six Grammys for Best Rap Album, he towers over such underachieving no-marks as Outkast, Kanye West or Missy Elliott.

Eminem’s stardom occurred at a time when the music press, which with cheerful racism had been ignoring hip-hop for the last 15 years, was looking to make amends. And who could have been more plausible a figurehead than a white, talented, Dre-approved MC? The world no longer has that complexion, though, which is why Eminem’s provocations now have a terrible ring of desperation. 

In recent years, hip-hop has begun to come to terms with alternative sexualities, and an artist like Chance The Rapper, who on Acid Rap in 2012 was still calling himself a “slap-happy faggot slapper”, has moved on lyrically - perhaps not least because of his rapper brother, Taylor Bennett, coming out as bisexual. 

Artists from Kendrick Lamar to J Cole don’t use gay slurs - in part because the landscape has changed drastically since Kanye West’s pioneering confrontation of the issue head-on as early as 2005, for which he does not get enough recognition.

While using homophobic insults is repulsive, not to mention artistically iffy, it’s important to see Mathers’ grandstanding as what it is: namely a tragic last-ditch attempt at controversy from someone who truly no longer matters. 

Eminem used to have a slightly fun value at least, in his spoiled kid antics (and I confess to groaningly enjoying this goofy Trump-directed bar from last year: “Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for / Cos that’s how he gets his fucking rocks off, and he’s orange”) but his new material feels extremely laboured. 

From Tara Reid to 50 Cent, Eminem’s references are so old, his last job was at Blockbusters. Queer people should be swift to condemn the insults and equally swift to consign his new music, with a shrug, to the bin. 

(Pics: Getty)

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