Liner Notes: The Profane and the Prophetic

A professor/friend of mine told me over lunch yesterday that no one under the age of eighty watches 60 Minutes. I had to disagree with him on the basis that I am below the age of eighty and love the show. But I also had to agree with the point he was driving at, as I don’t know anyone else who watches it as religiously as I do, let alone enjoys it as much.

Assuming my professor-friend to be correct, not many of you would have seen this past Sunday’s episode in which Anderson Cooper sat down for a twenty minute interview with Hip Hop icon Eminem in what was his first television appearance in over three years. The past year has been a “triumphant comeback for a superstar who had all but disappeared” from the Hip Hop scene. Struggling with addiction and surviving a near-death overdose two and a half years ago, the thirty-seven year old rap star is back in the spotlight after a recent two-show run with friend and collaborator Jay-Z. Some of you may have caught snippets of the 60 Minutes story on YouTube or Hulu.

At one point in the interview, Eminem tried to explain the art of his craft: “People say that the word ‘orange’ doesn’t rhyme with anything and that kind of pisses me off,” griped Mathers. “I put my or-ange, four-inch, door hinge in stor-age and ate porr-idge with George. You just have to figure out the science to breaking down words.” Apparently this is something ABC News editors have been able to effectively do as well—but with a much different motive. While Eminem aims to “bend” words for artistic expression, ABC looks to chop words to sell advertising space on invented controversy. You see, the ABC news team was doing their best propaganda on Monday night in hopes to sell some viewers on the “controversy” of the piece. This, like most things on news stations these days, really irked me. There was nothing controversial about the interview at all. The angle ABC was going for in their story cemented my theory on the idiocy of twenty-first century news producers who continually prove to the world how incapable they are of understanding truth, meaning, and speech in context over the selective gathering and editing of words.

The ‘controversy’ ABC sought to expose came late into the thirteen-minute story, when Anderson Cooper addresses Eminem’s history of profanity and verbal abuse towards women and the homosexual community. When asked if he felt any degree of responsibility for sending a negative message to the young fans of his music, Eminem replied: “I feel like it’s your job to parent them. If you’re the parent, be a parent.” When asked if he dislikes gay people, he responded, “I don’t have any problem with nobody,” and then further defended himself by alluding to his own parenting practices: “Profanity around my house–no. But this is music. This is my art.”

This is where ABC News decided to have fun with the rapper, mocking him by sarcastically calling his home “surprisingly profanity-free.” It appears just about everyone has decided to forego the overarching story behind Eminem’s rise to fame. His use of the word “faggot” is more important than his struggle with addiction, return to sobriety, and a life of creation and public-performance. When discussing the topic, Eminem tells Cooper: “I felt like I was being attacked. I was being singled out, and I felt like, ‘is it because of the color of my skin? Is it because of that you’re paying more attention?’ … Like, I just didn’t invent saying offensive things, ya know?”

As a student of music history, I would love to get a shot at each user who has commented on ABC’s thread of opinions just to see what music each one of them individually listens to. I bet most online users who comment on such things are in the dark as to who their musical heroes really are, let alone what some of the messages behind their lyrics stand for.

I guess Eminem on 60 Minutes defending his use of the word “faggot” is news to some people. Let’s ignore the fact that he tells Cooper there is “no excuse” for abandoning your children, an epidemic in today’s lower class neighborhoods and one from which he is a victim. “If my kids moved to the edge of the earth, I’d find them. No doubt in my mind. No money, no nothing, if I had nothing, I’d find my kids. ” Let ABC overlook the fact that he came from the slums of Detroit where he had to learn to survive on his own as a child, or that he rose from the all-too-common lower-class life American news stations pretend don’t exist.

Marshall Mathers chooses not to hide his emotions behind his words. Where he is comfortable with anyone’s sexuality, he verbalizes the terms as a form of expression that reflects the environment from which he was socialized. Corporate America (i.e. ABC and CBS News) chooses to pretend that environment doesn’t exist, or turns its back upon itself, and instead points the finger at Eminem and his lyrics, sardonically judging him as both artist and parent.

Cooper says of him, “He’s back like a fighter; trying to win from the crowd, one simple thing…”
Eminem: “Respect.”
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– Kory French


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