Our culture right now is all about attention (as I wrote last week), and Eminem got everyone’s attention for a good 24 hours and more. Whether or not that was his intent, who’s to say? The point is, he succeeded.
First off, like it or not, Eminem is a thought leader. He has a gift for using the English language in a visceral, commanding fashion, and he uses this gift to express himself in a way that is simultaneously vulnerable, honest, succinct, and powerful. His fans appreciate his candor and his willingness to draw a line in the sand and take a position, especially at a time when most musicians are scared to take a position on anything.
Second, the quality of his content. He wasn’t rapping about getting laid, or being drunk in da club, he was speaking out on the current state of our country in a way most artists are afraid to do for fear of alienating fans or, more to the point, losing their corporate deals.
Finally, he was authentic! He straight up bodied a freestyle in a parking structure, in an age where most superstars use backing tracks and lavish productions. He didn’t need a beat. He didn’t even need a microphone. He simply looked down the barrel of the camera, at US, and spoke truth to power.
It was what we’ve all been waiting for — an undeniable musician willing to speak out against the current administration, and put their name on it!
Speaking truth to power…hey, that’s what real artists are supposed to do!!
And I’m probably going to have people give me the whole “he should stick to rapping” bullshit like they did when I wrote about Meryl Streep last year (“stick to acting”). But that just shines a spotlight on their ignorance…
Understand: rap and hip-hop began as a way to give a voice to the powerless, to reveal the injustices in the African-American community, to preach positivity in the face of hopelessness, and help the disadvantaged find the strength and courage to stand up for themselves and demand what’s right in the name of humanity.
Over time it morphed into a fluid art form which would come to be criticized for its derogatory lyrics about women, its glorification of violence, and its promotion of drug dealing/use. And yes, Eminem is guilty of including those subjects in his oeuvre.
But this past Tuesday night, his freestyle about Orange 45 was about giving the rest of America a voice, fulfilling hip-hop’s foundational intentions.
You see, Eminem may not be putting out music as often as he used to, but in America, hip-hop rules, and Eminem is rap royalty. He’s on the Mount Rushmore of rap with Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Dr. Dre, as far as I’m concerned. He can go away for 10 years, come back, and sound just as fresh.
Yet, CNN commentator Matt Lewis says “he’s an aging guy who is clinging to relevance.”
Hardly. Eminem isn’t worried about relevance.
Because Eminem knows he has INFLUENCE.
Plus, he’s white! And he champions black culture and has a deep appreciation for it, unlike our leader.
And now my inbox is gonna blow up with those of you who think race isn’t a large component of what’s going on in this country right now.
But notice how the president has yet to fire back at Eminem on Twitter??
If he does, it will be a Pyrrhic victory: As Touré wrote, Eminem has pitted “whiteness against itself,” and now a good portion of his fans have to go to the bathroom…because that’s where the mirror is…and take a long, hard look and decide in which tribe they truly want to be…
“And any fan of mine, who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line: You’re either for or against.
“And if you can’t decide who you like more, and you’re split on who should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: FUCK you!”
I feel the same way about my fans. And friends. And family members.
It seems as though people think that at a certain point, depending on what type of career you have, how much money you do or don’t make, and how big or small of a celebrity you are, you don’t have the right to speak your mind on the politics and the goings-on of our country and culture.
Where is this sliding scale?? The truth is, it doesn’t exist — every one of us has the right to speak our mind.
We are living in a crazy time right now, and we need more people of true influence to speak out against injustice, racism, sexism, and the lot.
Influence is the key word here — anyone can be concerned about what’s going on, but if one doesn’t have the means or the resources to actually influence a change in what they’re upset about, they’re like Sisyphus and his boulder, forever exerting energy in an effort doomed to fail.
Focus on your circle of influence, not your circle of concern, as the late Stephen Covey wrote in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Find out what you can do to make a positive impact in the world, based on your particular circumstances, and do it. We need you!
Don’t just sit at the computer or peck at your phone with complaints on social media about they way things are or how they should, take real action in the real world and make them so.
I choose to make my impact through my art, regardless of medium.
To that point…
Back in April, I released “Don’t Mess With My Routine,” which was written from the perspective of the folks in the red hats.
“Hate U Back” is written from the opposite perspective, and I am happy to announce that it is streaming on Spotify and the other major streaming services as of today!
If you’re like me, you’ll have a puff, put on your best headphones, and turn the volume up to 70% (protect your ears!).
I hope you dig it. 🙂
“Hate U Back”: https://open.spotify.com/album/62Cs1prjQ2mVYcDNY1kHP2
P.S. Since we’re living in an attention economy, I appreciate you taking time to listen to my music. Thank you in advance.
P.P.S. That said, I’d rather hear “I hate it” than nothing at all, so feel free to let me know what you think of “Hate U Back” by emailing me at jk [at] therealjohnkay [dot] com.
P.P.P.S. In order to make the most impact possible, I’m asking that everyone listen to “Hate U Back” on Spotify three times in a row in order to help get it included on some of Spotify’s playlists. Do this, and I’ll love you even more than I already do! 😀
Visit the archive: https://therealjohnkay.wordpress.comWebsite: https://therealjohnkay.com
Podcast: Get After It w/ John Kay on iTunes
Let he who would move the world first move himself. — Socrates
Copyright © 2017 John Kay, All rights reserved.