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What Makes Eminem's Trump Diss Special (and What Doesn't)

October 11, 2017 5:26 PM
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The rapper’s unique in speaking to the president's supporters—but his freestyle is otherwise typical of 2017’s hip-hop politics.

Maybe you loved Eminem’s immediately viral BET Hip-Hop Awards diss of Donald Trump on Tuesday, from the way he nails the president’s distraction techniques to the way he rhymes “historical deplorable factors.” Or maybe Eminem’s heavy panting and dumb-then-clever-then-dumb-again lines like “Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for / ‘Cause that’s how he gets his fucking rocks off and he’s orange” put your brain in a fight with your finger to hit “close.” Maybe you didn’t tune in because of Eminem’s long history of misogyny and homophobia. Maybe you’re Keith Olbermann and it’s, frighteningly, the best rap you’ve heard in 27 years and the best political writing you’ve read all year.

But it’s worth noting that if you’re a pundit or pure political junky—someone listening out of an interest in trending topics—the rap isn’t primarily for you.

My colleague Conor Friedersdorf is right to point out that Eminem’s vulgarity is a fitting weapon against a vulgar president, a fact the rapper acknowledges in his freestyle when he says “‘Cause like [Trump] in politics, I’m using all of his tricks.” Still, the most revolutionary thing here isn’t Eminem’s substance or style but his intended audience. The rapper closes by telling his fans who are supporters of Trump that he’s drawing a line: “If you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split on who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: Fuck you!”

Eminem, more than most rappers, has fans in Trump’s camp. The New York Times found that Eminem’s fan base “is strongest in whiter and more rural places.” As the music critic Brian McCollum pointed out recently, three of the most surprisingly politically relevant artists of the Trump era are rappers who arose from white working-class Detroit in the late ’90s: Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, and Eminem, all of whom hold very different political views but can talk to much the same constituency. Also, Marco Rubio is a stan. (To break your brain, here’s Trump endorsing Eminem for president on MTV in 2004.)


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