Is Eminem Being Unfairly Targeted for His Homophobic Lyrics Because he’s White?

There’s a lot of buzz around Eminem‘s recent 60 Minutes appearance with Anderson Cooper. On the surface it was a good look as there’s no denying Em’s popularity. He’s now seen as an OG of sorts who has finally returned to the scene after being away for a couple of years recovering from a series of life altering mishaps.

We all know about the tragic night club shooting of his best friend Proof (Detroit’s un-official mayor ) a few years back. We also know that Eminem almost overdosed and had been hooked on drugs. According to him he’s been 2 years sober. Like it or not when polled Eminem’s name frequents cracks the top 5 in one Hip Hop’s greatest rapper ever.  His delivery, controversial subject matter and clever word play has earned him his respect. However, what caught people’s attention during the 60 Minutes interview was his remarks around homophobic and misogynistic lyrics. When asked about them and the controversy that emerged here’s what Em is quoted as saying;

“I felt like I was being attacked. I was being singled out. I felt like, ‘Is it because of the color of my skin? Is it because of that you’re paying more attention?’ There are certain rappers that do and say the same things that I’m saying and I don’t hear no one say anything about that.”.

You can peep the full interview here..

Em’s remarks raised more than a few eyebrows and left us with a few things to think about. The name of the game as he well knows is when you’re trying to make noise to blow up a spot, unless you have a compelling story to tell or exemplary skill sets, the best way to bring attention to yourself or an issue is to kick up dust and cause controversy.

This is what Eminem did. He bursted on the scene 10 years ago causing controversy. It wasn’t just his shocking lyrics but also some of his on and off stage antics. For example, I recall on one of his early visits to the Bay he got into a heated exchange with a radio host on KALX (UC Berkeley’s radio station) who thought he was a bit rude and over the top. The host Sister Tamu wound up breaking his record on the air. Word of that incident spread quick.

A few months later (may 1999) while doing a concert at the Fillmore a fight broke out. Em attempted to quell things only to jump off the stage with crew in tow to pummel a heckler who he felt wasn’t showing the proper respect. What appeared to be an isolated incident was later revealed to be something that somewhat staged as similar incidents of Em jumping off the stage to confront hecklers occurred at other concerts including Las Vegas a few days later. Again controversy sells and Eminem early on was a spark plug for it…

It should come as no surprise that folks wishing to get a message across would not attach themselves to his missteps to get a message out. This has been a tried and true method used by organizations like PETA when it comes to animal abuse and obviously other organizations like GLAAD who went after Eminem to bring attention to homophobia. But with that being said, while Eminem has come under fire, he has never been economically blocked at least not in the ways we seen other artists who dared cross certain lines.

For example, take reggae artist Buju Banton.. Here’s a guy that recorded an over the top homophobic song back in 1988 when he was 15. The song  ‘Boom Bye Bye‘ was about the murdering  gay man and became a huge hit and an anthem of sorts. 20 years after this song was recorded folks never let up him. They protested, got his tours canceled. Folks have and continue to go all out on Buju.  Eminem.. yeah he got heat from GLAAD and other organizations, but his concerts were never cancelled even here in San Francisco where activist have shut down Buju everytime his name is even mentioned.

This has gone on even after Buju has gone on to do positive music and explained his immaturity and ignorance at 15. He is now considered a strong voice for Jamaica. The protests have gone on even after he was the first to set up program Willy to help prevent the spread HIV and AIDs in Jamaica. Prior to that using a condom was seen in a bad light the same way homosexuality was. Buju took those steps and has still been dogged.

Em still performed his over the top songs even after public apologies and a show of reconciliation with singer Elton John who is outspoken on Gay Rights. Em was still embraced even though he does many of those ‘offensive’ songs. In addition when Eminem is mentioned it’s rarely with the tag Anti-gay rapper vs Buju who is frequently cited in the press as Anti-gay singer.

Def Jeff

Now one may look at Buju and say his song was an anthem that sparked violence and hence deserved to be protested. Thats understandable on a number of levels so lets look at  a few other less egregious examples..  I recall back in the early 90s ago LA rapper Def Jeff coming to San Francisco to perform at Club Townsend. He attempted to try to get the crowd hyped  by first yelling ‘All the Ugly People Be Quiet’. When he got a luke warm response he then yelled ‘All the People who got Aids be Quiet‘. To put it simply, after he yelled those remarks it was a wrap.

Even though Def Jeff got a resounding response from the audience that night he soon found himself blacklisted by SF club owners. Many who heard about his remarks refused to book him. Years later, he admitted at that time, he was young and just ignorant to both the horrors of HIV and AIDs. He was also oblivious to the type of anger and scapegoating directed at the Gay community. At that time AIDs was more associated with white Gay males as opposed to folks in the inner city and Jeff was simply insensitive. He apologized, but to know avail. He hasn’t been in the Bay to perform since.

A few months prior to Def Jeff’s remarks, Turbo B the lead rapper for the group the Snap which had the mega hit song ‘The Power’, made some unsavory remarks about Gays and AIDs and caused a huge uproar. Turbo later apologized for his ignorance, but it was all but a wrap for him and his career pretty much went down the tubes from there. It didn’t help that the Snap had a large following in the Gay community. Folks weren’t gonna allow those anti-gay remarks to go.

Cypress Hill

Also around that time a more visible and publicized incident occurred with Cypress Hill who were performing at the Bill Graham Civic Center during the Soul Assassins Tour. The show featured House of Pain, Cypress Hill and a number of other acts. Someone in the opening act acting as hype man yelled out to the crowd ‘”All the fags in the House Be Quiet’. There was a loud response from all the straight males who of course responded to the call.

The next day, angry members of the Gay community reacted and targeted radio giant KMEL which gave away tickets for the show. Letters and phone calls came in and the end result was Cypress Hill was banned from airplay on the station. The group quickly issued a letter of apology, even though they weren’t onstage at the time. The logic from the Gay protestors was that they were responsible for the insensitivity of the acts they brought along with them, hence they needed to be banned. The Cypress Hill radio boycott lasted for almost a year. It wasn’t lifted until they actually wound up doing a syndicated Soul Assassin’s radio show on our station.

Now again let’s not get things twisted, anyone advocating for the beating, killing or even the discrimination of gays or any ethnic group is bad news. And folks on the receiving end of those insults and threats have every right and should express their anger and outrage. If that outrage includes protests and shutting folks down, so be it. All of us have a responsibility in being aware of boundaries that exists within certain communities.But bringing this back to Eminem, he was given huge passes and in many ways embraced. Em’s angry lyrics have more often than not been praised by publications like the UK Guardian and Spin Magazine for expressing and reflecting the angst and anger felt by many within the white working class.

So is Eminem a target for his homophobic and misogynist lyrics because he’s white? Hardly. It’s more likely that he’s a target because he’s enormously popular. I think many of these organizations learned that they can only go so far in bringing attention to these issues going after lesser known artists. Hence  as long as Eminem is in the spotlight he allows a light to be shined on these issues. Hence anything he says will be scrutinized for an opportunity to weigh in. The attacks on Eminem are not the same as the shut downs and demonization of entire groups of Black and Brown folks for anti-social ills.

When Def Jeff and Turbo B got clocked all of rap was called into question. When Buju Banton was called all of Jamaica and its culture was called into question. When Em was called out it began and stopped with him. We didn’t make the connection with Eminem being a white man born in the US who may be part of and ultimately influenced by a culture that includes everyone from conservative politicians to overzealous Evangelists who routinely bash the gay community. Bottomline in spite of his hard upbringing there are major institutions in this country that have afforded Eminem a few priviledges he himself might not recognize and certainly didn’t acknowledge during his interview

something to consider

-Davey D-

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

21 comments on “Is Eminem Being Unfairly Targeted for His Homophobic Lyrics Because he’s White?

  1. Good points and well taken. However, I would ask the Gay community, particulary those in SF, if there is a little bias among them with regards to who and how they treat others in regards to being homophobic. I recalled after the Presidential election and the Prop 8, there are many in the Gay community chanting racial epithets at blacks and hispanics, but the media (particularly the local television media) did not highlight the apparent racism. Instead, they showed white gay men as angry that blacks (who make up only less than 6% of the Cali population) and hispanics voted to deny them equal marriage rights. The media played the race card well making all blacks and hispanics as homophobic when in fact it was the majority of whites (with religious backing) that supported Prop 8. Weeks after the elections, the media slowly “corrected” themselves to say that it was not blacks or hispanics that played a significant factor on Prop 8. Yet, there was no discussion among the gay community to correct the “misinformation”. So, I feel that maybe Eminem is getting a “get-out-of-jail” card since he is a “minority” in the rap industry and there is a perception that blacks and hispanics “get away” with saying and doing things in the rap industry without repercussions. Just food for thought…

  2. I never like Eminem for the simple reason that he never acknowleged that one of the reasons for his popularity IS his race. And now he wants to act like his race is detrimental??? Puh-lease. He is a clown.

  3. He’s the top seller. He is going to be a top target for anything. There is attention to your cause; if you are successful against him – or even just coming close. He’s the only one in hip-hop right now that can sell 3x. Even Jigga gotta call his wife if he want to see those numbers.

    I figured Em would understand that. I think he was victim-stancing on that. Or maybe just giving Anderson Copper something to go on. If we going to talk about race; let’s talk about how it possibly hinders me.

  4. dope article ive been saying this about reverse racism statements for years. its not about beefing because of race. Em is talented but these type of discussions need to be addressed. its too conveniant to blame things on minute reverse racism verse the whole sociological effects of history

  5. We really place too much attention into the celebrities, artists, and stars of today. Eminem is going to say what ever he has to to sell records. I’m hoping that people will continue to raise in consciousness and really see what’s going on. Professor Griff gives great information of the evils in the entertainment world.

  6. Can the inconsistencies in how the public and media judged Tiger Woods and how it seems to overlook Brett Farve be addressed as well?

  7. Davey-D:
    To boost your credibility, please utilize spellcheck. privilege, not priviledge. I say this with love…

  8. interesting article…regarding Buju, it’s fair to say that he only really stands as a symbol of homophobia among gay activists in the UK and Britain who have made him the poster boy for their campaigns, despite the fact that of over 500+ songs he’s recorded, only one has lyrics which could be considered remotely homophobic, although that one song was written in response to an actual case of man-boy rape.

    imagine if Slayer or even the Talking Heads were subjected to the same level of scrutiny that Buju has been for their songs about serial killers…or if Elton John had been excoriated for being misogynist for songs like “The Bitch is Back” and “Dirty Girl.”? what about Axl Rose, who was given a pass for his racist and anti-gay lyrics? why arent his concerts protested?

    Is it because Buju’s black, he becomes an easy target?

    in contrast, Eminem has gotten off rather easy.

  9. Eminem is not being targeted because he’s white, he being targeted because when white gay men want to listen to rap they would pick his CD over Juelz Santana’s.

    In my opinion I’ve always thought that Eminem was overrated, comparing him to todays rappers, yes he’s one of the top 5 (Dare I say top 3?) but hip hop has been around for 30+ yrs and when you compare his lyrics to GREAT artist Biggie, Big L, Lupe Fiasco, 2 Pac, Kanye West, Talib, Nas, Ghostface Killah. You see that he’s just an OK artist nothing special.

    Ask yourself who’s really the best rapper out today? Is it Gucci Mane, or Young Jeezy? How about Rick Ross or Lil Wayne? What happened to Hip-Hop when we can hear songs about “Ice-cream paint jobs” or “Falsifying a grandoise dream about selling cocaine” and 20% of African Americans are unemployed.

    Remember Deloris Tucker when Pac was rapping about social issues, where is she now when rappers spew this trash telling impressionable kids every negative thing that they should not do is cool.

    What’s the next popular song going to be “I dropped out now so can you”, or “Here’s how to get stereotyped”. I recently saw that Antoine Dodson preformed @ the BET awards. Really BET you couldn’t get Jasiri X to preform “What if The Tea Party Was Black?” Or is there a rapper shortage? I guess you never had a myspace page.

    I know I veered off topic but hip-hop is important to me,the way rap music has changed now is like seeing Jazz music slowing become Opera.

  10. boy oh boy do i wish dr. khalid was still with us.
    when will we learn? when will we began to study history seriously? this dude is spitting trickery, and nonsense. em, is nothing more then a culture bandit (rip del jones) this is what happens when we dont control our creations, fools like em are allowed to thief culture and claim it as his own, just like elvis did. i remember clearly the antics of delores tucker and others who attacked the lyrics of hip hop artist constantly.
    i dont listen to this dude or buy any of his music- period!!
    em is a culture bandit, liar, rip off artist, con artist, punk and dope fiend. lets move on shall we

  11. While at first glance, I was ready to hope on this reverse racism tip like Eminem was a rapping version of Pat Buchanan. But honestly, I think his claim actually shows his understanding of racism within the hip hop business.

    When he asserts that his skin color might give him extra scrutiny…he is referring to the fact that he is increased popularity…a popularity brought to him because of his skin color and how easily accepted he was by MTV and middle-class suburban white kids who wanted to safely venture into hip hop. But Em understands this. I can think of several times where he mentions the fact that he blew up becuase of being white…such as “Became a commodity cuz I’m W-H-I-T-E/ MTV was so friendly to me”.

    His statement could be read as a b.s. claim to reverse racism but if you read into you know that Em is making a statement about the inherent racism in the recording industry and how record execs allowed for the co-opting of cultures.

    I am not here to engage in Eminem apologetics…but damn…so folks need to actually read the articles…and our analyze shit before jumping off and commenting.

    While not on the same level…Eminem (like folks such as Tim Wise)…are perfectly aware of how their acceptance, compared to peoples of color who say the same shit as they do and have for a while, is indicative of ingrained racism. They are self-aware.

  12. I noticed a few typos in my post. My apologies but everyone can use context clue to guess what words I meant to use:

    hop instead of hope, etc

  13. Seriously, did the Beastie Boys ever complain this much about being white rappers?

    And I can understand why Em is so homophobic yet gay celebrities (Elton John, Anderson Cooper) would love to work/interview him. He really is quite a pretty boy. There was a time that he was even being marketed exactly like the Backstreet Boys, right down to the tenny bopper magazines with pull out posters.

  14. Pingback: Eminem, Hip-Hop, Homophobia and Whiteness

  15. Pingback: Global Comment Article: Is Eninem Being Attacked By The Mainstream Media Because He’s A White Heterosexual Rapper? « GayBlackCanadianman

  16. I am a big Eminem fan, but the guy is clearly a homophobe-not that I care that much. Listen to Amityville, Cold Wind Blows, all representative of his phobia or hatred agianst gays. And the interview above: when Cooper questions his use of the word faggot, Eminem hesitates when he answers. He continually uses the word faggot, even on Nicki Minaj’s Romans Revenge-she was really uncomfortable.
    Then again, Em has a point. White people are only really going to listen to white rappers because they feel that they cannot relate well to blacks. I’m black, so I don’t really know whether this is true, but it seems so. Remember MJ? He was only featured on MTV through persuasion and threats. Eminem can just stroll in. Racism in the industry? Definitely.
    A great deal of black rappers are homophobic, as Eminem has rightly observed. They don’t get pulled up because white gays are rarely going to listen to their stuff. So he is left out to dry. Still, is this an excuse for homophobia? Ask Em.

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