Is Eminem offensive or Transgressive: The problem with Gen Z

Updated: Mar 7

Well, I think you've heard the news. Now young people, Gen Z, think the older folks’ music is offensive. Hold my millennial wine glass!

I opened my news page on phone today seeing an article "An attempt by Generation Z haters to cancel Eminem over controversial lyrics" and I thought Damn! Why so serious! So, it made me think, why not writing about Eminem and why he's offensive in the mind of Gen Z.

Eminem (source)

Eminem and a Historical Controversy

As far as I remember, Eminem was always surrounded by significant controversy upon the release of most of his albums and music videos such as The Marshall Mathers. I've never been his fan just because I don't like Rap and Hip Hop in general. But he was always at the forefront of American pop culture.

His lyrics were criticized many times and considered violent, homophobic, and misogynistic. There was a time when Cheney criticized his lyrics at a US Senate hearing, and the Canadian government considered refusing his entry into the country. Despite all these, he was praised because of his lyrical ability and considered the album to have emotional depth.

Eminem Lyrics Themes and Style

Most of his lyrics and songs, such as The Marshall Mathers, considered horrorcore. The Marshall Mathers is considered a transgressive work and contains more autobiographical themes. Much of the album is spent addressing his rise to fame and attacking those who criticized his previous album. Other themes include his relationship with his family, including his mother and Kim Mathers, his ex-wife. The music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine writing that the album's lyrics is "the distinction between reality and fiction, humor and horror, satire and documentary".

His lyrics showcase irreverent and humorous moods to "dark and unsettling enough to make you want to enlarge the parental warning stickers on the album." (source)

Why Eminem is Offensive?

Let me tell you from the perspective of a transgressive writer and reader. Eminem sounds offensive because of the shock value that he generates as a large part of what propelled him to the legendary status he currently holds in music. This shock value is the essence of Transgressive Art. Yes, you heard me. I call Eminem's lyrics an art.

From an academic perspective, many traces of transgression can be found in any art which by some is considered offensive because of its shock value. This was always the goal of such artists from the French Salon des Refusés artists to Dada and Surrealism. Transgressional works share some themes that deal with psychological dislocation and mental illness. Examples of this relationship, between social transgression and the exploration of mental states relating to illness, in Eminem songs are Most songs Eminem's songs are his "childhood struggles and family issues, involving his mother ("Kill You"), the relationship struggles with his wife ("Kim"), his struggles with his superstardom and expectations ("Stan", "I'm Back", and "Marshall Mathers"), his return and effect on the music industry ("Remember Me?", "Bitch Please II"), his drug use ("Drug Ballad", "The Kids"), his effect on the American youth and society ("The Way I Am", "Who Knew"), and reactionary barbs to the critical response of his vulgarity and dark themes ("Criminal")." (source)

Just compare his first two albums, Infinite (1996) and The Slim Shady (1999). Infinite was a failure because he made fun of party-type tracks that displayed his intricate rhymes and rhyme schemes. The Slim Shady was a project where Eminem took all of the anger and disappointment in himself, turned it around via his alter-ego, and basically said to the world to "fuck everybody" mentality. This resulted i