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 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 in a lot of rhymes that counted as offensive and shocking (which was the reason he got a LOT of attention and became rich as hell). This significantly broadened listeners of rap to the white suburbs where teenagers were attracted to his humor, straight-forwardness, and don’t-give-a-fuck persona. (source)
Gen Z and Hyper-sensitivity
Let me give you a piece of advice from a Gen Y to a Gen Z. It is true that other generations, including mine, often find it hard to understand you but what's to be done?
There are hundreds of videos that are taking social media by storm against this Eminem news from Millenials trying to make fun of Gen Z, defending Slim Shady whose real name is Marshall Mathers. It all started in February when a Gen Z posted a TikTok clip condemning the rapper’s 2010 hit "Love the Way You Lie" featuring Rihanna glorifying violence against women highlighting the verse "If she ever tries to f–king leave again I’ma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire." well... damn you're right, he's violent but if we're talking about violence against women, we need to focus on women being objectified in general. How about Nicki Minaj who misrepresents herself and women in a very negative manner?
There are hundreds of sexually objectifying Pop Music Videos, Young Women’s Self-Objectification, and Selective Exposure out there. Is anyone sensitive about that? Nope! We listen to songs that degrade women by men or even in worse situations, by themselves. While there are mostly blames to be put on men in this industry, we are not seeing a significant push for the industry to produce music that is respectful to women as a whole. For example, Taylor Swift's video clip "Look What You Made Me Do" engages in a very glamorous form of domestic violence where she is the perpetrator, and it is very sexualized. No one talks about it how women victimize themselves or if they show any violence toward others. Does it mean it's ok?
If we really started analyzing lyrics more deeply, I think people would be disturbed by some of the things that sound very catchy when they’re put to country-western music, or pop, or rock music. Instead, we mostly focus on analyzing exclusively rap and hip-hop as being offensive because of their transgressive form. Let me give you more examples that I think you'll miss getting offended by. Drake, everyone knows him, and even bands like Guns N’ Roses which I am a fan of (Unfortunately, I guess?), all degrade women by treating them in derogatory ways, but we don’t think about it because we are so used to it. This is where the issue is. Sadly, what sells the most is "a version of the music that is invested in promoting a machismo that is all about the celebration of hypermasculinity at the expense of the objectification of women." (source)
Does it mean we normalized "sex sells"? If we're going to talk about hyper-sensitivity, well, let me talk about it! Give me an example where a woman singer is not self-objectifying herself? Talking about Rap and Hip-hop? Nicki Minaj, Kardi B, Lil kim, or pop singers such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé... too many to count. We need to start having these conversations if we're talking about sensitivity. We need to have them in our education system.
Transgressing The Stereotypes
To be honest, I'm more offended by women agressing themselves, sexualizing themselves, objectifying themselves, then victimizing themselves and put the blame on men. Here I'm only talking about women in the music industry and not other art forms and I'm talking about using their body as an attraction not a mode of transgression. I chose to bring up women because the stereotypes that have been created of women in the music industry are not only because of men.
People's perspectives are rapidly changing and I was expecting that more people are learning to accept different points of view but unfortunately, our society is becoming hyper-sensitive against the ones who used to be in power, here the example is "men". Traditional gender roles have long placed undesirable labels on women who choose to openly discuss sex. But it doesn't mean many women in music have undeniably broken barriers, transformed ancient definitions, and opened up taboo conversations about sexuality. Sadly, mostly use this perception in accordance with Misogyny.
The worst part is when a Gen Z singer such as Billie Eilish is being criticized by her generation of boys and girls for her body or the type of clothes she wears. She's not sexualized enough, I assume? The not-fitting misogynistic perspective of sex sells? I call for you Gen Z, if you're hypersensitive to lyrics such as Eminem's, why are you body-shaming Eilish just because she doesn't show it off?
We're talking about female freedom and feminism transgression against the patriarchal system. Let's learn from 17-year-old singer Billie Eilish that hasn't buckled to industry pressure to show off her body to sell records. Billie's decision to keep her body under wraps is empowering, especially in a world where young girls are bombarded with touched-up half-naked images of women's bodies in traditional media and online such as on Instagram. I should applaud her when she called out sexism during the world tour: “Is My Value-Based Only On Your Perception?"
Let us open our minds and dive deeper into the issues surrounding us! Not everything lies on the surface kiddos.