Eminem is still rapping with gay slurs in 2018. If that’s his only way to get people talking, he should just retire now

It's astonishing that after 30 years in the game Eminem still hasn’t found a new insult

Roisin O'Connor
Friday 31 August 2018 14:14 BST
Everyone Eminem attacks on surprise new album Kamikaze, from Donald Trump to Tyler the Creator

It’s 2018, but apparently no one told Eminem. Not only has the 45-year-old rapper dropped a surprise album (honey, so 2016, didn’t Beyonce tell you?), but said record, Kamikaze, includes a diss track where he calls fellow artist Tyler, the Creator, a “faggot”.

On “Fall”, he raps: “Tyler create nothing, I see why you called yourself a faggot, bitch/It’s not just ‘cause you lack attention/It’s ‘cause you worship D12’s balls, you’re sac-rilegious/If you’re gonna critique me, you better at least be as good or better."

The diss comes after Tyler criticised “Walk on Water” from Eminem’s 2017 album Revival, tweeting: “dear god this is horrible sheesh how the f***." Eminem’s slur refers to multiple hints on Tyler’s own album Flower Boy, released in 2017, that he might be gay or bisexual.

It’s astonishing, really, that after 30 years in the game Eminem, who began rapping when he was 14, still hasn’t found a new insult. Better yet, one that doesn’t slur a person based on their sexuality. What really grates, though, is that Kamikaze is only a reminder that while Tyler is still banned from the UK, Eminem will continue to rake in millions from record sales and touring in Britain without repercussions for a two decade-long career of verbally abusing minorities.

He might praise artists such as Kendrick Lamar and J Cole on his new record, but neither of them feels the need to use homophobic slurs in their latest material. Cole has actually challenged the use of the word “faggot” in his bars (with questionable effect), while Kendrick prefers to take aim at racists and corrupt politicians, rather than those who are already vulnerable to violence and discrimination.

Eminem, meanwhile, has been defending his use of homophobic language as far back as 2000, where he claimed that a lyric in the song "Criminal" – “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge, That’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or lez. pants or dress? Hate fags? The answer’s ‘yes’” – wasn’t about LGBT+ people. Sure, Jan.

Tyler has been banned from entering the UK since 2015 because the lyrics in two of his earlier albums, Bastard and Goblin, “posed a threat to the safety of the British public” – a reason usually reserved for potential terrorists. Watching the then Home Secretary Theresa May pick him out of thousands of rappers felt as random and out-of-touch as when David Cameron tried to accuse Lethal Bizzle of promoting knife violence in 2006… by quoting lyrics by another MC. Or maybe not so random. It had coded racism written all over it.

“Your albums Bastard, in 2009, and Goblin, in 2011,” Theresa May’s letter to Tyler, the Creator read, “are based on the premise of your adopting a mentally unstable alter ego who describes violent physical abuse, rape and murder in graphic terms which appears to glamourise this behaviour.”

Now who does that sound like?

For decades, Eminem, his fans, and critics who support his work, have gone out of their way to persuade his detractors that Slim Shady is a “character” and therefore Eminem isn’t really being homophobic or a misogynist. That anyone who dares to criticise him just “doesn’t get it”, they have no sense of humour, they’re just trying to censor free speech. But given that the US currently has a president who was elected precisely because of perpetuated fear and hatred of the “other”, and who seems intent on removing or just ignoring the rights of the LGBT+ community, black people, women and other minorities, you’ll forgive me if I’m not laughing hysterically right now.

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And it’s not just homophobia you hear on Kamikaze, either. Eminem is still rapping about domestic abuse and stalking women. On “Normal”, he raps:

“No wonder we’re partners,

Both got hundreds of charges,

Domestic disputes but we’ve always,

Swept it under the carpet,

Even when 911 gets the call that,

I slipped up and busted her jaw with,

A Louisville Slugger ‘cause alls it,

Really does is make our love,

For each other grow stronger."

For someone who has been so vocal about sexual misconduct in the music industry, to hear singer Jessie Reyez appear not once, but twice on the album of a man who has rapped about raping and assaulting fictional women, real women (Iggy Azaelea), and an entire women’s swim team, is disappointing to say the least. Just as it is to hear the voice of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon appear on “Fall”.

Back to Eminem, spitting anger at the music industry and the mixed reaction to Revival on “The Ringer”. He interpolates a vocal hook from Kendrick’s track “HUMBLE” to chant “Revival didn’t go viral” on the ironically-titled “Greatest”, which sounds like a direct rebuke to the critical praise heaped on the other rapper, and Eminem trying to convince us that he’s still the best. All the while still refusing to drop the homophobic slurs, the misogyny and the violence in a time where we’re all sick of it... because really, why else would we be talking about him? Enough, Marshall. Enough.

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