Why Eminem's rap about Donald Trump is resonating with millions of Americans

Detroit rapper uniquely qualified to provide cutting critique of President

Eugene Scott
Wednesday 15 November 2017 11:22
Eminem tears into Trump in freestyle rap: "Racism's the only thing that he's good for"

Eminem says he's drawing a line in the sand.

In a cypher at the BET Hip Hop Awards, the hip-hop artist slammed President Donald Trump for policies that Eminem considers harmful to America. He also had choice words for those of his fans who voted for Trump in 2016.

“Any fan of mine who's a supporter of his/I'm drawing in the sand a line/You're either for or against...”

It's not surprising that Eminem doesn't like Trump. Some of the loudest criticism of the President in pop culture comes from the hip-hop community. But here's why Tuesday's rap from Eminem, whom Trump previously called “a winner” during a performance in which the President pretended to endorse the rapper at a mock presidential convention, is resonating on social media and in the political conversation.

Eminem, born Marshall Mathers, rose to fame after starting his career in Detroit's underground hip-hop scene. Hewas born to a teen mother in a white, working-class family in a small town in Missouri. His family traveled often, looking for work and stability, before settling in a primarily black, working-class Detroit neighbourhood where he discovered the freestyle hip-hop battle scene, according to Salon.

Much of Eminem's success in the hip-hop world stemmed from never trying to hide his roots and the chaos that defined them. Many of the stories he tells in his lyrics about his family are reminiscent of those told in J.D. Vance's breakout Hillbilly Elegy, a book about the white working poor in the Rust Belt.

But unlike many white, working-class Trump supporters who count racism against whites as a bigger issue than racism against people of colour, Eminem acknowledged many of the very real challenges that black Americans face when it comes to racism, police violence and urban poverty.

Eminem addressed that at various points in the cypher:

“Now if you're a black athlete, you're a spoiled little brat for/Tryna use your platform or your stature/To try to give those a voice who don't have one.”

Because of his insight into the worlds of both working-class whites and urban blacks, Eminem is uniquely qualified to summarise how Trump plays to his base's worst impulses about race in America and address the real issues affecting all of Michigan's residents - the poor rural white voters and the urban black Detroiters still fighting for racial equity.

Trump won Michigan, a state that Hillary Clinton and most political observers expected would remain blue like it had in every presidential election since 1988. But the state's white, working-class voters were drawn to Trump's populist message that he would return jobs to the Rust Belt that had repeatedly left the state over decades.

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It was also in Michigan - Detroit specifically - that Trump did some of his most aggressive outreach to black voters with the help of Ben Carson, a onetime Detroit resident and current member of the Trump Cabinet.

“I fully understand that the African American community has suffered from discrimination,” Trump told attendees of Great Faith Ministries International in September 2016, adding that there were “many wrongs” that still needed to be “made right.”

However, Trump has since gotten more attention for attacking people such as Detroit native and ESPN anchor Jemele Hill after she called him a “white supremacist” and for calling NFL players “sons of bitches” for kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice. Some of Trump's lowest approval ratings - in the single digits - are among black Americans.

Meanwhile, he is still enjoying relatively high approval ratings with the base that propelled him to the White House.

Trump hadn't responded to Eminem on Twitter at the time of this piece, but it is fair to assume that he doesn't like it when rappers speak for their audiences by saying “We f***ing hate Trump.” But there's an argument to be made that the rapper's lyrics weren't directed at Trump - rather, Eminem was castigating those of his fans who support Trump and have paid no heed to the criticism coming his way.

Eminem was trending most of Wednesday, another entertainer monopolising the political conversation on Twitter.

The Washington Post

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