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Eminem: The Voice of White Working-Class America Long Before Trump

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Last month on the BET awards, the well-known rapper Eminem dished out a freestyle dissing president Trump that was largely received positively by his fans and even political pundits like Keith Obermann.

“After 27 years of doubts about rap I am now an @Eminem fan, best political writing of the year period,” Olbermann stated on his twitter feed.

While Eminem isn’t necessarily saying anything that much different than the average opponent of President Trump’s policies, what is unique is his status in relation to Trump’s supporters and how he states his message to his audience. To start, Eminem is in many ways a major voice to white working-class America, the main constituency that ushered Trump into the White House.

Spencer Kornhaber, a writer for “The Atlantic” magazine, mentioned how music critic Brian McCollum made an interesting observation about the successful white rapper’s relation to America’s modern day political climate.

“Three of the most surprisingly politically relevant artists of the Trump era are rappers who arose from white working-class Detroit in the late 90’s: Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, and Eminem, all of whom hold very different political views can talk to the same constituency,” Kornhaber reported about McCollum’s observation.

This matter is made even more interesting by the fact that Michigan, a state traditionally viewed as part of the reliable “Blue Wall” gave its sixteen electoral votes to Trump in the 2016 election by 47.3 percent a slim victory over Hillary Clinton’s 47 percent.

Statistics aside, Eminem is considered to have cemented himself as a political voice with his 2004 song “Mosh” from his Encore album. “Mosh” was his scathing critique of the Bush administration following the entry of the United States into Iraq. The following lines below will definitely put Eminem’s anti-bush sentiment easy to see.

“For this monster, this coward, that we have empowered, this is bin Laden, look at his head noddin’, how could we allow something like this without pumping our fists?”

While those lyrics would have been the most significant all the way back in 2004, the next lines that are about to appear should remind one of Trump’s classic political rhetoric.

“We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march, through the swamp, we gonna mosh through the marsh, take us right through the doors (c’mon).”

The line that sticks out the most today is the one concerning the swamp. One of Trump’s favorite lines of rhetoric is the idea of him draining the swamp where he’s some kind of savior who’s able to make the inner workings of Washington D.C. more honest and less corrupt, on the notion of him being an outsider businessman turned politician. After analyzing this line, a revelation needs to be made and stated.

That revelation is the very likely idea that Eminem unknowingly paved the way for the future political rise of Trump, long before modern day economic conditions and distrust towards Clinton became a talking point in American society. President Trump himself is on the record of calling Eminem’s alter ego, Slim shady, a winner.

From a point in time that now feels like a completely different lifetime, MTV jokingly established a slim-shady convention as an announcement for Eminem running for President in the 2004 election. It was a means to advertise the rapper’s debut satellite radio channel, Shady 45.

“When the Shady party called and told me there’s going to be a convention, I said it’s gotta be a really big one and it’s gotta be right here in New York because this is the best city in the world am I right? Of course, I’m right. I’m always right. I’m Donald Trump, I’m always right,” the future president claimed to a cheering crowd.

Besides complimenting himself in the usually fashion, he also gave Eminem quite the praise.

“I know a winner when I see one, and Donald Trump is telling you right now Slim Shady is a winner. He’s got brains, he’s got guts and he’s got Donald Trump’s vote!”

Slim shady most likely has claim for inspiring Trump’s future political strategy. For instance, back during the prime years of Eminem’s career, which was about 1999-2002, certain lyrics in his songs made some listeners perceive him as a misogynistic homophobe. However, instead of being weakened by the controversies, Eminem was able to use the controversy that surrounded him as a means to market himself and keep the media centered on him.

During the course of the 2016 campaign, Trump would use every controversy surrounding him as a means to dominate the media’s attention, making it so that way he could seemingly rise up even further in political influence each time. While Eminem was able to fight back his opponents through his songs, Trump was able to fight back against his opponents through Twitter. Originally it may have seemed that Trump himself invented his own political strategy of playing the villain, but after analyzing the situation further, Trump’s strategy was mainly just a rip off of Eminem’s strategy for marketing himself and forming his alternate egos.

President Trump will most likely never admit he’s influenced by Eminem, but remember Trump said he didn’t go into the election to lose. He was able to say that with a straight face since he already knew the strategy worked for Eminem’s Rap career. The two of them are also both outsiders in their respective defining roles, with Eminem being an outsider in the hip-hop field due to his skin color and Trump being an outsider due to his entry into politics stemming from his success with his company rather than public service experience.

Perhaps for the President’s next book, he should title it the art of the copycat. Now, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, Eminem isn’t in the same category as Trump overall. While there is a considerable argument that Eminem’s ability to become arguably the most successful rapper of the 2000’s could be due to his race, he’s still considered an artist that transcended racial barriers.

White working-class America may be one of his biggest listeners, but that doesn’t mean his music is specifically tailored to only that audience. In fact, the success of Eminem was deeply troubling for certain segments of white America as his focus on issues like poverty, family violence, domestic abuse, drug addiction, and race relations made some people anxious as Eminem dared to portray white America as more troubled then it may care to admit.

Considering his ability to make one of the biggest groups of his listeners uncomfortable, while also showing he’s well aware that his skin color can give him privileges people from other racial backgrounds might not have with his song “White America”, he’s a stark contrast to President Trump who prefers to have a narrower view on the state of modern day American society.

In many ways, Eminem’s most recent freestyle dis towards the President as well as his 2016 song “Campaign Speech” is just as much a protest as much as it’s an attempt by a Doctor Frankenstein trying to destroy his own monster. Both the freestyle and 2016 single almost seem like it’s more of a personal matter for Eminem rather than just feeling a desire to engage in the spirit of protest. The personal aspect would make sense as it wouldn’t be surprising if Eminem himself may be starting to think he inadvertently played a major role in the formation of Trump’s entry into politics.

Seeing how Eminem holds a great deal of influence over the same people that largely made up Trump’s constituency, he’s in a position to have more weight and sympathy from these people than his contemporaries. He has drawn a line in the sand claiming that any of his listeners who support the President aren’t welcome, but only time will tell if that actually sways anybody’s’ political opinion. As for the president himself, one must wonder if he thinks the time Eminem sings the single “Remember Me” from his Marshall Mathers LP album to him as a haunting reminder of the past is becoming more of a reality and less of an imagined scenario.

Thomas Cahalan
Thomas is a sophomore Law and Politics major with a minor in communication. As someone with an admiration for the past, he has a love for the fact that everyone has their own perspective and wisdom to share from their own lives. He looks forward to cultivating this love by being the news editor this year, helping the voices of the SNHU community be heard.