Via Donnell Alexander, you can hear the new Eminem song. I’ll just say up front, I love Eminem. I can tell you where I was the first time I heard “My Name Is,” exactly. I can even tell you how the sun was setting and everything was that weird black and blue and red it is right before it slides into true evening. And how I sat in my car wishing my radio had a rewind button because I wanted to know what the fuck that was.
He’s been gone a long time. And in that time, Kid Rock has gone country and back. Jay-Z’s retired, gotten married, unretired. Even Lil’ Wayne has found country and, according to my last trip to Kroger, rock.
It’s an interesting problem for an artist. When your career is built on being the outsider who cries an angry razor-sharp bullshit on everything, on being a young punk, literally, what happens when you’re 36?
So, on the one hand, if I heard this single and I didn’t know who it was (as if you could not know who it was), I would laugh and roll my eyes and say “You think that’s something? You should have heard Eminem back in the day.” Back when hearing something like this on the radio and on the charts was kind of audacious.
On the other hand, I kind of feel like a man has all this talent and has been through so much and he’s pushing 40 and he’s still picking on vapid rich girls?
I think the song sounds interesting. It both sounds very much like an Eminem song while sounding like he’s trying new shit and playing around and taking some chances. So, I like that.
But the thing that, to me, made Eminem’s stuff not only palatable but worth listening to is that in almost every song, not only was he putting everyone else through the grinder, he was the first one in and the last one through.
A man can decide that he’s too old to be putting anyone, including himself, through the grinder and still make interesting music I want to listen to. But this song isn’t quite that. And I’m not sure that a man can decide he’s too old to put himself through the grinder but everyone else is still fair game and have me continue to give a shit.
It’s just one song, but it’s soft. As a woman, I’m glad it’s softer on women than he usually is, but as a fan, I’m alarmed that he comes through it almost completely unscathed.
I am curious to hear the rest of the album, though.
Edited to add: Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing about Eminem, too. And damn it, it’s a good piece. I think he’s weighing a lot of the same things I’m thinking about, but from a different perspective.
Here’s my favorite part:
It’s true hip-hop has a problem respecting women, but this is a symptom of deeper truth–the music doesn’t respect men. It doesn’t respect that essentially male moment, when standing at the bus stop, when sitting in English class, when in that sales meeting, a dime-piece floats past, and cognition stops. It doesn’t respect the exhilarating terror of being attracted to a woman. To cop to that violates the pimp ethos. One can’t be out of control, and be the player president.
And I like it because I do believe there’s something essentially male he’s getting at here. Or, at least something essential to the way that Coates experiences himself as a man. But that’s only part of what makes it good, for me as a female reader. What makes it good is that he writes in a way that holds the door open for me, not in some butthole chivalrous way–shoot, now I almost regret using the metaphor–but in a way that says “I know you may not know this, so I’m going to walk you through it, but in a way that doesn’t insult your intelligence.”
It says, “I know that my experience as a man is not the default experience.”
God, I love that.