Thanks to the movie 8 Mile, we're all well acquainted with at least some semblance of Eminem's backstory: a Michigan trailer park, sweaty palms, mom's spaghetti — and perhaps most important for his future career, the rap battles on which he cut his teeth. Now, the artist formerly known as Marshall Mathers has announced a return to his roots with Total Slaughter , a rap battle competition to be held at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom on July 12, which he plans to host. If you're not in the Tri-State area, however, never fear: Like many other bombastic arena showdowns, the event will be broadcast live on pay-per-view at WatchLoud.com.
Total Slaughter promises a mix of classic MCs and young upstarts — from a reprise of the storied 2003 showdown between Murda Mook and Loaded Lux, to a group of eight relative unknowns competing on The Road to Total Slaughter , a four-episode ramp-up reality series, in which each vies for a spot in the showcase. Still, judging by the information released so far, it appears that the roster lacks a certain diversity: No women are mentioned in the promotional materials, and despite the recent mainstream success of rappers like Mykki Blanco, Le1f, Angel Haze, et al., there doesn't seem to be any kind of queer presence.
This level of exclusivity isn't terribly surprising, at least given the reputation of its host / producer. Judging by Eminem's latest single "Rap God" alone, you've got an entire chunk devoted to mocking a "little gay-lookin' boy," plus a choice few "f****t"s, before rounding it all out with a handful of battered women jokes. There's an argument to be made here — one that is made, often and angrily, on many a forum page — that lyrical freedom trumps political correctness, and artists should be able to say what they want in the name of slick verses without necessarily cementing themselves as bigots. Because sure, there's plenty of clever assonance and punnery to be had in a line like "It's a fatal mistake if you think I need to be overseas and take a vacation to trip a broad" — it's part of what makes songs like "Rap God" fun to listen to. And still, it's hard to deny that the content is not necessarily, shall we say, inviting to us "broad"s and "little gay lookin' boy"s out there.
Of course, battle rap is a bit different from simply stepping into a studio or onto a stage solo, and it is worth wondering whether there even are a plethora non-straight guy contenders out there on the scene to book. Still, if there aren't, that's likely some kind of self-perpetuating chicken-egg phenomenon — and regardless, I'd imagine that fans of the ever-burgeoning queer rap scene will eye-roll just a bit if the roster at Total Slaughter remains solely hetero dudes. I mean, if nothing else, have these showrunners never heard of reading / throwing shade?