Last year saw the return of Marshall Mathers AKA Eminem, and now it seems like he's never going away. Eminem made his comeback after four years of radio silence with his takedown on Donald Trump at the 2017 BET Awards which went viral instantaneously. Now he's dropped his surprise album Kamikaze almost a year later, making it his second LP release in less than a year, following December's Revival. While he takes more shots at Trump this time around too, Eminem's new album is undercut by homophobic slurs that the rapper has refused to remove from his vernacular.
Kamikaze was co-produced by Em's longterm collaborator Dr Dre, and features advice from his manager Paul Rosenberg on a skit entitled "Paul - Skit -". On it, Rosenberg can be heard on the other side of a call, questioning Em: "Are you really gonna just reply to everybody who you don't like what they have to say, uh, about you or the stuff you're working on? ... I don’t know if that’s really a great idea." But Kamikaze is an album that gutsily goes against his manager's advice. It's 13 songs deep in takedowns and jabs aimed at everyone from mumble rappers to his old friend Joe Budden.
Among the many celebrities to get swiped is former Odd Future member Tyler, The Creator, who as Metro reports, has drawn criticism for homophobic lyrics in his own work. In the past Tyler's thrown a fair few jabs Em's way like when he tweeted "why won’t someone who loves him tell him NO,” back in 2014, as Billboard reported. But Eminem's hit back on Kamikaze's title track, where he spits, "Tyler create nothing, I see why you called yourself a f***** bitch". The slur is presumably in response to Tyler's 2017 album Flower Boy, which as the Guardian reported, started a conversation about Tyler's sexuality with lyrics like "I've been kissing white boys since 2004." Eminem's a rapper; putdowns are supposed to be his thing. But can insults so artless that they have to resort to homophobic slurs really be let off in 2018?
The situation's even more muddied when you consider that Tyler is banned from the UK, while Eminem still continues to headline festivals here. A statement from the home secretary made in 2015 and reported by the Metro said, "Your albums B******, in 2009, and Goblin, in 2011, 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", as reasons for his expulsion. Sound familiar? Well, some of those themes have also emerged in Em's work, as Billboard has reported, but you don't see him getting the same treatment. It calls into question the matter of privilege, does it not?
Twitter was not happy with the new lyrics, with one user writing, "Just because you ‘have gay friends’ doesn’t mean you get a free pass to use derogatory insults at the expense of the LGBTQ community." Bustle has contacted Eminem's representative for comment, but has not received a response. In the past Eminem has denied being homophobic.
In 2013, Rolling Stone questioned him on the slurs in his hugely successful track Rap God. "Well, look, I’ve been doing this s*** for, what, 14 years now? And I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music. And if someone doesn’t understand that by now, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change their mind about it," he said, ascribing the slurs to a "persona," and saying "the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all." But nowadays, to me, that doesn't seem to wash. Today, he speaks as Eminem, and when he slings a homophobic slur, it doesn't hit Tyler but a whole world of people who have been chastised for loving the people they love.