An early taste of Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2, lead single "Berzerk," hearkened back to the golden age of hip hop with big '80s drums and Beasties references. The rapper's latest single, "Rap God," also contains echoes of an earlier era of hip hop, but it's not a cause for celebration: the track is flooded with homophobic slurs. And, as he makes abundantly clear in a new interview with Rolling Stone, Em still doesn't see the problem with that.
The song's second verse, for instance, finds Slim Shady lashing out at "fags" and a "gay-looking boy" as he boasts himself up:
You fags think it's all a game 'til I walk a flock of flames / Off a plank, and tell me what in the fuck are you thinking? / Little gay-lookin' boy / So gay I can barely say it with a straight face-lookin', boy / You witnessing a massacre / Like you watching a church gathering take place, lookin' boy / Oy vey, that boy's gay
None of which is new territory—Eminem's been criticized for flagrantly homophobic lyrics since the Clinton administration. But somehow, critics expected the rapper, now in his 40s, to have left the slurs behind, particularly in the age of Frank Ocean's 2012 coming out and Kanye West's longtime opposition to gay-bashing:
I wish Eminem's affection for homophobic slurs would transform as dramatically as his face has— Sam Lansky (@samlansky) November 4, 2013
Not so. "I never really equated those words [with homosexuality]," the rapper now tells Rolling Stone, latching onto an explanation that's been used on middle school playground for decades. "It was more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole."
All of which is to say, Eminem says he isn't aiming for homophobia and, as he's maintained for well over a decade, can't fathom why using "fag," "faggot," and "gay" in a derogatory fashion would imply as much, regardless of the historical (and present-day) violence those words vividly carry. Hey, they're just words, goes the logic, invariably explained by one who hasn't felt the full weight of those words. And anyway, he doesn't see much need to explain himself: "I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music," he insists. "if someone doesn't understand that by now, I don't think there's anything I can do to change their mind about it."
Hey, Slim. There's a mind-numbingly simple step you can take towards changing people's minds about your seeming homophobia: stop using textbook anti-gay slurs in your lyrics.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.