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What does Eminem's popularity say about racism in the US? Show more Show less

Eminem has cultivated and earned a reputation for his controversial lyrics. They have been called out for being sexist, violent, homophobic and racist. However, he remains an extremely popular artist. Why is Eminem's racism given a 'pass' by his listeners? And how does this relate to societal attitudes to racism?

White people like political rap when its done by white people Show more Show less

As long as the status quo isn't challenged too much then political rap is A okay
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Most of Eminem's listeners are white suburban teenagers

Most of Eminem's listeners are white. This may suggest that Eminem's rap is more palatable to white listeners and they feel more comfortable with it than black rap artists. White listeners may connect with Eminem more since they cannot relate to many of the challenges black rappers often write about.
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Context

The Argument

White suburban teenagers are more likely to identify with Eminem due to their shared race; he is able to utilize his whiteness to successfully market to this demographic[1]. He leaves frequent reminders of his race within his song lyrics and portrays himself as the ‘underdog’ who had to work hard to earn respect in a predominantly African American genre. Eminem is aware of his appeal to a young white audience, and mentions it explicitly in his song “White America”: “Let’s do the math, if I was black, I would’ve sold half”, he raps. In a later verse, he states that “the problem is, I speak to suburban kids / who otherwise woulda never knew these words exist.”[2] Racial identity is also a reason why African American hip-hop fans may be less inclined to listen to Eminem, thus decreasing the diversity of his listening demographic. Due to hip-hop music being deeply intertwined with African American culture, a white artist who breaks into the scene - even if they do attempt to fit in more by adopting hip-hop fashion or using AAVE - may be viewed as inauthentic[1]. Eminem also most likely has a higher proportion of white listeners because of the extent to which his music receives mainstream attention. As opposed to remaining underground, the rapper catapulted to fame and became a pop culture icon; the television programs and radio stations that he was often featured on (such as MTV) played an amalgamation of musical genres that attracted a wide variety of listeners.

Counter arguments

Framing

Premises

Rejecting the premises

Proponents

Further Reading

References

  1. https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2112&context=oa_dissertations
  2. https://genius.com/Eminem-white-america-lyrics
This page was last edited on Sunday, 14 Jun 2020 at 18:03 UTC