The BET Awards are home to some of the best freestyles. Last year, the honor went to Big K.R.I.T., and his performance discussed police brutality live on stage. This year’s freestyle wasn’t live however, as a video played of Eminem in a parking garage with fellow rappers such as Royce da 5’9″ and Westside Gunn standing behind him in support. Seemingly flustered right from the beginning, Eminem prefaces the upcoming rhymes as the “calm before the storm.”
The following freestyle, which you watch via BET here, is, to say the least, not very artful, as the opening bars read: “That’s an awfully hot coffee pot/Should I drop it on Donald Trump? Probably not.” The bars are awkwardly phrased, rhythms separated and off, and includes more borderline near-rhymes such as “Packers” and “taxes” than anyone would want. For someone as inventive as Eminem, there’s an awful lot of straight forward “F**k Trump!” statements in these verses, and when compared to previous anti-Trump anthems like YG and Nipsey Hustle’s “FDT,” it makes Em’s freestyle look more like low-hanging fruit.
It isn’t that simple however, as most articles and opinion pieces seem to be either in awe or overtly critical of Eminem’s performance, but whether it’s critically a good rap or not just scratches the surface of what the freestyle represents. In such a tumultuous time under President Trump, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to express outrage. What’s happening in this country is not normal. We can’t become desensitized to hate and forget the right to protest for what’s right, and Eminem, in doing so, is completely valid.
He’s the most successful white rapper and arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time, and maybe he can reach an audience that artists like YG, Joey Bada$$, Killer Mike, Common, and countless others cannot. As we all well know, most of Trump’s biggest supporters come from primarily red states in middle America, a place that is also home to the majority of Eminem’s fan base. Two of the hardest questions are “what is the best way to protest?” and “what is the best way to get our message across the aisle?” and in all honesty, maybe reaching Eminem’s primarily white fanbase is something that could work, but just like Eminem getting in front of a camera and screaming “we f**king hate Trump!,” it’s not so black and white.
It’s not the message that matters but how it’s said, as words are one of our greatest weapons, and one that is used expertly by Trump and his team in crafting phrases like “fake news” and “locker room talk” to deflect from the real issues. Eminem being outraged at Trump’s administration is as valid as anyone’s, and no one should take away his right to be angry or protest for what he believes is wrong, but in a political system in which word-choice is most of how the message gets across, I don’t know if Eminem’s freestyle does any justice.
As renown media theorist Marshall McLuhan postulated, “the medium is the message,” and as much as I can applaud Eminem standing up to vocally express his anger and frustration, I can also criticize his freestyle as rhythmically and lyrically sub-par. Politics in art can be a tricky business, and so are the issues at hand.
What do you think? Drop your thoughts in the comments below.