MUSIC

Eminem Struggles for Relevance on "Music to Be Murdered By"

His talent is unquestionable, but his antics have aged horribly.

DJ Booth

Eminem has always prided himself on his ongoing feuds with, well, pretty much everyone.

On the rapper's tenth studio album, Kamikaze, no one was safe from condemnation. He dismissed Soundcloud rap as "mumbo jumbo," called Tyler, the Creator a gay slur, vaguely criticized the president and vice president, and poked fun at Joe Budden's domestic abuse allegations. Drake, Lil Yachty, and, more prominently, MGK, were also insulted. Eminem's calculated assault on modern-day hip-hop was brazen, unsolicited, and painted the emcee as a bitter old man.

On Music to Be Murdered By, Eminem has calmed down a little, but not completely. He still periodically pokes fun at MGK and litters the 20-track offering with numerous critiques for his critics. "Once I was played in rotation at every radio station," he says on the intro track, "Premonition." "But then when I put out Revival, and I had something to say/they said that they hated the awake me/I lose the rage, I'm too tame, I get it back, they say I'm too angry." He still sees himself as an underdog, even though he's remained within the upper echelon of rap for over a decade. "I won't topple, I'm giving it to anyone who wanna come and get it," he spits on "Unaccomadating," and I'm not gonna stop."

But the issue remains that Eminem's most recent high profile feuds, including his laughable exchange with Nick Cannon last month, was caused by his own doing. He is a battle rapper at heart, and undoubtedly performs best when faced with opposition, but his continuous antagonization of his peers and genre make for an exhausting listen when put into an album. "I leave you stymied, that's why they still vilify me like Bill O'Reilly," he raps on "Yah Yah." "I'ma show you what I mean when they call me the Harvey Weinstein of 2019."

www.youtube.com

Problematic rhymes are everywhere, and while fans of "old Eminem" will enjoy controversial metaphors like "I'm contemplating yelling 'bombs away' on the game / like I'm outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting," it doesn't change the fact that comparing your talents to the crimes of serial sexual predators and terrorists remains in poor taste. On "Darkness," Eminem compares his own mental health struggle to that of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, who opened fire on concertgoers during the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, killing 58 people, and wounding over 400. The music video features a Stephen Paddock look alike reenacting the traumatic ordeal and ultimately attempts to sympathize with the mass murderer. It's reminiscent of another established pop star, Madonna, who tastelessly attempted to draw attention to gun control by recreating the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in a music video last year. In both instances, mass shootings were glorified and victims are retraumatized.

Moments of vulnerability remain fleeting on Music to Be Murdered By, and when they do appear, they offer anecdotes that are more puzzling than they are reflective. "Get your shit stole, and your lip swole, I became bitter," he raps on "You Gon' Learn." "As I got a little bit older, my hate was making me get cold, and began to get a chip shoulder." Eminem appears to be a man well-aware of his toxic tendencies, which begs the question as to why he still remains on such a destructive path.

It's when Marshall Mathers leaves the antics at the door and focuses solely on rapping that Music to Be Murdered By opens up to breathe. On "Godzilla," which features a fantastic hook from the late Juice WRLD, Eminem reminds listeners of his quick-fire talent by way of sheer demonstration, rather than insensitive anecdotes. On "Those Kinda Nights," Eminem dips back into his uncanny knack for awkward humor: "Had her like, "Oh my God, my whole iPod's filled with your songs, I mow my lawn to 'em!" I said, "Oh my God, you know my songs? That's totally awesome, I'm Marshall, what's goin on?"

But lighthearted moments are sparse, and are immediately diluted by crude shock and awe tactics, which in 2020 just haven't aged well. Eminem additionally remains one of the most highly decorated misogynists in music, ("Stripper walk by, I'm like 'Goddamn,' she's like 'that's harassment,' I'm like, 'Yeah, and?'). He remains bitter, isolated, and dismissive; and as a result, continues to struggle to find a place within the culture he clearly loves so much.

Eminem's brevity is still his most indisputable talent. His lyrics remain well-oiled and concise and his wordplay unmatched, but as he continues to weaponize his craft at the expense of others, it's a schtick that's become tiresome. While veteran rappers embrace the budding young talent of the modern-day, Eminem remains a curmudgeon traditionalist. He reaffirms throughout Music to Be Murdered By that it's his way or the highway, despite having guest appearances from Juice, Young M.A., and Cactus Jack newcomer Don Toliver. "Rest of these youngins of mine, time to start throwing some shade, this time I'm shutting the blinds," he says on the album closer "I Will." "Cause when I'm looking at y'all, shit, it's no wonder it's why I need a visor, 'cause y'all are just suns in my eyes." His legacy is established, but if it’s riddled with unending instances of beefs and controversy, what kind of legacy does it become?

With the constant onslaught of complicated news that 2020 has brought, sometimes you just want to be able to shut off your brain, relax, and feel happy.

Enter comfort films. These are the feel-good movies that feel like a warm hug when you finish them, the ones that allow you to escape for a short while. We often turn to these types of films in times of trouble or extreme stress, and when we're not sure what films of this nature we should watch, we turn to the Internet for options.

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MUSIC

Happy #LesbianVisibilityDay: 10 Queer Musicians Who Are Changing the Industry

They make up just a fraction of the many lesbian and queer musicians who are revolutionizing the industry, but you should definitely know each one of the artists on this list.

Friday was Lesbian Visibility Day, but lesbians deserve representation every day of the year—after all, they're not only around on April 26.

Here are 10 incredible queer musicians to know, each of whom has contributed to music and culture in hugely significant and inspiring ways.

1. Hayley Kiyoko

Hayley Kiyoko's exuberant pop has propelled her to the top of the charts and has made her a religious icon of sorts for queers everywhere. With her unabashedly gay lyrics and imagery, she's carving out space for a confident brand of sexuality that has long been relegated to ambiguous lyrics of even openly queer musicians.

Hayley Kiyoko - SLEEPOVER www.youtube.com

2. Hurray For the Riff Raff

Fronted by the Bronx-born Alynda Segarra, Hurray for the Riff Raff has created a blend of Americana so sophisticated that it merits dozens of listens, and each time it will inevitably offer up different bits of wisdom. Segarra, a former punk of Puerto Rican descent, has always traversed political and personal themes and is one of the strongest voices in protest music today. Her music explores the complexity of the queer, mixed-race experience, delving into politics and mixing English and Spanish into pure poetry. Her music does justice to its complex themes, while also maintaining a sense of hope and idealism. With her album The Navigator, she took on a David Bowie-type alter ego with her own twist. "I learned I could create a character, the Navigator, who would stand at the intersection of all these identities and weave in and out," she told The Times. "And I related to being the alien. I began to take that as a badge of honor."

Hurray For The Riff Raff - Pa'lante (Official Video) www.youtube.com


3. Janelle Monae

Sometimes it seems like there's nothing Janelle Monae can't do. She rose to the fore with her gender-bending, androgynous appearance, only to cast off even that label in exchange for truly fluid shifts from the silver screen to the largest festival stages. About a year ago, she told Rolling Stone that she identified with elements of bisexuality and pansexuality. "I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you," she said in an interview. "Be proud."

Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer [Emotion Picture] www.youtube.com


4. Julien Baker

Now practically legendary in the indie folk circuit, Julien Baker made waves by speaking openly about her experiences growing up queer and Christian in Tennessee. Since then, her ingenious methods of looping, drawing spare melodies out of her Telecaster, and spinning pain into reverent poetry have made her a prominent and critically acclaimed solo artist in her own right. Plus, boygenius, the trio comprised of Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers (both of whom also identify as queer), is one of the best supergroups of our modern era.

Julien Baker: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert www.youtube.com


boygenius @ Brooklyn Steel | Pitchfork Live www.youtube.com


5. King Princess

Producer-songwriter King Princess has never been shy about her identity as a lesbian—her first tour was called "Pussy is God," and she's referenced a variety of historical and contemporary queer themes in her music. Her best song, "1950," may be referring to the Lavender Scare, when homophobic paranoia reached a peak and many queers had to hide their identities in order to keep their jobs. Despite its heavy inspiration, "1950" is full of electric joy; though its political undertones are very intentional. "I want to get to a place where the story is less about me and my face and more about what the fuck's going on this world. How I can be an active voice for gay people but also the music industry," she said to Rolling Stone. "This is the art we need right now. This is what we need right now. We're in a renaissance, and we need people to rebel, come forth and bring messages into art."

King Princess - 1950 www.youtube.com


6. LP

LP's voice sounds like a mix of Bob Dylan's and Stevie Nicks'—which would be enough to merit a listen on its own—but she's also a masterful songwriter and artist, as well as an open lesbian. Having written hits for Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys, she's now taking the music industry by storm with her infectious, sophisticated brand of folk-rock. Not only does she shred on the ukulele she also wears sunglasses at night and has mastered the art of suit-wearing, so if you're looking for someone to fall in love with, look no further.

LP - Girls Go Wild (Official Video) www.youtube.com


7. ROES

Formerly known as Angel Haze, ROES has just released one track— "Brooklyn"—and if their future releases are anything like that one, we're going to be hearing a lot more from them. The song is a dreamscape, evoking the likes of Frank Ocean as they layer their vocals and bars over brooding electric guitar. The rapper-singer openly identifies as pansexual and has said that they don't consider themselves any particular sex or identify with any particular pronouns, and they prefer to keep their music ambiguous so that everyone can relate to it. They've also been a staunch advocate for mental health. "If I can't say how I feel I go crazy," they told The Fader recently. "Every day I wake up and I'm like 'goddamn, you lived. You're alive again.'

Brooklyn www.youtube.com


8. Tash Sultana

The virtuosic polymath gained fame after their YouTube videos took off, and they've been touring steadily ever since. With their blend of guitar, effortless vocals, and psychedelic grit, they should be on everyone's live show bucket list. Open about their experiences with drug abuse and queerness, they also identify as non-binary, use they/them pronouns, and have often spoken about the ways music has helped them overcome challenges.

Tash Sultana - Can't Buy Happiness (Official Video Clip) 4K www.youtube.com


9. Tish Hyman

A formidable talent in the R&B and hip hop spheres, Hyman has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the business. Having cut her teeth on battle rap in the Bronx, she moved to Los Angeles, worked as Lil Wayne's tour manager, and started writing with the likes of Alicia Keys and Kanye West before going solo. Her vocals have drawn comparisons to Lauryn Hill, and her first release, "Subway Art," is a tribute to the twists and turns of life in the big city.

Tish Hyman - Subway Art (Official Video) www.youtube.com


10. Young M.A.

The Brooklyn-raised rapper has always been committed to being authentically herself—the M.A. in her name stands for "Me, Always"—and it seems to be paying off. She sold out her North American tour with 21 Savage, opened for Beyoncé, and her first album Herstory is a triumphant reclamation of her queer black feminist identity. She's always been openly proud of her sexual orientation, telling Vogue that once she came out, she felt she was able to move forward with her career. "I held in being sexually attracted to women for so long that once I got that out of me, the music became easy," she said.

Young M.A "Stubborn Ass" (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com


Honorable Mentions: Let us give thanks to our queer foremothers—to Tegan and Sara, Tracy Chapman, and all the many others who paved the way.

Tracy Chapman - Fast car www.youtube.com



Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York City. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.


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