hip hop music

November 22, 2003

Kelefa Got This One Right

Since we frowned upon Kelefa Sanneh in an earlier post, I should acknowledge that his coverage of the eminem tapes is pretty sharp. He puts the allegations in their proper context, and knows enough not to take Benzino's fictional "co-founder" title seriously:

...In all of this, the main complicating factor is that The Source is far from a neutral observer. The dominating presence at the news conference was that of Benzino Scott, a less-than-successful rapper who is listed on the magazine's masthead as "Co-Founder and Chief Brand Executive." Mr. Scott has been embroiled in a feud with Eminem, and the dispute has spilled into the pages of the magazine.

The February 2003 issue included an illustration of Mr. Scott holding Eminem's severed head. The March issue kept up the attack, calling Eminem an "infiltrator" who has continued the sad legacy of the much-derided white rapper Vanilla Ice. In a roundtable in the same issue, Mr. Scott blamed MTV: "I believe MTV was like a male basically takin' hip-hop, havin' sex with her, pushin' her off, pimpin' her and after that havin' the baby by her. We all know who the baby is: Eminem."

Eminem himself would probably agree with this last criticism. He has admitted in songs and interviews that his race has a lot to do with his huge success. "Do the math, if I was black, I would have sold half," he once rhymed. But while he acknowledges the power of racism, he doesn't make apologies for having figured out a way to work the system.

In his own verses, Mr. Scott tends to express his views of Eminem (born Marshall Mathers) less delicately. In "Die Another Day," he rhymes, "You dyed your hair blond, I'm a make it red/ How you gon' sell records, Marshall, when you're dead?" Later, after casting aspersions about Eminem's sexuality, he adds, "I'm a king, you a little punk/ You the rap David Duke, the rap Hitler/ The culture-stealer." In the context of lyrics like these, the revelation of Eminem's race-baiting recordings seems less like high-minded journalism and more like the continuation of yet another hip-hop feud.

Still, the tapes exist, and Eminem has acknowledged recording at least one of the tracks; if people with more credibility than Mr. Scott start speaking up against him, he may be forced to issue a more substantive apology. In the meantime, though, the magazine vows to press on: Mr. Scott said he planned to distribute the newly unearthed recordings with the February issue.

This other section of the piece is fertile ground for debate:

Although much has been made of Eminem's hip-hop credibility, the truth is that for the past few years a number of hip-hop fans — especially black hip-hop fans — seem to have been losing interest in the rapper, who never seemed comfortable in any community, not even the hip-hop community. His music still hews closely to hip-hop's beats-and-rhymes blueprint, but his persona comes straight out of rock 'n' roll: the sullen loner, the paranoid rebel.

Any thoughts on that, citizens of blogville?

Posted by jsmooth995 at November 22, 2003 1:18 PM

Weblog Archives