Mount Rapmore

So, if you’ve been following this little mini-symposium (and, let’s be honest, who HASN’T been following?), by now you’ve read Chris, Sam, Glyph, and my own take on hip hop.  Individually these represent how each of the four of us have experienced the genre (with some glimpses into the broader culture that surrounds it) and, as a whole, hopefully give a sense of it.  They are far from comprehensive but, we did what we could. With all of that under our belts, we move on to a bigger task: the construction of Mount Rapmore.  Mount Rapmore is a monument to the genre, displaying the faces of four contributors. First, let’s lay some ground rules:

1.) Four “faces” and four “faces” only.

2.) A single “face” can include a group if the bulk of their work came as a collaborative OR if they are primarily known as members of a group.  So, you can use one “face” for Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys, or the Wu-Tang Clan, but Dre and Snoop have to go up separately despite their frequent work together.

3.) Use whatever criteria you’d like in selecting your four, but operate under the assumption that you might one day be using the monument to explain hip hop to an alien from outer space (the Bob Ryan approach). 4.) There are no wrong answers.  But, most likely, all of you will be wrong.

Without further ado, here are my selections:

2Pac: Plain and simple, we cannot talk about rap and hip hop without talking about 2Pac.  2Pac was a bit of an enigma.  Ask your mom to draw a picture of a rapper and she’d likely draw someone that looks like 2Pac… muscular, shaved head, fierce stare, bandanas, tattoos.  Yet, go through his catalogue and you’ll find some of the most beautiful lyrics within the genre (ironically, many of them written to or about his own mother) blurring the line between rap and poetry.  There is no doubt that he was a gangsta rapper, but he had depth and nuance that many of his peers lacked.  And through both his music and his tragic death, he helped catapult rap into the mainstream.  So, again, you can’t talk about the genre and not have Pac.  You just can’t.

Notorious B.I.G. :Forever linked with 2Pac because of a similar untimely death at the hands of an unknown shooter, Biggie represents the East Coast in the over stated East Coast/West Coast rap “war”.  But more than that, he was a storyteller.  Like Pac, his lyrics were more than just lyrics… they were a tapestry of awesomeness.  He embraced his larger-than-life physique to craft a larger-than-life personality, yet somehow always seemed down to Earth.  If rap was throwing a party, he’d probably be the guy you’d want to hang out next to.  Whether he was rapping about how much the ladies loved his rotundness (“Big Poppa”, “Hypnotize”) or about growing up in Brooklyn and dreaming of making it big, he had a flow and smoothness that was the definition of cool. Okay… those two were easy.  Now it gets hard.

Jay Z: I was tempted to go with Dr. Dre here.  It is really hard to overstate Dre’s influence.  He has his own fantastic catalogue of music, plus all the artists he’s helped create through his producing and label.  Simply put, rap wouldn’t be where it was if not for him.  He built the first commercially viable rap empire from inside the game.  (Ugh, maybe I should go with Dre here… no, no… stick with what you got).  But Jay Z is Dr. Dre 2.0.  He took what Dre did and doubled down, successfully.  He is beyond a crossover star… he is a go anywhere star.  He fits in equally well hob nobbing with Wall Street CEOs and can still hold his own on the block.  OH, and he’s a phenomenally talented rapper who spits some of the best lyrics going right now.  If you asked my mom to name a rapper, she’d probably get really confused before eventually coming up with Hova.  If Dre helped bring rap to the mainstream, Jay helped make it the powerhouse it is today.  Note: If you asked me to switch lives with one person on Earth, Jay would be very, very high on my list.  He is, simply, The Man.  The only hesitation I have is that despite all that, he still has to deal with the racism that comes with being a black man in America.  But now we’re getting too heavy; just know that I sweat the man a bit, so this might be a tad biased.

RunDMC: Mount Rapmore wouldn’t be complete without delving back into its history a bit.  I’ll be honest… I’m not big on traditional canon.  I don’t think you need to know the entire tradition of an art form to appreciate its more contemporary products.  This isn’t to diminish what came before… culture constantly builds upon itself… only to say that there is (often) a difference between doing a historical examination of an art and enjoying the best it has to offer.  All that said, given that rap is one of the few art forms where we can definitively trace its history and lineage (the genre as a whole is younger than some of our writers here), it would seem silly to not incorporate that into Mount Rapmore.  With that in mind, I’m picking RunDMC.  The other names I considered for this spot were the Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash, and Rakim… mostly because if you asked me to name historical rap figures, those are the name I could muster up.  But I’m picking RunDMC for two reasons: I’m more familiar with their work than the other acts and they helped take rap from the streets and house parties into the mainstream.  They were the first act to have an album go gold and to be nominated for a Grammy.  They literally kicked down walls with Aerosmith, helping introduce the form to white audiences.  They represent the birth of mainstream hip hop, while still producing some of the genre’s best and most influential work.

So, there you have it.  My Mount Rapmore: 2Pac, Biggie, Jay Z, and RunDMC.  Putting these in their more proper order, you’d have RunDMC first, for making hip hop possible, than Biggie and 2Pac, for making it something you couldn’t help but know about, and Jay Z, for building it into an empire. Who you got?  Let’s battle this out in the comments section!  (Bonus points for anyone who rap battles it out.)

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60 thoughts on “Mount Rapmore

  1. Well, I have to use this to maybe list some of the heavy hitters that we somehow missed.

    Rakim is maybe the single most influential MC in the whole genre’s early going – and the same could be said of Eric B.’s productions (though this is the remixed track, the basic beat got ripped a zillion times):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7t8eoA_1jQ&hd=1

    And Public Enemy. What can you say? Chuck D – power and authority, one of the greatest MC/preachers ever; Flavor – comedy (still intentional at that point), and dense, disorienting productions from the Bomb Squad:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_Jeyif7bB4&hd=1

    I’ma go controversial for my third choice: Beastie Boys. Not only much of white America’s first exposure to the music, but relentless innovators: Paul’s Boutique blew the lid off sampling and contains some of their funniest, most “New York”-centric, most dizzyingly-pop-culture-addled rhymes (no less than Miles Davis and Chuck D would tell you how great a record it is), and they went back to “real” instrumentation (with Check Yr Head, though the rhymes are way undercooked on that record as a result) long before anybody knew what a “Root” was; and interweaving rock and rap and funk in ways that made it seem effortless and most important, FUN. If there’s been a wave in hip-hop Beastie Boys were generally on, or just slightly ahead of that wave, their whole career, even predicting the (re-)resurgence of Electro, with a string of albums that were never less than solid, and were often game-changing. And they turned out to be decent and intelligent guys, with a real social conscience, bankrolling/spearheading other artistic/creative endeavors in film etc.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BptQHAW2T5M&hd=1

    I’ll have to think about #4. I’m torn between Gang Starr and Wu-Tang. Wu-Tang has greater range and reach, but I probably listen to Gang Starr more frequently.

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    • Beastie Boys and Rakeem/Eric B probably got the shortest shrift from us. For me, the Beasties just never did it for me. I get how talented they are and what they’re doing and all that… it just never really “hit” me.

      Rakeem and Eric B are names I know and I understand their legacy, but I can’t say I’ve heard much of their stuff.

      That’s MY defense. Why’d you piss on their leg?

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      • I was sort of hitting a theme, and for the most part these guys fell outside it. PE, Gang Starr, Eric B. & Rakim – they all come from that sort of lyrical “realist” school of hip-hop. For the most part they are social commentary, or slice-of-life types – they mostly eschew fantasy or silliness of any kind (though I worked Gang Starr in via their sci-fi video, and Beastie Boys of course fit right in, they have never been afraid of silly, which is one thing that makes them great).

        Wu-Tang arguably might slide in, via their whole “Shaolin” kung-fu mythos.

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      • I really wanted to do posts: then and now, but sided with now because I worry that as an intro to hip hop music, then just doesn’t have the context that it had for me when I listened to it. But I’d still love to do a history post, which would include, off the top of my head:

        Run DMC
        Beastie Boys from License to Ill
        Public Enemy
        EPMD
        Eric B and Rakim
        NWA
        Scarface
        Slick Rick
        Big Daddy Kane (who I consider the real father of East Coast style)
        and then do the East Coast-West Coast thing from the 90s, with some Nas, Wu Tang, De La Soul, and Tribe Called Quest thrown in.

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      • License to Ill is the one Beastie Boys album I don’t own.

        I get why it’s important, and I understand why people feel fondly about it, but to me it’s actually a pretty inauspicious beginning to what would turn out to be an unexpectedly fruitful legacy.

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      • I watched a documentary on the Fab Four a few years ago and in it, their was some candid footage of them traveling. They all had headphones on, likely connected to Walkmans (Walkmen?). To a man, when asked what they were listening to, they all said EPMD. I figured there must be SOMETHING to them if all these kids were in on them. I listened to them. I liked.

        I might need to go back and relisten to BB. One issue for me with music is that if a song doesn’t grab me immediately, like within 30 seconds, I tend to move on. I need to be more patient. Some songs/albums take several listens. Some need to be listened to all at once, others broken up. Some need time to marinate. I’m a bad fan that way. Probably why I’m susceptible to so much mainstream stuff.

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      • If I’m not mistaken, License to Ill was at the time the best selling rap album of all time, until it was supplanted by MC Hammer. It was that album that introduced so many white kids to hip hop. That’s why I think you have to include it in any retrospective.

        EPMD: If you take EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, and Eric B and Rakim, and Public Enemy (at least Chuck D), you basically now have every East Coast and East Coast-influenced artist ever. They were, in combination, that influential.

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      • PE’s influence reached outside hip-hop – not just to the various political fracases they were involved with, but their dense/squalling and fragmented-beats production was a stated influence on Kevin Shields/My Bloody Valentine.

        You might recognize this sample, Madonna nicked it later for “Justify My Love”:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZueurvWak0

        And this isn’t PE’s fault, but their (brilliant) Anthrax collaboration was at least as responsible for most of the later misguided rock/rap hybrids as BB or Run-DMC were:

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      • Can we stop perpetuating the idea that Body Count was rap? They were heavy metal, plain and simple. The nonsense that they were rap was ginned up because it was easier to make them into bogeyman with “Cop Killer”.

        It still gives me chuckles that Ice-T is now a mainstay on L&O.

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      • But heavy metal had already had its “OMG, it’s corrupting the Youth of America, what with all the back-masking and the bat-head-biting and the Satan-worshipping!” moment.

        It was rap’s turn.

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      • At turns, I’ve given thought to doing a post on the music which influenced me and the musicians around me — and the stuff we despised at the time. Heavy metal was nothing but grand guignol, though some of it was sorta interesting, in a theatrical sort of way. Had some interesting chords and tunings, too.

        I go through some of the stuff I liked at the time, now it all seems so twee. I hate looking back. I get locked into these sessions of embarrassed reverie, how cool I thought that stuff was at the time. Marilyn Monroe, not exactly a deep philosopher, once said to never regret what you’ve done — it was exactly what you wanted to do at the time.

        I lost an entire record collection to a flood in my parents’ basement. Guess it was about then when I decided not to look back. The 1970s varied between crass, horrible and just plain weird. The 80s came as a great relief. But some things remain constant and my amused rejection of heavy metal is one such constant.

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  2. If you look at hip hop not just in this country but internationally, Rakim, Nas, and Wu Tang (especially Raekwon, so maybe we’ll use his face?) are the most influential voices in the genre. For number 4, I’m torn between Biggie, Dre, and some dark horses like Chuck D and Eazy E. I mean, if I think about what I think hip hop should sound like, that was influenced more by Dre, Chuck D, and Eazy E, because I listened to Public Enemy and NWA before I listened to just about anyone else (except maybe the Beastie Boys and Biz Markie). I think I’ll go with E.

    Jay, did I mention that my girlfriend’s brother is friends with Erick and Parrish (her three siblings and parents all live in Brentwood)?

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  3. A good deal of hip hop looks awfully silly now and will look even sillier in the long haul, in the way that the Hair Bands, Disco and a good deal of Prog Rock look ridiculous now. Eminem, that boy’s looking stupider by the day. Rick Ross and his crew, dumb all over with some ugly (and violent) on the side. Lupe Fiasco, that jackass has dumb he hasn’t even started to use yet. Talib Kweli has the intellectual firepower of a bag of Funyuns. Mos Def. Mos Dum. That boy only opens his mouth to exchange feet.

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      • Not really. I’ve seen dumb before. I know it when I see it. Plenty of hip hop makes perfect sense to me. But then, I was listening to Fela Kuti and High Life music out of Ghana, James Brown and all the fathers of hip hop enough to identify a pissy little poseur like Mos Def when I see one.

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      • Hip hop suffers from the same problem as country music: it’s hard to separate the musician from his music. I insist on that separation. In the same way I won’t accept these Plastic Cowboys out of Nashville I will not accept the likes of Mos Def babbling and conspiracy-theory mongering. I can put up with a whole lot of weirdness out of any musician, more than most. But I’ve had it with hip hop’s pompous, self-absorbed, misogynistic bullshit in the same way I got Really Fucking Tired of the Rolling Stones a long time ago. Under My Thumb came out, I knew right there I was done with a bunch of drug addled Englishmen trying to play American blues. Miles Davis beating his women, he didn’t put it into his music. Thought he was a contemptible man making great music. Mos Def is just a contemptible man making contemptible music. Got way more to do with my time than pay either time or money to endure that sort of shit.

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      • My personal hip hop list, in no particular order

        Andre 3000 / Big Boi / Outkast: clever, funny, truly danceable music. Dr. Octagon / Kool Keith:
        Illogic: what rap sounds like when the rapper has a clue. Macklemore. Nas. Old school stuff, Rakim, Sugar Hill.

        I don’t have any lasting affection for much hip hop I hear these days. Tech N9ne: latest thing, no particular reason.

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      • I definitely agree that the accusations of spousal abuse by Bey’s last (and technically current, I think) wife are disturbing, and if true definitely make him a shitty person, but I wonder where you hear that in his music. Which songs are you thinking of specifically?

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      • Re: Macklemore

        I caught the end of an interesting conversation on Hot97 the other day, between one of their DJs and a caller. They were discussing Macklemore’s “Same Love”, a song I haven’t really heard or dissected yet but which I understand to be a pro-gay or anti-homophobia or whatever-you-want-to-call-it song. And explicitly so.

        The caller was basically saying that he has no problem with gay people and all that but he doesn’t need that when he’s listening to the radio. He just wants to hear good music and doesn’t need people talking to him about homosexuality. The DJ said much the same thing, only the inverse: Just let me play good music, I shouldn’t be even having this conversation.

        It was really fascinating and I wish I caught more than 30 seconds of it.

        All that said, I don’t feel fit to judge which cowboys are plastic and which ones are flesh and blood (or leather? chapped?). I also don’t feel fit to judge with rappers are real and which are not. Nor do I really care. If the music is good, the music is good. If it ain’t, it ain’t.

        I’m curious to hear from BlaiseP why this is a point of focus for him.

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      • I don’t mind any of it. Here’s where I’m coming from: I used to play piano and organ at church. In those times, the organist had to ad-lib some wash chords during the pastoral prayer, which would go on for quite some time, during which I’d sneak in some interesting chords. The choir director didn’t much like my taste in jazz chords and told me so but the man couldn’t play so I generally shined him on for the putz he was.

        I developed an allergy to any semblance of the admixture of Preaching, which I admire as an art form all on its own, and Music, which must be its own beast. Hip hop is a refreshing change from what’s come before it: hip hop is really poetry for our times. It just happens to come with a musical wrapper and much of it is insightful and will certainly pass the test of time. But I cannot abide bad preaching or weak rhetoric wrapped in some cheap 2/2 sampled loop.

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      • Do you think that is unique to hip hop? Or just pointing out that, much as is the case in all genres, there is some stuff that will endure, some stuff that is great and will go unnoticed, and some flavors of the week? I wouldn’t disagree with the latter. Hip hop might manifest differently because of how relatively new the genre is, but even that I’m not sure of.

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      • Preachiness and ersatz is certainly not unique to hip-hop. I have pointed to country music as another genre where this preachy rot has appeared. In country music, the words matter, more so than rock’s lyrics ever did. And like hip-hop, country is just stiff with clichés, both musical and lyrical.

        Does it matter that lots of people buy into these simplistic visions of what music ought to be? Probably not. For every poseur on stage, there are a hundred Pitchfork Ninnies out there, sniffing and accusing these people of Selling Out and suchlike.

        Hip hop isn’t all that new. It goes back a long, long ways, mostly into the Caribbean, Brazil, Africa, even Arabic cultures have the exact equivalent of an ongoing musical background to an MC, poetically boasting and bragging and carrying on, having a good time and making sure everyone else is having one, too. Rock got way too arrogant and serious and R&B got too polished. Something had to break loose and it did, in New York City, the most cosmopolitan city in the history of the world. It flashed over into every urban area in the country, as rock-and-roll had done, as Motown had done. Hip-hop was inevitable, in my opinion. Only so long people will tolerate Serious Musicians.

        Well, the bloom is off the rose of hip hop. Where once it was cheerful and boastful and poetic ,now it’s turned into an industry, replete with Serious People. Too bad, really. Burned out way too fast, did hip hop. I still have hopes, though. Fresh crop of 15 year old boys and girls out there, fiddling around with musical instruments and computers and scribbling poetry in their notebooks during classes. They’ll do just fine, those kids. The great thing is, there’s a fresh crop of ’em every year.

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  4. I like your list. This is a really interesting excercise in that it is not just list the four greatest rappers. On a list of greatest MCs, Jay Z may not crack my top ten, but he absolutely has to be on Mt. Rapmore. Jay Z is to the first 40 years or rap, what Louis Armstrong was to the first 40 years of jazz. He took the music places that it had never been before.

    You need someone to represent the founding generation and RunDMC is as good a choice as any. I am tempted to go back even further to Kool Herc or Afrika Bambaataa or Grandmaster Flash or Melle Mel, but none of them stands out enough to be the one face. The interesting thing about RunDMC is that they were middle class kids, but with the Adidas track suits, the gold ropes and the B boy stance, they were the ones who really solidified hip hop music with the surrounding hip hop culture. A lot of the early rappers had an out-of-this-world style about them (probably because the music was an escape from the reality of late 70s/early 80s urban life). With RunDMC, you also capture the Beastie Boys, LLCoolJ and a lot what came in the late 80s and early 90s. Although, you could make a case that it should be Russel Simmons face and not RunDMC.

    Biggie and Tupac are where it gets interesting. Both represent a real breakthrough in the music. You had crossover artists before, but they were just that: crossover artists. MC Hammer was a pop act who happened to rap. Even his banana hammock attempt to keep it real with Death Row can’t save his reputation. Before Biggie and Tupac, if you were listening to rap, it was because you were trying to listen to rap. And that wasn’t particularly easy. A lot of great artists in that late 80s/early 90s era (EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, Tribe, BDP, NWA, Ghetto Boys, this was the Golden Age) but you had to go find it. You had to watch MTV at a certain time of the day or listen to the radio at a certain time. Forget about Top 40 radio, there was a time when black radio stations would not play rap music in the normal rotation. With Biggie and Tupac, you start to hear rap (real rap) on the radio, at the club, on mixed tapes made by people who didn’t listen to all that much rap.

    However, I think that there is a case for Dr. Dre. With Dre you capture Tupac, NWA, Snoop, Death Row, Eminem, 50 Cent and a other assorted artists. Plus you capture the movement of rap outside of the NY metropolitan area. The ideal solution would be to have Tupca v. Biggie as one face and make Dre the fourth.

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    • THANK YOU FOR GETTING THE POINT OF MOUNT RAPMORE!!!

      As I saw it, each selection needed to be transcendent. I think the 4 I chose all were such. I wouldn’t really argue with Dre over Pac. Pac is just soooooooooooo good.

      Each face should be instantly recognizable.

      It also wouldn’t shock me if 20 years from now we’re putting Kanye up there. I’d love to make room for him, but I’m not sure if he is actually going to change the game or just create a LOT of good music, some of it unique, but not leave an impact beyond elevating other artists. If I had to choose a song for each of these artists, I’d have to go with “Otis” for Jay because it’d let me sneak Kanye in. Cheating? Probably.

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      • Not to diminsih Kanye’s place, but I think that Jay Z captures him as well. A lot of Jay’s most well-known songs are Kanye tracks.

        Tupac and Biggie is tough, because you want them both up there. Not only do they capture the East Cost/West Coast dynamic, but they also represent two sides of black upward mobility: social consciousness and the embrace of capitalism.

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    • Nice comment. I never know what to do with Jay-Z. On the one hand, he does have some songs I like, and he has been influential musically, and more than that, he’s well on his way to being a billionaire, and has shown plenty of artists that you don’t have to just do music. On the other hand, most of his music just makes me feel kinda like, “Eh.”

      The same for Diddy: maybe not as influential musically, because he is the WORST RAPPER EVER, but on his way to being a billionaire, and influential as a producer and promoter.

      Dre has both to me: he’s a successful promoter, producer, and an incredibly influential rapper who created or helped create two of the greatest rap albums ever (The Chronic and Straight Outta Compton). So I guess he really does have to go up there.

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      • I look at Jay Z on Mt Rapmore, the way that I look at Teddy Roosevelt on Mt Rushmore. At first, it’s not apparent why he should be mentioned in the same breath of the other three. However, when you start thinking about it, you can’t tell the story of modern America without mentioning Teddy Roosevelt. Our entire commercial regulatory regime, our foreign policy, the national parks system, etc. are all the directr result of what happened during the Teddy Roosevelt era.

        You can’t tell the contemporary story of rap music without mentioning Jay Z. Puff Daddy is similar, but you capture him with Biggie.

        My final four are: Russel Simmons, Pac v. Biggie (I know it’s cheating), Dr. Dre and Jay Z

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      • Clearly, we need MOAR JR around these parts.

        A funner exercise would be to actually connect each artist with a President. Who would be Washington? Jefferson? Lincoln? Roosevelt? I can’t do that because I don’t know enough history (of either rap or America), but you can go to another level.

        JR makes a good point re: Kanye. Time will tell with his legacy. Right now, he doesn’t deserve it. He’s done a ton of great music on his own and wrote for a ton of great songs, but I don’t know if he is going to change the game. It’ll be interesting to see if the guys who grew up listening him attempt to emulate him. Then he might have a shot. But for now, no way.

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      • Russel Simmons

        You know, I had a post discussing the extent to which Mount Rapmore shouldn’t instead have producers instead of rappers but then I asked “would a Mount Rockmore have producers instead of rappers?” and I went down a rabbithole that I didn’t want to go down.

        But, seriously, I suspect that there is a degree to which Mount Rapmore should, instead, have producers instead of rappers.

        Simmons, Prince Paul, Timbaland, Rubin.

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      • People tend to estimate the role of producers. They consider them analogous to movie producers, which are really just financiers. They’re more akin to directors. We should call them that. Director Dre. Director Diddy.

        On Diddy, I agree his rapping sucked. But he was HI-larious in “Get Him to the Greek”. I champion that movie as one of the secretly funniest movies of recent memory. He owns every scene he’s in.

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      • I’m thinking of the Mt Rapmore thing as an excercise in storytelling. In other words, if you had to tell the story of rap in four chapters, whose face would you put on the first page of each chapter. If you’re limited to four, Russel Simmons is the right face for the first chapter. Rap went from basements and street parties to the Roxy and Simmons took it from the Roxy and put in on record. And Def Jam’s roster in the 80s and 90s was basically Murderer’s Row.

        You need a chapter that talks about the spread of rap from New York. Every location has its poster boy (Uncle Luke for Miami, Scarface for Houston, Outkast for Atlanta, Too Short for Oakland) but none of them outshine Dre.

        Biggie and Pac are not just important because of the East Coast-West Coast thing, but they were also the beginning of rap as mainstream party music. “California Love” and “Hypnotize” were two of the first big hip hop party tracks.

        From there, the choice of Jay Z is obvious. Kanye is part of the same chapter as Jay Z, but for right now it is still Jay Z’s chapter.

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    • I agree 100% (I would probably pick Grandmaster Flash over Run DMC, just because DMC is a little bit later and with the Aerosmith crossover track “less pure” OG rap). I’m sure some would say the “Walk This Way” crossover is a point in Run DMC’s favor.

      I would make the case for 2Pac over Biggie with this, 2Pac’s movie career. With his appearances in Juice, Above the Rim and Poetic Justice he was a pioneer in the hip hop/Hollywood crossover the way no other rapper was.

      My brother, buddy and I had this same discussion and argued endlessly over Jay-Z. None of us agreed that he was better than other choices, but his influence on later rap and in the mainstreaming of it was immense. You have to include Jay-Z because of that, no matter your opinion on the music.

      Similarly, Dre is unarguable.

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  5. So, I caught some Eminem on Pandora this weekend and, per our earlier conversation, I have some additional thoughts…

    What really seemed to bite Eminem in the ass was that he didn’t want to be a novelty act, a white rapper embraced by white tweenage girls as a teen idol. He wanted to be a “real” rapper. And very much was. Yet, he couldn’t fight becoming that idol. As I noted, he got airplay on rock stations that NO OTHER RAPPER got airplay on, simply for the fact that he was white. He would try to go hard and harder still, convinced he could force himself off the walls of suburban bedrooms, only to realize it didn’t work or proved counterproductive: what is more alluring to a teenager than a bad boy, a rebel? He discusses this explicitly in a few songs (whose names escape me and I’m too lazy to look them up), basically saying that he isn’t a Backstreet Boy and wants to be compared to Dre, not Nick Lachey. But it happened. And kept happening. He became a bit of a rorsach test, able to reflect whatever people wanted to project on him. This brought him to untold heights, likely beyond what his talent alone would have achieved, but also brought him a lot of headache I’m sure. He couldn’t be “just another rapper”. This seemed to become compulsive, constantly trying to fight this persona and perception instead of just creating his art. It is possible that he could have just ignored it completely instead of try to fight it. But I don’t think that was in his nature. And, of course, when it was conducive to his ends, he indulged in it, just adding fuel to the fire.

    Thinking about him this way, it gives me a smidge of sympathy for his plight. Well, about as much sympathy as I can muster for someone who raps about rape, domestic abuse, homophobia, etc, etc, etc.

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