Eminem is at his best when there are enemies to assail. Those enemies can come from anywhere. He loved prodding and exposing the late ’90s-early ’00s complex of boy bands and female pop stars, who were all praised for being good-natured and grounded, while everyone ignored their simpering sexuality and manufactured stardom. Except Eminem, of course.
And while somehow George W. Bush believes Kanye West’s mic-drop Hurricane Katrina telethon moment—in which Kanye matter-of-factly stated “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”—qualifies as the “worst moment” of his presidency, Kanye was far from the harshest rapper criticizing Bush. That would be Eminem, who released multiple anti-Bush protest tracks and who proclaimed on record, “Fuck Bush!”
So those familiar with Eminem’s history shouldn’t be that shocked of his recent Donald Trump diss freestyle seen in Tuesday night’s BET Hip Hop Awards cyphers. Eminem lives for this stuff. He is the guy, after all, who devised three rapper personas (Eminem, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers) so that he’s always at war with himself. As if that weren’t enough, his lifelong personal battles with his mother and former partner Kim is well-documented by none other than Eminem himself.
He is a fighter, after all, and fighters need someone to fight. His latest album, 2013’s Marshall Mathers LP 2, disappointed because he seemed so desperate reaching for new enemies to vanquish. When Em told Rolling Stone around the release of that record, “I feel like right now I’m probably working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life,” you heard the strain around the edges, which wasn’t very enticing. It sounded derivative of Curtain Call, his greatest hits collection, but lacking any fire or grime or any of that intoxicating delirium so vital to Eminem’s appeal. In the brighter, post-racial pastures of 2013 (lol, right!), Slim’s act wasn’t very necessary, and lacking any skeletons in the closet and his youthful ferocity, the once-demonic rapper appeared fangless and without horns.
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But man is 2017 ripe for an indignant asshole like Eminem! Everyone seems to have approximately 1,000 enemies these days! And who persists as a larger, oranger straw man than Donald Trump himself? Other rappers like YG and Kendrick Lamar (the serious anti-Trump torchbearer) set the standard for Trump disses, but who more seasoned in pop culture to join them than Eminem? That slim beard now sporting Eminem’s face isn’t coincidence; the rapper is literally positioning himself as the grizzled veteran pulled back into the fray. Yes, Eminem still thinks himself a soldier.
Personally, I’m a sucker for these “one-last-job” tough guy narratives. Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, and Arnold Schwarzenegger can’t stop making movies in this vein and I can’t stop watching. But none of this would matter if Eminem didn’t have the pedigree; the Donald Trump diss would feel like a publicity stunt coming from another rapper (maybe it still is!). His credentials back him up. Here are the 5 times Eminem didn’t hide his political opinions.
Back in 1999, Bill Clinton was still President and Hillary was First Lady. Eminem decided to introduce himself through his debut record Slim Shady LP. It’s unhinged mania, full of sarcastic violence and tormented screams. “Role Model” is one of the album’s more potent offerings (which is saying something). In it Shady raps:
So if I said I never did drugs
That would mean I lie and get f*****
More than the President does
Hillary Clinton tried to slap me and call me a pervert
I ripped her f***** tonsils out and fed her sherbet
That overactive imagination is an Eminem hallmark and Trump probably enjoys those lines more than anyone.
By this point of his career, Eminem was a bona fide star but spoiler alert—he was mired in controversy. Facing censorship warnings from the government thanks to a push from Tipper Gore and Lynne Cheney, the rapper reacted how he does best and lashed out. He talks on everything from the new parental advisory stickers on albums to race in America. Eminem has always upheld and defended pure freedom of speech. Or “To spit liquor in the faces of this democracy of hypocrisy,” as he raps in “White America.” To ensure his stance is clear, Em adds, “F*** you, Ms. Cheney! F*** you, Tipper Gore! F*** you with the freest of speech this Divided States of Embarrassment will allow me to have!”
As the country was divided over the Iraq War, Eminem decided to add his two cents. “Mosh” makes its political inclinations transparent by having a chorus of kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It was timed for the 2004 Presidential Election between Bush and John Kerry and features Em rapping, “No more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil / No more psychological warfare to trick us into thinking that we ain’t loyal.” This track came on the heels of 2003’s “We As Americans,” where Em spit, ““F*** money, I don’t rap for dead presidents/ I’d rather see the president dead.” That earned him a Secret Service investigation—as all Presidential death threats do—though it never amounted to anything.
Eminem And Barack Obama
Though never the most vocal supporter of Barack Obama—perhaps not seeing it as his place—Eminem confirmed his affinity for the president back in a 2012 interview. Obama’s great. Obama is giving people hope. Not to sound too political[ …] He speaks with authority and confidence. He’s got an aura about him that’s just incredible.” Later Obama showed respect for the rapper as well, playing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” to hype himself up before his 2016 Democratic National Convention speech.
More Trump Disses
Back in 2015, Eminem unleashed a ferocious freestyle on Sway in the Morning where everyone was a target. That included candidates in the 2016 Election. Trump was a Republican punchline then, though Eminem dinged the warning bell when he rapped, “”I’m f***** worse than Donald Trump/ On Lexapro in Mexico across from a Texaco in McDonald’s drunk.” Hillary wasn’t left unscathed either, with the lines, “”But Hillary, I promise to wipe my server clean if you face subpoenas.” And don’t forget Eminem’s other long-winded barb at the President, “Campaign Speech.” Dissing Trump really isn’t anything new when it comes to Eminem.