It’s not news that Eminem courts accusations of homophobia: on his 2000 album, The Marshall Mathers LP, he rapped about stabbing gay people and on his just-released follow-up, he’s at it again. Now, one of his collaborators has announced that, because of his lyrics, she’ll donate the proceeds from her work with him to help LGBT youth.
Even though Eminem has publicly said that he supports marriage equality, his lyrics don’t exactly demonstrate tolerance. In particular, the song “Rap God” from The Marshall Mathers LP 2 immediately caught the attention of careful listeners when it was released in advance of the album. In between listing his rap influences and comparing himself to Thor, Eminem repeatedly threatens and uses derogatory language to describe gay people. But that use of a slur doesn’t mean he’s homophobic, the rapper told Rolling Stone:
…When I came up battle-rappin’ or whatever… that word was just thrown around so freely back then… And, not saying it’s wrong or it’s right, but at this point in my career – man, I say so much sh*t that’s tongue-in-cheek. I poke fun at other people, myself. But the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all. I’m glad we live in a time where it’s really starting to feel like people can live their lives and express themselves. And I don’t know how else to say this, I still look at myself the same way that I did when I was battling and broke.
He went on to discuss whether it was actually his alter-ego Slim Shady who used those terms, but would not elaborate on exactly who he raps as in that particular song, though Slim Shady is called to the mic early on in that track.
That’s one angle of the defense of Eminem offered by Sia, the openly queer singer who is featured on the MMLP2 track “Beautiful Pain,” a song about starting over and leaving behind problems from the past.
After The Huffington Post‘s Keo Nozari called attention to the tension between her work with Eminem and the “Rap God” lyrics, he and Sia discussed her take on the issue on Twitter. Though she has since removed some of her tweets because of harsh responses, she wrote that “[Eminem] does certainly respect the gay community he is close to in his personal life” and “he has a character called slim shady who represents the worst and darkest bile of America” and “I know personally that he is not homophobic, but a performance artist.”
Still, not everyone buys the argument that Eminem does not equal Slim Shady.
For one thing, though he seems to have gotten tired of explaining what he may think is obvious, his own explanations won’t necessarily be clear to others. Is it that Slim Shady is a persona? Is it that Eminem himself thinks that the slurs he uses don’t necessarily have to refer to gay people? Is it a combination, that Slim Shady thinks that?
The importance of clarity is one thing that HuffPo‘s Nozari highlights, making the point that, even if one thinks the alter-ego argument holds water, the lyrics can still hurt listeners who don’t know Slim Shady is supposed to represent someone bad, especially because the man who inhabits that persona won’t further elaborate on the meaning of his words. And, as The Daily Beast says, while comparing his explanation to Paula Deen‘s upbringing-based excuses, “Rap God” isn’t the only new song with a homophobia problem. At PolicyMic, it’s pointed out that using “gay” or a slur as an insult, even if you say you’re not talking about people who are actually gay, is still insulting to gay people. Nor is homophobia the only area where Slim isn’t a beacon of tolerance, NME adds.
But at least one person has decided to make her position on the matter perfectly clear.
Following the conversation between Sia and Nozari, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center made this announcement: