“That joke isn’t funny anymore.” It is, of course, the title to one of The Smiths’ more poignant ballads, but also an apt assessment of Eminem’s bland, woman-bashing brand. For the better part of two decades, the hip-hop provocateur has directed the same vile, silly, hate-filled lyrics at the biggest female star of the day in a desperate bid to remain relevant.
Let’s run down a portion of the list, shall we? He called Mariah Carey “a fuckin’ whore” on “The Warning,” which also featured voicemails allegedly left on his answering machine by the pop diva. Kim Kardashian was deemed “a man” on “We Made You,” a track that also slandered the late Amy Winehouse and included a weak brag about exposing himself to Sarah Palin. On “Off the Wall,” he threatened Christina Aguilera, saying he’d “grab her by the hair and drag her across the Sahara,” and later claimed she “gave head” to Carson Daly and Fred Durst on “The Real Slim Shady.” Britney Spears was targeted on “Freestyle Gone Crazy,” in which he claimed she got “breast implants” and was a bad role model to children.
And recently, on a freestyle to promote his compilation album Shady XV, the Detroit rapper regurgitated the following about Lana Del Rey: “Bitch I’ll punch Lana Del Rey right in the face twice, like Ray Rice in broad daylight in the plain sight of the elevator surveillance / ’Til her head is banging on the railing, then celebrate with the Ravens.”
His latest target is pop star Iggy Azalea. On the track “Vegas,” also off Shady XV, Eminem details a rape fantasy involving the Australian femcee:
“Bitch, shut the fuck up and get in my car / And suck my fucking dick while I take a shit / And I think with my dick so come blow my mind / And it tastes like humble pie / So swallow my pride, you're lucky just to follow my ride / If I let you run alongside the Humvee / Unless you're Nicki, grab you by the wrist, let's ski / So what's it gon' be? Put that shit away Iggy / You don't wanna blow that rape whistle on me / Scream! I love it / 'Fore I get lost with the gettin' off.”
Azalea responded with the following tweets:
She’s got a point. Eminem is 42 years old. His daughter recently graduated high school, for God’s sake. He’s got the right to say whatever he likes—we all do—but these days, his misogynistic shtick has gotten so old and uninspired, resembling the anxious pleas of a washed-up has-been.
Eminem’s been peddling this crap forever. The track “Kill You,” off 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP, is entirely dedicated to the fetishistic murder of women who’ve wronged him. “Slut, you think I won't choke no whore / till the vocal cords don't work in her throat no more?” he raps. On that same album is the track “Kim,” dedicated to his then-wife (and mother to their daughter), Kim Mathers. It begins with Eminem in Kim’s home following the grisly murder of her husband and stepson, and ends with the rapper bringing the mother of their child to the woods and slitting her throat while screaming, “Bleed, bitch! Bleed!” (He’d previously rapped about him and their daughter disposing of Kim’s lifeless corpse on the track “97 Bonnie and Clyde”).
On July 7, 2000, two months after the album hit shelves, Kim attempted to commit suicide by slitting her wrists in their Michigan home. She later sued Eminem for defamation over the violent song and the case was settled out of court. Eminem was also successfully sued for defamation by his own mother, Debbie Mathers, who’d taken issue with lyrics slandering her on his debut album The Slim Shady LP.
The most troubling songs in Eminem’s canon, however, never saw the light of day. Back in 2003, The Source magazine came into possession of a pair of tracks that were recorded by a pre-fame Eminem and played them at a press conference. The first, allegedly from 1993, contained the line, “All the girls I like to bone have big butts/ No they don’t, ’cause I don’t like that nigger shit / I’m just here to make a bigger hit.” And in the second, reportedly recorded in 1988, he rapped, “Blacks and whites, they sometimes mix / But black girls only want your money, ’cause they dumb chicks.” Later in the freestyle he raps, “Never date a black girl, because they only want your money/ And that shit ain’t funny.”
“The tape they played today was something I made out of anger, stupidity and frustration when I was a teenager,” Eminem said in a statement. “I’d just broken up with my girlfriend, who was African-American, and I reacted like the angry, stupid kid I was. I hope people will take it for the foolishness that it was, not for what somebody is trying to make it into today.”
Although he seems to have learned a lyrical lesson concerning race, he’s still got a ways to go when it comes to casual misogyny and homophobia.
Christina Aguilera said it best on her Eminem diss track “Can’t Hold Us Down”:
“Call me a bitch cause I speak what's on my mind / Guess it's easier for you to swallow if I sat and smiled / It's sad you only get your name through controversy / Must talk so big / To make up for smaller things.”