On Oct. 10, Eminem used his slot at the BET Hip Hop Awards to comprehensively attack and denounce U.S. President Donald Trump. The Detroit rapper opened his four-and-a-half minute freestyle asking, “That’s an awfully hot coffee pot; should I drop it on Donald Trump?” before going on to castigate him for being “racist,” a “kamikaze,” and for being “bored” during recent events in Puerto Rico and the Las Vegas.
It is not the first time Eminem has used his platform to criticize U.S. presidents. In 2003, the U.S. Secret Services contemplated opening an investigation into Marshall Mathers III – Eminem’s real name – when lyrics emerged from an unreleased track, in which he rapped, "I don't rap for dead presidents, I'd rather see the president dead. "The Secret Service spokesman John Gill said at the time that they take “every potential threat against the President seriously – we don't have the luxury to do otherwise.”
It’s a trend that has run throughout his career. Again, during the 2004 presidential campaign, he set his sights on then-President George W. Bush in the track “Mosh.” The track’s video depicted Eminem leading a mob that stormed the White House, with the lyrics calling people in the United States to “assemble our own army to disarm this weapon of mass destruction that we call our president.”
The New York magazine called "Mosh," “the most important piece of mainstream dissent since the 60s,” and the song suggested Bush should serve in the 2003 Iraq War himself: “Strap him with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war – let him impress daddy that way.”
Fourteen years later, the rap is painfully still relevant, as the rest of that verse goes on to call for, “no more blood for oil, we got our own battles to fight on our own soil; no more psychological warfare, to trick us to thinking that we ain't loyal if we don't serve our own country,” while the parallels between Bush and Trump are all too clear.
“Look in his eyes it’s all lies – the stars and stripes, they've been swiped, washed out and wiped and replaced with his own face,” the rap goes.
It was last night’s BET Hip Hop Awards that provided the stage for Eminem to provide his latest attack on a U.S. president. Presciently, just like he did in the 2004 presidential campaign, he warned voters of the harm of voting for the Republican nominee in an October 2016 track he released called “Campaign Speech.”
In it, he told them, “you should be afraid of this dang candidate,” going on to label Trump as, “a loose cannon who's blunt with his hand on the button, who (wouldn’t) have to answer to no one,” sarcastically adding, “great idea!”
A year later, and with Trump in The White House, Eminem ripped apart the president’s persona and policies, focusing on his racism, use of patriotism as a tool of manipulation, and indifference to the suffering of those who are victims of the recent hurricanes.
Eminem attacked Trump for his ongoing, social media-driven agenda, rapping angrily that, “This is his form of distraction, plus he gets an enormous reaction when he attacks the NFL so we focus on that and instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada and all these horrible tragedies, and he’s bored and he’d rather cause a Twitterstorm with the Packers.”
All this, as Eminem observes, is done while the president spends $72.8m of taxpayers’ money and 58 days of his presidency on golf courses, while demonizing Black athletes for participating in “Take a Knee,” and keeping the company of racists, which leads the rapper to criticise Trump for his “endorsement of Bannon to support for the Klansmen ... who keep ignoring our past, historical, deplorable factors.”
Poignantly, mid-tirade, Eminem raises his arm, fist facing outwards and clenched and states, “this is for Colin; ball up a fist and keep that shit bold like Donald the B*tch.” Since March of this year, Colin Kaepernick, a multi-award-winning NFL quarterback, has been unemployed following six months of public protest against “a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”
His public protests began in August 2016, when he began sitting down for the National Anthem before games. Out of respect for serving military, he soon after changed his protest to taking a knee. To reiterate, his protest was against “a country that oppresses Black people and people of color” – not Trump, who wasn't even president at the time and the protest was largely motivated by the murders of African Americans by police officers.
Since then the act – one that should be protected under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the "Freedom of Religion, Speech and the Press," – has been widely taken up by athletes of all colors, particularly in the past month, in protest of Trump, after he called players who took the knee during the national anthem “sons of b*tches,” urging NFL owners to fire any player who did so.
Despite this, Trump continues to twist the narrative, repeatedly framing the protests as against the flag, the military, and service personnel, despite continuous statements from NFL players to the contrary clarifying it is against the oppression felt through police brutality, racial profiling and now Trump himself.
It brought two different protests that shared the same act together, once more with the victimization of Kaepernick by Trump, following the president’s March attack on the quarterback when he implied he would keep Kaepernick out of employment by creating a “PR crisis” for any club that signed him. As teleSUR reported in September, this further strengthened the "Take a Knee" protest with Gerald Griggs, spokesperson for Atlanta’s NAACP, warning that if Kaepernick did not get a contract by 5 p.m. on Sept. 17, “We will take a knee, and we will continue to take a knee on the NFL until they act with one voice."
Kaepernick has spent the past year protesting for the rights of people of color and has simultaneously been ostracized for doing so. In August he had to defend wearing a T-shirt bearing the image of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X when questioned on it by Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero, replying:
“They have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here, even though we're fully capable of doing that.” Then in November, he had to revisit the same topic when further pushed on the issue, and he again defended it – “I also agree with the investment in free universal health care, as well as the involvement in helping end apartheid in South Africa."
It’s a year on since he took a knee and the protest began and while it began as a protest against police brutality, it has morphed and transcended into a greater act. He may still be without a club, but he stands for something bigger and the tide continues to turn on Trump. The president's answer is to shout louder with every wave against him, but how long will that be a successful tactic before he drowns in the sea of opposition?
Eminem ended his freestyle with characteristic bluntness: “Any fan of mine who’s a supporter of his, I’m drawing in the sand a line, you’re either for or against and if you can’t decide ... on who you stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this *middle finger up,* ‘f**k you. We love our country, but we hate Trump.”