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Archive for March, 2013

Some of you may have read my post “Is music making men malicious?” One of my friends, Siam Syed read it and wrote the below which makes some very interesting points and I wanted to share with you.

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I don’t disagree with what you’re saying, he does use vulgarity, violence etc in his lyrics, and I’m not going to sit here and defend him to say he’s the ‘perfect’ role model for all kids. What I will say though is I can understand why he’s such a successful artist and why he’s regarded as a pioneer for an ‘evolved’ hip hop industry and I daresay – one of the best rappers of all time. I will further that and say he IS still a role model.

I obviously don’t know this guy personally, but I’ve read about him, saw him on interviews and media, and watched the movie 8 mile. 8 mile is probably a sensationalised autobiography on his life. But from what I’ve studied, this guy grew up with a messed up life. His dad left when he was born, his mother was an addict, and to top it off he lived in a black neighbourhood where gangsters, drugs, murdering was pretty much everywhere. Watch the movie 8 mile and listen to ‘Lose Yourself’.

If you look back on the history of music, rap culture was predominantly founded by the black community, with most hip hop artists and rappers being black males. Being a white male, stepping into this industry and getting to the top is a big deal and I have respect for his talent.

In regards to his lyrics, the media has played a big part in his ‘public image’ being very negative through misrepresentations. For example, this is an extract from a 60 Minutes interview:

Cooper: Some of the lyrics, like, you know, in the song “Criminal” you say “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge, That’ll stab you in the head, whether you’re a fag or lez, Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest, Pants or dress – hate fags? The answer’s “yes””

Eminem: Yeah, this scene I came up in. That word was thrown around so much, you know, faggot was like thrown around constantly to each other, like in battling.

Cooper: Do you not like gay people?

Eminem: No, I don’t have any problem with nobody. You know what I mean? I’m just like whatever.

 

I myself have used the word fag here and there in a negative light towards homosexuals. Wrong of me to do it, but I have, and most other people have too. Let’s not forget that in the 1990’s homosexuals weren’t accepted as much as they are today. He later did a duet with Elton John (who is gay) on the song, ‘Stan’, and remains friends with him still.

You mentioned the song, ‘Kill You’ speaking very violently about his ex-wife Kim. True. But we don’t know under what circumstances he wrote that song. What I do know, is that Kim endangered the life of their daughter, Hailie, for which a judge ruled Eminem to have custody over her. Listen to ‘Mockingbird’.

Since then, Eminem has adopted Kim’s Sister’s child, Lainie, as well as Whitney, Kim’s daughter from a previous relationship. He is also the legal guardian of his half-brother, Nathan. Listen to the song ‘Cleaning out my closet’. Clearly we can see a trend here that most people in his life are really messed up, to the point where the court ruled in his favour to live with him instead. So before we jump to conclusions and say he’s a violent, racist, homophobic prick who should not be a role model, we are forgetting the many kids out there who grew up in his circumstances, for which he is a perfect role model for. An extract from his song, ‘Sing for the moment’:

“That’s why we sing for these kids, who don’t have a thing
Except for a dream, and a fuckin’ rap magazine
Who post pin-up pictures on their walls all day long
Idolize they favorite rappers and know all they songs
Or for anyone who’s ever been through shit in their lives
Till they sit and they cry at night wishin’ they’d die
Till they throw on a rap record and they sit, and they vibe
We’re nothin’ to you but we’re the fuckin’ shit in they eyes”.

Listen to the whole song, and maybe you’ll gain some perspective of why he raps the way he does.

Now to come to his ‘talent’. Eminem’s the only accepted white rapper by the black community. He’s so good that he was produced by one of the most prominent black hip hop artists of all time, Dr. Dre. Dr. Dre (if you don’t know him) worked with the best rappers OF ALL TIME – Snoop Dogg, Tupac, NWA, Ice Cube, Nate Dogg etc. And this random white guy came up to him with his mix tape and Dre took him on. Extract from ‘White America’:

“when I was underground, no one gave a fuck I was white, no labels wanted to sign me, almost gave up, I was
Like, fuck it, until I met Dre, the only one to look past, gave me a chance, and I lit a fire up
Under his ass, helped him get back to the top, every fan black that I got, was probably his in
Exchange for every white fan that he’s got”

I don’t know need to go into the technicalities of rap (you’ll get bored lol) but basically, he’s a genius. His rhythm, his flow, his word play are un-matched to anyone today. His calibre is that of Tupac – who is regarded as the best rapper of all time. You ask why is he so popular? Because his probably the only ‘pure’ rapper left (besides Lupe Fiasco). In today’s music industry where Lil Wayne and Lil Jon are considered rappers, can you not see how much better Eminem is? And to all those ‘old school’ rappers like Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, P.Diddy – they are all commercialised, they rap about how mad their lives are, and write lyrics that can be played on radio so they can make more money. Snoop Dogg used to rap with Tupac, listen to ‘Gangsta Party’ and while you’re at it listen to ‘Changes’, and you’ll get what I mean by pure rap compared to today’s commercialised ‘rap’.

In summary, to people who like rap music, Eminem is a genius and wonderful to listen to. Yes he’s got a lot of swearing and violence in his music, but that’s what makes him so ‘real’ and relatable. It’s his method of delivery. It’s music though, it’s an art form, just like movies. So should children not watch violent movies? Should young adults not watch vulgar movies? I watched Kill Bill, one of the goriest movies when I was in high school, and I fucking loved it. People I’ve murdered to date: 0. And I listen to a lot of rap – from a young age. And I don’t swear uncontrollably lol. And by the way listening to Lose Yourself during my HSC made me push myself, I’d listen to it when I was studying, because getting into my degree was my dream. So how was he a negative influence on me? In saying that, I can’t even imagine what kind of an inspiration he’d be for young white kids living in the ghetto.

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Does God want us to Sin?

Last week on the way to work I sat behind two two uni students. Usually I get on and fall asleep within five minutes but their conversation was so different to the usual banal banter you hear on trains that I was captivated! They restored my faith in train conversations! As far as I could surmise the guy was studying Christian theology and wants to be a pastor and the girl was a Muslim studying… something – my eavesdropping powers didn’t catch everything!

So they began talking and covered the similarities and differences between the monotheistic religions and why the girl doesn’t wear a hijab to what happens in the afterlife and then divorce and King Henry and politics! Phew! It was a great conversation (or what I could hear of it) and the main point that stuck with me long after they left was their discussion on sinning. They spoke about fear and love of God and why do we sin and … Does God want us to sin? While they didn’t answer this and moved onto talking about something else… it stuck with me.

Does God want us to sin?

I think God knows we cannot AVOID sinning. Is that the same as WANTING us to sin (because he knows everything)? Yes. Maybe. So yes God does want us to sin. But Why? It reminded me of something Michael Scott once said in the office…

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Ok so I don’t think God wants us to be afraid of loving Him. But I do think that God in His ultimate knowledge and mercy knows that we are falliable human beings and that we will stuff up and kind of like an endearing parent He has provided us with copious notes on how much He loves us and how much we can expect to be forgiven. Allah swt says, And My mercy encompasses every thing.” [Quran 7:156] and again “Say: ‘O My slaves who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah, verily Allah forgives all sins. Truly, He is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Quran 39: 53]

But remember that giving positive reinforcement doesnt work for all kids and some need tough love. In the same way I think God reminds us of his wrath and the consequences of failing to adhere by His rules as a reminder that a loving parent/God can also be a reprimanding one. If this incites fear – then so be it? The point is that either out of love or out of fear – people will refrain from sinning.

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But no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. So whether you love God or you are simply scared of Him – or a bit of both – know that He has your best interest at heart and that He knows your fate and your next move (even though you have the power to change your destiny thorough your actions) and that sinning and making mistakes and learning from them is what this life is all about. Preparation for the next.

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 On the train home the other day I sat two seats away from a man blaring Eminem on his headphones. He wore a tatty singlet tatts and a ‘piss off look’. One could assume (if one was prone to judging a book by its cover) that listening to such music makes the man. He gets a phone call and his features break into a huge smile and his face softens as he coos into the phone with (presumably) someone he fancies on the other end of the line. Now if you judged him before aren’t’ you feeling ashamed now? Switch to another day, another train and a bored looking suited young man sitting across from me. Looking every bit the prim and proper corporate gentleman, he flicks his phone cover open to revel he is listening to Eminem and then soon after takes a call in which his placid features contort into disgust and he cusses down the line in a verbal barrage that would leave the mafia trembling. Judging a book by its cover then is obviously not a good idea. But can this be extended to judging music of Eminem’s calibre and style?

So who or what is Eminem and his style? For those of you who, like me do not listen to radio and hip hop and rap and prefer the flavour of classic rock (or something else) here is a quick summary I collated via google. Eminem is one of the best-selling artists in the world and is the best-selling artist of the 2000s. He has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, including 42 million tracks and 49.1 million albums in the United States. Now .. that’s a lot of accolades even in an industry where a teen in a car singing about Friday goes viral. So what are his songs about and why are they so popular? I listened to some and all I heard was a lot of swearing, a lot of aggressiveness and a lot of violence to women and blacks and .. well general insanity. I then did a search on ‘Why is Eminem so popular’ (thank god for google right? It’s like the siri of the internet) and guess what? Most of the results talked about why he SHOULDN’T be popular. There are so many articles on why kids shouldn’t be listening to his songs and some that specifically analyse his lyrics and pick our exactly what is wrong with him, his style and his music. And yet… he is one of the world’s bestselling artists. This paradox confuses me so I continue with my google search – this time looking up his concerts, movies, interviews and book.

Wikipedia tells me that on October 26, 2000, Eminem was to perform at a concert in Toronto’s Skydome. However, Ontario Attorney General Jim Flaherty argued that Canada should stop Eminem at the border. “I personally don’t want anyone coming to Canada who will come here and advocate violence against women,” he said. Flaherty claims to have been “disgusted” when reading transcriptions of Eminem’s song “Kill You”, which includes lines like “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore/till the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?” Liberal MPP Michael Bryant suggested that the government lay hate crime charges against Eminem for the advocacy of violence against women found in his lyrics. The opinion of the general public to the requests made by the province were negative. Others said the issue was one of free speech.  In a Globe and Mail editorial, author Robert Everett-Green wrote, “Being offensive is Eminem’s job description.” Eminem’s Toronto concert went on as planned that night.

So on the whole my research shows that Eminem and his music is sexist, vulgar, racist, profane and downright insane. I am not alone in being disgusted by his lyrics and his references to his colourful life which he proudly sings about despite the incidents having landed him in hot water on more than a few occasions. What is most worrying however is that young kids, particularly boys and even young adult men like this music. They see nothing wrong with the profanity, the violence, the negativity and the racism. What they listen to is the rhythm and the pain and the self-awareness. I asked a young friend of mine and he said, ‘I think the way you think and speak has more to do with the people around you think art and entertainment have fairly minimal impact on people. It’s often used as a scapegoat and an excuse, and most of my friends listen to the same stuff as I do.’ While I disagree with this and think that at and popular cultures have an extraordinarily significant impact on people it is interesting to note just how confident he was with this statement.

Is it true then, that rap music with its vulgarity and sexist references, bigotry, racism and violence is just another form of self-expression? I like to think that freedom of speech stops where the rights of others begin. If music is going to impede the fight for equality between genders, between races and between religions – then we need to be rethinking the place of such music in our society. If music is making young men more violent and careless, if music is contributing to a misguided sense of the acceptability of rape, racism, homophobia or misogyny, then we need to rethink the dissemination of this type of music to our youth. If one person’s self-expression and right to practice his art is influencing a myriad of others into emulating his violent, colourful and drug addled life then we need to rethink the freedom we give to such people to be ‘role models’ for society. If music be the food of love, play on. But if music be the antagonist of social discontent then Stop. Rewind. Rethink.

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