Eminem Has Quietly Become 1 Of Hip-Hop’s Biggest Activists

On Sunday night (February 13), Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar, and Eminem put on a Super Bowl halftime show for the ages (embedded below). 50 Cent and Anderson .Paak also appeared as Dre’s latest comeback campaign resulted in the biggest concert of his 35-plus-year-career. Although Dre and Snoop omitted selections from The Chronic and Doggystyle, respectively, the elaborate set included nods to Death Row Records, the formative years of Dre’s career, and late collaborator Tupac Shakur.

Eminem likely delivered the night’s most controversial moment. After rapping his part in “Forgot About Dre” along with his own award-winning hit “Lose Yourself,” Em opted to take a knee when the performers wrapped. The move was deliberate—with conflicting reports regarding the NFL warning the artists not to do so. Marshall Mathers, a longtime Detroit Lions supporter, appeared to be showing solidarity with Colin Kaepernick—the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who won a settlement against the league following his influential acts of protest against police brutality and systemic racism. Notably, as some publications celebrated that no players were filmed kneeling during the national anthem at the start of the game, Em used his spotlight strategically—as discussed on the latest episode of What’s The Headline (embedded in video and audio below). On the same night Kap’s name trended on Twitter and with league commission Roger Goodell in attendance, it sent a message that the fight for justice, equality, and accountability remains ongoing.

The Secret Service Visited Eminem After His Threatening Lyrics Toward Donald Trump

Activism is not a new element to Eminem’s career. Although Em’s lyrics and comments have been controversial and upsetting at times, the Detroit, Michigan mogul has been vocal about other issues. At the onset in his career, Em made light of President Bill Clinton’s oval office affair and the 1981 shooting of White House Press Secretary Jim Brady. But over time, those political punchlines were less about cringe humor. On Eminem’s 2002 diamond-certified The Eminem Show, the MC used “Square Dance” to spit: “The boogie monster of Rap, yeah, the man’s back / With a plan to ambush this Bush administration / Mush the Senate’s face and push this generation / Of kids to stand and fight for the right to say somethin’.” At the pinnacle of his mainstream fame, Marshall delivered a message that did not support the government or the war at the time. Two years later, he followed with “Mosh.” Released just days before an election, the incendiary song touted “f*ck Bush,” before, “Let the President answer a higher anarchy / Strap him with an AK-47, let him go / Fight his own war, let him impress daddy that way / No more blood for oil.” When many Americans (and global citizens) were unsatisfied with war and its choice of opponents, Eminem raised his voice—and made it a focal point of Encore, while advocating to bring home the troops. “I felt like I would be letting a lot of people down if I did not come out and speak out,” Eminem told MTV’s Sway Calloway in the days following “Mosh,” a point after George W. Bush had been re-elected. “It’s one man’s opinion; it’s my opinion. [The] last time that I checked, I have freedom of speech. But I felt it was my duty to at least let people know the way that I felt—and that’s the way that I still feel.” Sway asked Em if there would be more music like this. “We’ll have to see; it depends on the state of the world. I usually try not to get too political.” Sway recalled Eminem’s humble beginnings and pointed out, “It makes an impact. ‘Cause at the shelter, you had a microphone. Now that you’ve reached this point in your career, it’s like you’ve got a megaphone. When you say things, everybody’s gonna hear it.”

Over the next decade, Eminem seemed to consider that conversation. After bouts with addiction, loss, and rebuilding his place in Hip-Hop, Em revisited his stance a dozen-plus years later.

Eminem Destroys Donald Trump For 5 Minutes In A Devastating BET Cypher (Video)

At October 2017’s BET Hip Hop Awards, Em unloaded a five-minute diatribe aimed at Trump. In one section, Marshall dropped a litany of frustrations against the President, including citing Donald’s condemnation of Colin Kaepernick, despite his own history of disrespecting veterans. “That’s why he wants us to disband / ‘Cause he cannot withstand / The fact we’re not afraid of Trump / F*ck walkin’ on egg shells, I came to stomp / That’s why he keeps screamin’, ‘drain the swamp!’ / ‘Cause he’s in quicksand / It’s like we take a step forwards, then backwards / But this is his form of distraction Plus, he gets an enormous reaction / When he attacks the NFL so we focus on that instead of talkin’ / Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada / All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather / ‘Cause a Twitter storm with the Packers / Then says he wants to lower our taxes / Then who’s gonna pay for his extravagant trips / Back and forth with his fam to his golf resorts and his mansions? / Same sh*t that he tormented Hillary for and he slandered / Then does it more / From his endorsement of Bannon / Support for the Klansmen / Tiki torches in hand for the soldier that’s Black / And comes home from Iraq / And is still told to go back to Africa / Fork and a dagger in this racist 94-year-old grandpa / Who keeps ignorin’ our past historical, deplorable factors / Now if you’re a Black athlete you’re a spoiled little brat for / Try’na use your platform or your stature / To try to give those a voice who don’t have one / He says, ‘You’re spittin’ in the face of vets who fought for us, you bastards!’ / Unless you’re a POW who’s tortured and battered / ‘Cause to him you’re zeros / ‘Cause he don’t like his war heroes captured / That’s not disrespectin’ the military / F*ck that, this is for Colin, ball up a fist! / And keep that sh*t balled like Donald the b*tch!” Eminem, who had used vitriol in lyrics throughout his career, was taking aim at issues. He literally leveraged his fan-base: “And 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 who you like more and you’re split / On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this / F*ck you! The rest of America, stand up! / We love our military, and we love our country / But we f*ckin’ hate Trump!

That sentiment spilled over into Eminem’s late 2017’s album, Revival. As an artist who has had challenges rectifying his past lyrics and comments that are homophobic and misogynistic, Marshall Mathers expressed regret on working with Trump earlier in his career. The MC used his first album in over four years to reconsider patriotism. Lyrics on “Like Home” prompted the Secret Service to contact Eminem during an investigation over threats made in song. Presumably, at a time when Marshall Mathers’ popularity in music and America has been debated, Eminem made a decisively different pivot than past collaborator and fellow Michigander Kid Rock. Perhaps that move came with commercial consequences for a Hip-Hop artist after heralded within “White America.”

Eminem Was A Political Rapper Years Before The BET Cypher. Here’s The Proof (Video)

Now, 20 years removed from “Square Dance,” Eminem is still at it. In a moment where five music legends used the Super Bowl stage to present their legacy, the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame-nominated Eminem made upsetting the set-up the focal point of his.

The time codes for episode #76 of the What’s The Headline podcast:

0:00 Intro
2:14 Where does the Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige halftime show rank among halftime shows?
4:25 A history of Hip-Hop performances at the Super Bowl
11:00 Reviewing the Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige halftime performance song by song
19:40 50 Cent makes a surprise appearance
23:00 Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg did not perform any songs from The Chronic or Doggystyle
27:12 Mary J. Blige gave a standout performance
28:45 Kendrick Lamar’s performance was filled with symbolism
35:00 Eminem closes his performance by taking a knee for justice
42:50 Dr. Dre paid tribute to Tupac
44:40 There was Crip-walking on the Super Bowl halftime stage
47:40 Was this the best Super Bowl halftime performance of all-time?
49:34 Snoop Dogg is the new owner of Death Row Records
54:42 Snoop released a new album called Bacc On Death Row
59:53 Mary J. Blige released her Good Morning Gorgeous album
1:01:35 Kanye West has gone on a social media frenzy
1:06:55 Questlove is nominated for an Oscar
1:07:43 Lupe Fiasco is releasing some of the leaked songs from Food & Liquor
1:09:30 New music of the week by Nana, Fatlip, GBA, Blu, Ras Kass, and Hemlock Ernst

AFH readers can catch regular discussions about the culture on our What’s The Headline. The podcast also has interviews with Joell Ortiz, AZ, Blu & Mickey Factz, Kurupt, Evidence, Skyzoo, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul & Don Newkirk, Statik Selektah, Lyric Jones, The LOX, MC Eiht, Havoc, Duckwrth, photographer T. Eric Monroe, and Lord Finesse. All episodes of the show are available to view or for listening wherever you stream your pods.

A Tribe Called Quest & Eminem Are Nominated For The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

#BonusBeat: The full 2022 Super Bowl halftime show: