Yes, you read me correctly. . . I love Eminem. That might not seem so strange to some people, until you factor in that I am a 41 year old white suburban housewife who grew up listening to Rick Springfield, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, and Duran Duran. Obviously I can claim no “street cred” and the closest I have come to the “gangsta life” is when I was 14 and my “gang” of giggling girlfriends and I would hang out at the mall talking about which boys we liked and planning our dream weddings. I don’t think I have EVER been part of the target audience for ANY rapper. But Eminem speaks to me.
The first time I became aware of Eminem was probably 10 years ago with his song “Without me”. I thought it was funny and the beats and rhythms were fun to bounce around to as I drove the road. I dance like a white girl so jamming in the car as I drive allows me to delude myself that I actually have some skills. That goes for singing as well, I sound AH MAAAZ ING in the car. No one knows that though, because my “natural talent” only comes out when I’m alone. For some reason I become off key when others are around. Maybe other people in the car throws off the acoustics? Yeah, that’s it.
I have always had a fairly eclectic taste in music. I like a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, but I am essentially mainstream in my music preferences. And rap was never anything that I could really get into, at all. What little I had been exposed to just sounding like irritating, vulgar noise. And the videos I saw just seemed to glorify being a womanizing criminal. Not so different from the rock videos from the early days of MTV I admit, but as I said earlier, I have never been the target audience for rap music. So I was quite surprised to find myself enjoying Eminem. I wasn’t aware of his struggle with acceptance in the rap world and the attitude that white guys can’t rap. All I knew was he was a rapper and I actually liked his song. And that was it for my interest in rap.
Until last year when I heard “Not Afraid” from Eminem’s latest album Recovery. After hearing it a few times on the radio I ended up buying it off of iTunes. It was probably the first time I really listened to the lyrics of a rap song and I was impressed by the positivity and honesty and rawness of the words. It wasn’t about killing rival thugs, or tappin hoes, or dying young with the most bling. I could relate to exercising my demons and being chased around by a black cloud and feeling alone in my own misery. It didnt matter that he was talking about his drug addictions; the message he was putting out there was meant for anyone struggling with whatever problem. I ended up downloading the whole album after seeing his performance of Love the Way You Lie with Rhianna. I have known too many women who have had abusive relationships and I found the contrast of viewpoints in the song eye-opening.
My Grandmother died Christmas day last year and the 12 hour drive back to my home town was the perfect opportunity for me to listen to the whole album. The more I listened the more I began to “get it”. Yeah, there is ALOT of cussing, and a lot of the lyrics are violent. . . on the surface. I realized the “violence” of the words was not necessarily a reflection of actions but of emotions and feelings. It was his way of purging his anger at his self, and THAT was something I with which I could relate. There is a poetry to rap, just like all genres, and you can only hear it if you are willing to listen. The song Going Through Changes showed me the poetry.
On two different levels this Eminem song rips through me like a chainsaw wielding ghost. I’m an ACOA(adult child of an alcoholic) and I am blessed with a now 30 year sober father. My eight years of hospital work gave me plenty of opportunities to call my dad and thank him for dropping the bottle and living again. Each time I dealt with a patient strapped to a bed because of the DT’s, a patient in the hospital for weeks because of chronic pancreatitis, or the woman with sandbags between her legs because her uterus kept slipping out, to name a few, I would go home and call my dad. I saw my dad at the absolute bottom when I was a kid, and I have never stopped being grateful that those memories are not the last ones I have of him. Going Through Changes brought up those memories and were painful not because I lived through them, but because I know that soooo many other kids were, are, and will go through similar pain and not be as lucky as me. This is the second reason this song got to me.
As my husband and I were heading home because of my grandmother’s death, one of his oldest friends was going through a very, very similar situation as the lyrics of the song. He was dealing with some serious personal demons and like Eminem, he was quickly creating a situation where there was the very real possibility that his kids were going to see him die. Eminem is as raw and naked in this song that any one person can be. He raps about giving into the addictions and depression and self-loathing and just waiting for it to all be over. Just as he is about to cross that point of no return he hears his little girls voice calling, “daddy. . .daddy”. And he actually has a little girl’s voice in the song. I had to turn that song off at that point and it took me six months to try and listen to it again. My own memories and the thought of our friend’s children having those memories were more than I could handle. But it made me listen. It made me see. It made me understand.
About a month later I began to crawl out of the dark cave I had been unknowingly hiding in for about 7 months. I had dropped out of college and put my history degree on hold because I honestly can not balance motherhood, work, AND school. I had been trying to convince myself that I was okay with postponing my school for another couple of years, but I missed it more than I realized. I was feeling very out of sync with my work and work friends. I didn’t feel like I belonged there anymore and even worse, I was feeling like no one would really give a shit if I was there or not. But I finally got tired of not liking myself and finally got to a point where I was able to fight the depressive and self-loathing feelings. The sun was shining more and I started to feel better.
I was driving to work one afternoon enjoying my car dancing as I jammed to my Eminem. I happened to be listening to the rap Talkin’ 2 myself and thinking how good I felt and actually said out loud to myself “I feel like I just woke up”. Two seconds after I said that,THE VERY SAME WORDS came through my speakers! My mouth dropped open and I had chills and goose bumps everywhere. I hit replay and listened again, and again. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t his target audience. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the street, thug life he had. It didn’t matter that my life was completely different from his and his experiences. I connected and bonded with Eminem in that moment. And I realized that was his whole point on this album. It doesn’t matter the source of the demons and struggles and issues. It doesn’t matter your background and experiences. We all have shit in our lives. We all have struggles and demons, and it is the emotions and feelings that connect us not the causes.