Eminem could easily be considered one of the most controversial musical artists since the beginning of music. His songs are full of profanities, sociopathic rants, murder, rape, and a lot of hate laden fantasies. When his first music was released, nothing like it had ever been made before and on top of that, he was the first big white hip-hop musician. The nuances of his music combined with his image are probably why he created such an uproar. Before him, hip-hop music was seen as music more for the African-American population. This music had an influence within that culture. When Eminem came out he appealed to a whole new audience, young white kids. This was the first time that hip-hop was really opened up to the rest of the nation. This troubled a majority of the conservative population, especially parents. People felt that his songs would cause kids to commit crimes and revolt against their parents. That is why there have been so many attempts to censor him. Eminem has had to face threats of censorship from the FCC, Congress, record companies, and radio stations. Most of the time Eminem was successful in fighting off these claims, but there are some songs where he did have to cut certain lines out because they were deemed too offensive. On top of these legal problems, individual people within the industry and especially the religious right tried to blacklist and get rid of Eminem. The list of people that sued or threatened to sue Eminem is so long it could take up this entire paper and it would even include his own mother.
All of this fear and hate for Eminem stems from people’s inability to separate the art from the artist. Eminem is just a poor kid who grew up dirt poor in Detroit around a bunch of junkies and gangbangers. His music reflects the realities he’s faced and Eminem also writes some of his more graphic pieces under the persona of Slim Shady. There are a lot of great messages he tries to convey, but the commentary they make about our society is not great. His song” Drug Ballad” talks about the daily life of someone addicted to pharmaceuticals and the eventual emptiness of the party life. He blames society and the government for creating and allowing big pharma to control the lives of so many citizens. Another song “White America,” talks about the failures of the US and how so many other people feel just like him. His music was created to give a voice to the criminals, drug addicts, poor people, and all the marginalized parts of society(Western, 2020). That is why his music is so aggressive and paints such horrible pictures. Some of those songs are a reality for a lot of people. The government and interest groups who try to censor him want to maintain society as it is. His music made this a problem because it got so many people who would have never listened to the typical hip-hop artist to tune in and listen to his commentaries on society and the government. ABC brings up a good point, Anthony Hopkins was celebrated for his part as a serial killer even though he depicted a murderous cannibal(Mancini, 2006). Eminem didn’t receive that same kind of reception because the messages in his songs go against the powers that be and discuss things that make people uncomfortable.
Eminem has 17 songs that had to be censored in some way. Complex gave a list of approximately 60 rap songs that had to be censored, and Eminem’s songs accounted for about a third of the total list(Baker, 2020). He has also had branches of the government try to censor his music. In 2001 the House Telecommunications Subcommittee had a hearing about whether they needed to make the labeling process for albums stricter since such obscene works were being produced(Billboard Staff, 2013). This was in response to Eminem’s wildly successful Marshall Mather’s LP. Congress failed to move any further on this because they received overwhelming backlash from record companies, the American public, media companies, and anyone who supported the First Amendment. Another instance of censorship of Eminem’s music occurred when the FCC fined two radio stations for playing the already clean version of “The Real Slim Shady.” The FCC claimed that even the clean lyrics were still too obscene to be broadcasted on public airways and imposed a $7,000 fine. The same supporters who backed Eminem’s music against Congress sided with him again and one of the fines was dropped in an apologetic statement from the FCC. The feds were not the only problem for Eminem. He also faced many forms of informal censorship as well. Churches of all religions, conservatives, and many other groups banded together in protest of his music and voiced their opinions. These groups also tried to control and influence what the younger generation listened to. That’s exactly what Eminem predicted his music would do and speaks to his messages of anarchy and skepticism of the powers that be.
Censorship in any form is bad for art, but it is especially bad when there is an important message in that art. The attempts of the government to control what he created were an art crime. An even bigger art crime was informal censorship. It’s sad that people felt like they shouldn’t listen to him because of how others labeled him. There were a lot of great messages he wrote for the American people. He also had some insightful critiques into how society was failing. If people would have felt comfortable discussing his music, then maybe the American people could have learned something about themselves. Instead, they chose to be a part of the sheeple that follow the directions of the same institutions that fail them. The proof in this is that most of the problems Eminem talks about in his raps are still evident today or have gotten worse. The government will always try to censor art that is anarchistic, makes commentaries on societies, or tries to change the status quo too much.
Baker, E. (2020, April 17). When Rap Lyrics Get Censored, Even on the Explicit Version. Retrieved November 08, 2020, from https://www.complex.com/music/2013/02/when-rap-lyrics-get-censored-even-on-the-explicit-version/eminem-get-you-mad
Billboard Staff. (2013, January 04). Congress Rips Into Eminem. Retrieved November 08, 2020, from https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/79031/congress-rips-into-eminem
Mancini, A. (2006, January 6). Eminem Defense. Retrieved November 09, 2020, from https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/story?id=109278
Western, D. (2020, July 23). 83 Greatest Eminem Quotes & Lyrics of All Time. Retrieved November 08, 2020, from https://wealthygorilla.com/19-great-eminem-quotes-that-changed-my-life/