Caught on Tape

Eminem's racist rant says little that hasn't been said by black rappers before him

Last Tuesday David Mays and Ray "Benzino" Scott, proprietors of the Source magazine, sauntered into the Millennium Broadway Hotel convinced that they finally had Eminem right where they wanted him. Most know that Eminem has been embroiled in a nasty, ongoing feud with Mays and Benzino. On Tuesday they unveiled a tape that is at least a decade old, in which Eminem unfavorably compares black women to white women. Mays and Benzino had the look of two district attorneys presenting a smoking gun. In fact they were presenting a water pistol.

My first reaction to the Eminem tape was shock and awe—shock that Eminem had ever been such a terrible MC and awe at how bad his beats were. Oh, I almost forgot, I was slightly dismayed by his read on black women. "Black girls and white girls just don’t mix/Because Black girls are dumb and white girls are good chicks/White girls are good; I like white girls/I like white girls all over the world."

Umm, yeah . . .

The problem with these latest charges against Eminem is that the house of hip-hop was built on the broken backs of black women. The Great Adventures of Slick Rick is a golden-age classic that features Rick spinning colorful narrative after narrative about teen infatuation and his own supremacy. It also urges cats to "treat 'em like a prostitute" and pokes fun at date rape. Ditto for Ghostface Killah's Ironman. Some of the Rza and Ghost's best work, no doubt. But the cringe-worthy "Wildflower," in which Ghost brags of breaking a woman's ovaries and screwing her friend, makes you wonder if the dude even likes women. Hip-hop's racial politics can also be murky. Remember black-as-coal Big Daddy Kane's entreaties to "sexy young ladies of the light-skin breed"?

Toward the end of Benzino's introductory harangue, he asked that Eminem be judged by the same measuring stick that the media used to judge OJ, Kobe Bryant, and R. Kelly. But Benzino was invoking the wrong standard. Let's use the one that allowed Snoop, 50 Cent, and a host of other rappers to mainstream "bitch-slapping."

The funny thing about the Eminem tape is that, at the end of the day, it only serves to prove how amazingly little you learn when people are caught on tape. Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee's infamously recorded exploits were more notable for tedium than sexual exhibitionism. R. Kelly's tape merely proved what any black girl from Chicago could have told you years ago. And Paris Hilton's night-vision green home porno is amazing in its unhotness; it simply confirmed what we all suspected—19-year old women enjoy having sex.

From a black perspective, it was no different with Eminem. We reserve the right to assume that your average white guy is at best a reconstructed racist until proven otherwise. Sure it's a depressing way to view the world, but it protects you when one of your white friends drunkenly refers to you as his "nigga." What the Eminem tape says is that at some point in his life, for five ill-conceived minutes, the blond bomber was a blatant racist, and yet still failed to meet the level of bile that rappers have been slinging toward black women for two decades. Sorry, but on the scale of offenses that black folks—and black women in particular—grapple with daily, Eminem's rant ranks somewhere between dirty dishes and a stubbed toe.

 
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