I’m like a head trip to listen to
‘Cause I’m only giving you, things you joke about with your friends
Inside your living room
The only difference is I got the balls to say it in front of y’all
And I don’t gotta be false or sugar coat it at all
– The Real Slim Shady
Growing up, I never thought I would be someone who listened to Eminem. My mother always wrote him off as a profane, sexist, misogynistic racist. So, I did too. And he is. All of that bleeds through in his work. But just from the mere act of being a young human in a college dorm, I became familiar with the likes of “Love the Way You Lie” and “Lose Yourself”, and on one of the many those never-ending nights of vector calculus I experienced last quarter I cheesily, desperately, looked up “Lose Yourself” on Spotify and listened to it on repeat until I finished my problem set. “Lose Yourself” soon turned into “Lose Yourself” and “Rap God”, and before I knew it, I had a string of about ten Eminem songs that I could not only name, but also rap along with.
This was incredibly strange to me, identity-altering in fact. To me, someone who listened to Eminem had always been an “other” with a different mindset, a different agenda, someone who came from a different place and whom I could never hope to understand. This past November made me realize that this Eminem-listening “other” I’d always envisioned was real––real enough to elect the President of the United States.
Here it might be worth pointing out that the Marshall Mathers LP was released 16 years before the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, so listening to “The Real Slim Shady” is even more of a “head trip” than ever. Eminem’s justification of his own popularity bears striking resemblance to what many have described as the strategy Trump utilized to clinch the presidency. Both of them own their prejudices. They speak frankly.
While it is difficult to say whether any of that is “real”, enough people seem to believe it is that it doesn’t matter. The dark implication of this is that it is easy to believe that people are prejudiced, so it feels honest. Credible. Intimate. But the mechanics of this allure are secondary. Seemingly more relevant is the concrete evidence Eminem provides that the Trump mentality is far from new and far from shunned by mainstream society. It’s present even in the liberal strongholds of universities. It is in the music we listen to, the shows we watch, and the people we retweet. It seems all too common on college campuses to adhere to a mentality of us versus them, and if listening Eminem teaches us anything, it’s that campuses aren’t bubbles and we, as well, perpetuate the culture that puts men like Donald Trump into office.