It looks like Eminem’s vast nuclear arsenal of hostility finally found a worthy target.
Anger has long been the rapper’s stock in trade. Usually, though, it’s focused on women, the haters, and at one point Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. (In Eminem’s defense, he was on a lot of drugs at the time, but in Eminem’s not-defense, he was on even more drugs when he made way better songs.) But something about Donald Trump (or perhaps everything about him) has riled up Eminem enough to wield his anger with surgical precision like never before. His cypher freestyle at last night’s BET Hip Hop Awards is his best performance in 15 years, and his most devastating public takedown yet.
Aside from that inexplicable war with Triumph, Eminem has battled many other unworthy adversaries in the past. Jay-Z took on Nas; Eminem took on Insane Clown Posse, Limp Bizkit, and Chris Kirkpatrick from N’ Sync. Even when he turned his attention to George W. Bush in 2004 with the track, “Mosh,” he couldn’t quite muster the venom he had so well articulated toward his own mom many times over.
— BET (@BET) October 11, 2017
Eminem, one of the world’s great shit-stirrers, put his Bush material out there at the height of his drug dependency phase and then disappeared into rehab and self-care until the Obama era. We never really got to see what it would look like to have Eminem at the height of his powers popping off against an authoritarian president. Until now, that is.
Eminem’s post-rehab comeback has so far yielded multiplatinum hits with Rihanna, but not a ton of substance. It seems like he’s been coasting on his admittedly phenomenal technical prowess and the goodwill afforded most legacy acts. But with last night’s BET freestyle, Eminem delivered his critique of Trump with style, agility, and even restraint. He harnessed his infamous all-consuming anger without letting it overtake him. There’s a lot to unpack in this fiery freestyle, so let’s go through it line by line.
“It’s the calm before the storm right here,” he says at the top, a reference to the president’s chilling words last Friday, and a preview of how up-to-the-minute relevant the rest of this verse would be.
That’s an awfully hot coffee pot
Should I drop it on Donald Trump? Prob’ly not
But that’s all I got ’til I come up with a solid plot
Got a plan and now I gotta hatch it
Like a damn Apache with a tomahawk
I’ma walk inside a mosque on Ramadan
And say a prayer that every time Melania talks
She gets a mou—ahh, I’ma stop
Believe it or not, this counts as restraint. In the past, Eminem might have spent way more time going after the First Lady or Ivanka. Never mind whether he should even mention her, it shows at least some measure of growth that he restricted that instinct to just this one innuendo. There’s only one person on the receiving end of this particular wrath.
But we better give Obama props
‘Cause what we got in office now’s a kamikaze
That’ll prob’ly cause a nuclear holocaust
And while the drama pops
And he waits for shit to quiet down he’ll just gas his plane up and fly around ’til the bombing stops
Tongue-twisty bars like these are usually so sweaty and forced that they’re only interesting in passing. (“Wow, that sounds difficult to say.”) The lines roll off Eminem’s tongue, though, and perfectly serve his theme. It’s “Look Ma, no hands” showmanship, but with substance.
Intensities heightened, tensions are risin’
Trump, when it comes to giving a shit, you’re stingy as I am
Except when it comes to having the balls to go against me, you hide ’em
‘Cause you don’t got the fucking nuts like an empty asylum
Eminem spent the earlier part of his career cultivating the image of someone who does not give a fuck. He even wrote a song about it. Comparing Donald Trump’s recklessness with that of a young Marshall Mathers only amplifies how dangerous it is that this man is president. The idea that Trump has been too scared to mention the great menace of Eminem may be a little silly, but forgivable within the context. In fact, Trump has actually been friendly to the rapper in the past–he once, bizarrely, endorsed Eminem at something called the Shady Convention in the mid-2000s.
Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for
‘Cause that’s how he gets his fucking rocks off and he’s orange
Yeah, sick tan
That’s why he wants us to disband
‘Cause he can not withstand
The fact we’re not afraid of Trump
Fuck 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 in
-stead of talking 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
The thing Trump may be most afraid of as president is that people aren’t afraid of him and don’t respect him. Here, Eminem lays out how ridiculous Trump looks and explains in concise terms why his chaotic approach to governance makes him unworthy of respect. Damn. He does all that with extremely current examples, and a Fantastic Four reference for good measure.
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 shit that he tormented Hillary for and he slandered
Then does it more
From his endorsement of Bannon
Support from 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 ignoring our past historical, deplorable factors
Now if you’re a black athlete you’re a spoiled little brat for
Tryna 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 disrespecting the military
Other than the constant, provable lies, the most unnerving thing about President Donald Trump has been his shameless hypocrisy. Eminem gives concrete examples of both here. Some left-leaning pundits churn out whole columns trying to get across some of these individual points that the rapper breezes through with elegance. And then he goes in for the kill shot.
Fuck that! This is for Colin, ball up a fist!
And keep that shit balled like Donald the bitch!
“He’s gonna get rid of all immigrants!”
“He’s gonna build that thing up taller than this!”
Well, if he does build it, I hope it’s rock solid with bricks
‘Cause like him in politics, I’m using all of his tricks
‘Cause I’m throwin’ that piece of shit against the wall ’til it sticks
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:
The rest of America stand up
We love our military, and we love our country
But we fucking hate Trump
Many members of the Republican party–from within the government and without–have worked hard to ensure football fans conflate Colin Kaepernick’s protest with disrespect for the military. Eminem shatters that illusion. He doesn’t go into what the protest is actually about–this is a rap song, not a thesis–but he makes clear how others are trying to turn it into proof of lack of patriotism. He also goes a step further than the late night TV hosts who risk alienating half their audience by diminishing Trump. He actively tells those fans he doesn’t want them as fans. As much as Jimmy Kimmel has done recently, it would be ratings poison–and likely cost him his job–if he voiced a position like that.
A broad swath of Twitter spent last night speculating how Trump would respond in the morning. As of 10:00 a.m., the president has tweeted seven times today, but not about Eminem. The thing is, it doesn’t matter if Trump does tweet back. Part of the reason Eminem’s freestyle is a knockout punch is because he successfully paints Trump as the kind of person who would get into a Twitter fight with a rapper—the kind of person who absolutely should not be president.