Term Paper: Eminem: Making of a Celebrity

Pages: 13 (4167 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] The law suit probably suited the rapper just fine since it earned nothing for the offended mother, and created some more free publicity for her estranged son. If the initial sales of Eminem's new studio album The Eminem Show are anything to go by he could do with a few more suits by 'dear mum.' The release of the album was preceded by the single "Without Me" that debuted at Number One in UK in March 2002. The track was backed up by a controversial video in which Eminem dressed up as Osama bin Laden and inevitably gave rise to the rumors (unfounded) that Al-Qaeda were gunning for the rapper for showing disrespect to their leader. Goes to prove that Al-Qaeda either do not watch MTV or appreciate Eminem's humor more than some American do. All the publicity and the controversy surrounding the album resulted in its debut straight at number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic.

Meant to Provoke

The provocative lyrics of tracks such as "97 Bonnie & Clyde" (which contained lines about killing the mother of his child who helps him throw the body in the ocean) and frequent verbal outbursts about his mother were considered by many to be deeply irresponsible. When pressed on the matter of his outrageous lyrics, the rapper dilutes the effect by claiming that he was only "voicing" the thoughts of the Slim Shady character -- his alter ego. He even claims that it is just sick comedy and "anybody with even half a brain is gonna be able to figure out when I am serious and when I am joking." It is perhaps only a matter of the 'generation gap' as most young people who 'dig' Eminem see the humor in his 'sick' lyrics that some serious elders consider so offensive. ("Eminem" All Stars Celebrity).

Is it all a Put on?

So is all the "in your face" provocation by Eminem a put on? The answer probably is yes and no. Almost every move in any show business event is a 'put on' to some extent. Provocation and the ability to shock has always been a successful ploy of the 'showman.' It was even employed by the great Muhammad Ali when he as young, brash Cassius Clay was preparing to fight the "Big Ugly Bear" Sonny Liston in the early sixties. Whenever he came within range of a camera he started to act crazy. Of course all the outrageous antics were 'acting' meant to outrage the fans and even helped him to get under the skin of a formidable opponent. But all the 'put on' was not pure calculated 'acting' it also reflected the inherent outgoing, witty character of Muhammad, and the tall talk was backed up by his skill and strength in the ring. So even while 'acting out' or 'performing' for the gallery a genuine artist mixes acting with genuine emotion that is part of his personality. The end result is then a 'bit of both'-- the real and the unreal. The same seems to be true of the performances of Eminem too. There is genuine emotion, provocation, and acting and but they are backed up by a whole lot of talent too.

White Kid Playing Black Man's Music: Shades of Elvis?

Despite all the skill and hard-work that has gone into Eminem's rapping and hip-hop there is no doubt that he would not have attracted the amount of success and attention if he had been 'black.' It is because he is a white kid playing the black man's music that has made him such a big star. Again, drawing an analogy from boxing he is the 'great white hope.' He is also often compared to another 'white kid' from the past, the young Elvis who borrowed a musical genre from the African-Americans and gave it a white face. (Rich) He even seems to be a step ahead of the 'King' as he writes his own outrageous lyrics instead of relying on others for his songs. His collaboration with the legendary Dr. Dre also gives him the endorsement of the African-American and protects him from the possible accusation of cultural theft. (ibid.) Eminem is also intelligent (and cynical) enough to pre-empt any accusation on this count by writing in one of his lyrics "I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley, to do black music so selfishly and use it to get myself wealthy." (Ibid.)

Touches a Raw Nerve

Another reason for the runway success of the 'meanest rapper in town' is that his story of the kid from a broken home with absentee parents, who moved from town to town with comic books and television his only friends, can be identified with by countless Americans. "White America! I could be one of your kids!" is a refrain from one of his songs that strikes a chord in even some of the 'baby boomers' who are now (surprise, surprise) some of his ardent fans. Indeed the range of the audience age in his hip-hop shows has widened dramatically in recent times. He is now threatening to reach out to a wider audience than just the alienated white, middle class youth that initially adopted him as their reluctant spokesman.

Provocative Acts: Nothing New

As regards the outrageous shock effect of Eminem's performances it must be remembered that Elvis' hip movement on prime time TV in the late fifties was considered to be as outrageous and shocking as the in your face profanity by the rapping M&M of today. Some of the rock'n'roll acts that followed in the sixties were perhaps even more outrageous with displays of behavior that was meant to shock. Example that comes to mind is Jim Morrison the lead singer of 'The Doors' whose bizarre on-stage antics led to his arrest for 'indecent exposure' on occasions.

Surprisingly, despite the violence-inducing reputation of rap music, Eminem's concerts do not induce or provoke the kind of menacing violence seen at some "Rolling Stones" concerts in the sixties in which some fatalities occurred -- the violence having been attributed to the lyrics and atmosphere created by the Stones performance. There are also no signs of the drug use at his rap shows, just some good old rapping and clean-cut fun.

Showing Signs of transcending the Youth Market

Eminem is already showing signs of breaking out of the youth market. Unlike his previous shows in which the range of audience age was somewhat restricted, his shows are now attended by 8-year-old fans as well as their 50 something grandfathers with equal enthusiasm. The rapper himself has noted the change as he says, "It [the age of audience] used to range from 10 years old to 25. Now it seems to be from 5 years old to 55." (Quoted by Rich)

8-Mile': Attempt to Cash-in

True to its tradition, Hollywood and the big studio have tried to cash in on Eminem's status as the number one record selling artist in the country by making and releasing the film '8-mile' that is loosely based on the life of the rapper himself. It is also an attempt to test his acceptability among the middle class America and to bring the scourge (or is the 'former' scourge) of the bourgeois values into the American mainstream. (Rich)

The initial signs are that the show biz industry may earn its pound of flesh by toning down the previous outrageousness of Eminem, but such manipulated commercialization will detract from the genuine genius of the freestyle rapper that has given him his cutting 'edge' so far. Such attempts are reflected in scenes from the film in which Jimmy (the character played by Eminem in the film) stands up for a homosexual -- a climb down for his gay-baiting lyrics in his past albums that invited the wrath of gay groups. A reconciliation of sorts was already initiated by the Eminem duet with Elton John at this year's Grammy Awards. (Maserati)

Such attempts by corporate America to commercialize every successful artistic venture are, of course, nothing new. That they are likely to detract from the originality and raw energy of the rap artist is another matter.

Is he a 'Manufactured' Artist?

This leads us to another important question: Was Eminem a 'manufactured' artist in the first place?

There is no denying the fact that such 'manufactured' celebrities have been created before by handlers, managers, and studios before. Such 'products' are particularly easy to produce in an industry that relies on the manipulation of the adolescent market, a large section of which, mindlessly follows the 'trend,' the current fashion or the ubiquitous 'top of the pop charts.'

But is Eminem a product of such creation too? Before answering the question, we have to realize that show business is itself a 'put on' and there cannot possibly be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Eminem: Making of a Celebrity.  (2002, November 29).  Retrieved March 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/eminem-making-celebrity/5710682

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