That's Highbrow for Shizzle

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Via Crooked Timber, I see that Eminem's lyrics are now being analyzed in The New York Review of Books.

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  1. Typical Times “no other writer I can think of has made such a penetrating contemporary subject of himself”, you guys still going to ignore Bukowski ? or did you just need some ‘hip credit’ with the kids by looking at Eminem.

    I’m not going to bash Eminem. He is what he is. I don’t have much of an opinion on him one way or another. But I can’t stand the NYT or Rolling Stone and other proclaimed cultural critics who steadfastly avoid & ignore certain cultural movements only to jump on the bandwagon of praise for someone when they break big. They’ll have an orgy over Nirvana after spending years of ignoring Minor Threat, Negative Choice and Black Flag, because in the latter the anger isn’t turned down and made palatable.

    How many serious white rappers had to end up with boring day jobs because you guys couldn’t be bothered to look at them when it mattered, when they were still an underground movement?
    Eminem made it big (just like Nirvana) and sold tons of albums and all of a sudden you couldn’t ignore it anymore. You’re nothing but a bunch of out-of-touch, intellectually lazy, self aggrandizing c-suckers who need your kids around to tell you what’s important instead of taking a risk and making the statement yourself. Goddamn I hate these type of people.

    Sorry if that was a thread-jack, but I really needed to get it off of my chest.

  2. FWIW, it’s not the NY Times, it’s the NY Review of Books.

  3. Institutions of cultural criticism such as the New York Review of Books haven’t an obligation to understand the angry, hateful, and misanthropic lyrics of querelous drug-addicts until such time as they amass a following of sufficient size to warrant reflection and analysis. Plenty of publications devoted entirely to musical minutiae exist and it’s their job to identify the poseurs and exalt the innovators.

  4. angry, hateful, and misanthropic lyrics of querelous drug-addicts

    You mean like Black Sabbath?

    I love how people think Eminem invented the sociopath.

  5. rst, I dont think the article was portraying that at all. Infact the article pays homage to the roots of Eminems anger and hate filled lyrics.

    Its interesting just reading the few comments here that the article certainly has one point completely correct. Eminem striks fear in the hearts of white adults in a way even black sabbath, rolling stones, elvis et. al could not.

    Just like Eminem says, he speaks to white suburban kids… when white suburban kids listen to negros rap, the parents never took any notice, black problems dont affect white people. But when Eminem starts talking about white problems, school shootings, and twelve year old girls who dress like whores, it kinda strikes right at white parents hearts, because everyone of them has a twelve year old whore who wants to be the next britney living under thier roof or next door. Every white neighborhood has a marshal mathers just down the street.

    Eminem is not some white kid that wants to be negro, hes a white kid that uses the culture your children look up to the culture invading your house, to spread his message. Thats the true threat…

  6. I bet in 10 years Eminem is going to be a right-wing, religious conservative.

    I bet you five bucks, not adjusted for inflation.

  7. I always found this M&M to be kinda cute, in that little kid holding his breath sort of way.

  8. Tom_T,

    Don’t you see that Eminem is more important — and thus more worthy of attention from big-time cultural critics — because he’s popular?

    There’s nothing inherently better or more pure about the “underground.” In fact, one could say that an artist’s ability to rise out of the underground and connect with a lot of people is a signal that he’s got something more significant to say than those who stay mired on the fringes. (Sorry about the mixed “underground”/”fringe” metaphors, but I don’t feel like editing myself right now.)

    One of a critic’s primary roles is to assign art its appropriate place in the broader cultural context. Because Eminem or Nirvana’s music resonates with more people than that of Black Flag or Minor Threat, there is more merit to analyzing their places in this broader context.

    In short: In the case of this piece in the New York Review of Books, and countless others like it, it’s not so much a case of “jumping on the bandwagon” as it is analyzing the bandwagon itself — or at least the characters who are pulling the bandwagon along.

  9. As an addendum to my post above: That’s not to say a perceptive critic should not introduce his audience to new art or artists he believes are breaking ground. Good criticism does seek out stuff on the edges that can add something important to the bigger picture.

    But the piece to which you’re responding explicitly defines its sphere of commentary in the opening paragraphs, referencing the attention Eminem has garnered from politicians and “the mainstream of American youth culture.”

    So, again: It is not a matter of seeking “‘hip credit’ with the kids.” It is a matter of evaluating something that has already earned that hip credit. It’s the very fact that it’s already been earned that makes it worthy of dissection.

  10. I think Sam and I would get along swimmingly.

  11. Hey, N, are you a chick?

  12. The other thing TomT doesn’t take into account is the possibility that Eminem is just BETTER — both better than those other ‘white rappers’ who ended up with ‘boring day jobs,’ and better at what he does (rap) than Minor Threat was at what it did (hardcore punk). It’s even possible that rap itself is better than hardcore punk.

    If nothing else, and this is all that matters here, OTHER PEOPLE cleary think he’s better and thus pay him more attention.

    TOmT seems to be a purveyor of underground snobbery, which is really just good old-fashioned elitism. Elitism is rooted in a fear of betraying the identity one has constructed to prop up one’s self-worth. ‘Underground’ elitists and ‘high-culture’ elitists share the same fear, though it has a different emotional starting point for each. To wit:

    High-culture elitists detest the masses because they inherently think of themselves as superior. Thus to applaud popular taste would be risky, because it endorses the possibility that one is not as superior as one likes to think. It would be a betrayal of the superior mindset one relies upon to thrive.

    ‘Underground’ elitists, on the other hand, detest the masses for the very opposite reason: an ingrained self-loathing, which results in resentment of other people, especially people who seem stable and normal. They’re plagued by the suspicion that ‘normal’ people — ie., most people — are better than they are, because ‘normal’ people aren’t marred by insecurity and self-hate. A self-loather has to continously try to fool himself into believing that other people are not actually better; it’s a constant battle that requires a lot of mind games. Thus to applaud popular taste would be risky, because it endorses the possibility that one truly is inferior to others. It would be a betrayal of the constant rationalizations one relies upon to survive.

    I suspect high-culture elitism is a conservative snobbery; underground elitism is a liberal (or ‘progressive’) snobbery.

    I just spent a droning day with a couple of indie-music snobs. Guess I’m venting. Sorry, TomT, don’t take it personally.

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