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Rapper challenges parents to take a hard look at themselves

By Kathleen Parker
Commentary

As bedfellows go, none could be stranger nor less likely than raunchy rapper champions agreeing on content. If not style.

Eminem, for you diehard adults, is a white rapper variously abhorred and adored for his envelope-pushing lyrics. His real i.d. is Marshall Mathers, ergo Eminem, and his key vocabulary is . . . reductive. Mathers has never met a multisyllabic word he likes, while body parts and functions say it best.

Put it this way: the F-word is to Eminem's world what Om is to Yoga.

Which is why parents loathe him while kids are keeping his newest release -- The Marshall Mathers LP -- in the best-seller slot. Parents don't just hate Eminen; many blame him for everything from date rape to school shootings.

It's easy to dislike him, I admit. He's excessively profane, offensive to everyone, disrespectful and disgusting. Worse, he's honest. And, unforgivably, he's sometimes right.

Some of his worst stuff isn't fit for print or listening. But he does have a point when he challenges parents to take a hard look at themselves before they flip him the metaphorical bird. In his angry "Who Knew" song off the new LP, he asserts surprise over his own success and the societal misdeeds for which he gets credit.

Imagine a rap beat here and forget everything you know about punctuation, except ellipses, which are mine. The rest are lyrics taken from his "Who Knew" song:

"I make fight music, for high-school kids I put lives at risk when I drive like this (tires screech) I put wives at risk with a knife like this . . . I'm sorry, there must be a mix-up You want me to fix up lyrics while the President . . . Quit tryin to censor music, this is for your kid's amusement (The kids!) But don't blame me when lil' Eric jumps off of the terrace You should be watchin him -- apparently you ain't parents."

I have the uneasy feeling he's referring to Eric Clapton's child, who fell to his death from an apartment-building window, and I wish he hadn't said that. I wish, too, he hadn't said the rest of this, which makes grown-ups squirm for reasons that should be apparent: "I never knew I would get this big I never knew . . . I'd affect this kid I never knew I'd, get him to slit his wrist I never knew . . . so who's bringin the guns in this country (Hmm?) I couldn't sneak a plastic pellet gun through customs over in London And last week, I seen a Schwarzenegger movie where he's shootin' all sorts . . . and I sees three little kids, up in the front row, screamin `Go,' with their 17-year-old Uncle I'm like, `Guidance -- ain't they got the same moms and dads who got mad when I asked if they liked violence?' And told me my tape taught 'em to swear What about the make-up you allow your 12-year-old daughter to wear? (Hmm?)"

I'm not recommending Eminem to children, though I commend him to parents who might wish to know what their children are thinkin' and hearin' and what they're sayin' about you behind your back, and consider the possibility that sometimes the words that most offend are the true ones. (Hmm?)

Kathleen Parker's column also appears Wednesday in the Sentinel's Living section. Also check out her Web site: www.kparker.com. Her e-mail address is kparker@orlandosentinel.com

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on June 25, 2000

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Previous columns

6/21: A voice of reason in Mommy trenches

6/18: What if Father's Day were eliminated for a few years?

6/11: From laughing hyenas to crying for the stupidity of it all

5/31: Veteran walked lifetime in his shoes

5/28: Despite my contempt, Clinton should not be disbarred




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