Rapper challenges parents to take a hard look at
By Kathleen Parker
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in The Orlando Sentinel on June 25, 2000