“Eminem loves the military. He also loves the Democrats. Neither of these positions amount to anti-establishment resistance.”
Corporate hip-hop artists are hired agents of US imperialism. The vast majority of artists given time on the media airwaves receive bloated incomes to disseminate a pre-packaged product. This product is meant to reproduce the social relations of the system as a whole. The most important function of corporate hip-hop is to reproduce the abject condition of Black Americans by stripping them of their humanity. Eminem has been part and parcel of this project ever since he was signed by Universal Music Group's Aftermath Entertainment in the latter half of the 1990s. In his recent freestyle dedicated to President Donald J. Trump, Eminem reinforced a different kind of demise: that of US society itself.
A principle contradiction of US imperialism is the tendency toward monopoly and concentration. Monopoly arises from the competition between capitalist enterprises, which compels them to undercut their competition through mergers, acquisitions, and ruthless controls. The monopoly media owns the corporate hip-hop industry. Six monopolies own ninety-percent of all media produced in the US. This level of concentration has afforded media monopolies even greater control of what kind of music is allowed to reach the masses.
“Six monopolies own ninety-percent of all media produced in the US.”
Eminem has made millions in this context. His rhymes have primarily glorified rampant drug use, violence against women, and self-injurious narcissism. In the period of neo-liberalism, his angry white voice has served to channel the frustrations of poor and wealthy white youth alike into modes of self-destruction. The Trump Administration’s presence in the White House has signified the most visible form of US imperialism’s own degenerative process. Eminem's freestyle is but another attempt by the artist to channel the energy of the masses toward a path of political self-destruction.
That is what Eminem's call to "give props to Obama" essentially represents. Eminem holds no subtlety in his support for the Democratic Party wing of the ruling class. Not only did he give props to Obama, but he also defended Hillary Clinton from Trump's "slander." Eminem doesn't pay any attention to the fact that Obama-Clinton policies played the biggest role in Donald Trump's success. The growing poverty and indebtedness of the masses in the midst of endless war, repression, and surveillance means nothing to Eminem. But it means a lot to the millions of voters who sat out the election precisely because the Democrats could not provide an alternative to their grim reality.
The corporate media praised Eminem's rant. Keith Olberman called it the most powerful "political writing" he has ever seen. The freestyle made headlines in the New York Times. Eminem capitalized on the vulnerable yet rich Democratic Party-aligned corporate media to score public relations points. Eminem came out of the freestyle branded as some sort of "hero" of the people while the Democratic Party and the corporate media received more legitimacy for their faux-resistance against Trump.
“The growing poverty and indebtedness of the masses in the midst of endless war, repression, and surveillance means nothing to Eminem.”
What the Democrats and the media really enjoyed is how Eminem legitimized US imperialism while posing as an agent of resistance. He emphatically declared his support for the US military numerous times, whether through his reference to the military equipment he hopes to use on Trump (Got a plan and now I gotta hatch it, like a damn Apache with a tomahawk) or with his conclusion that "we" love the military and the country (The rest of America stand up. We love our military, and we love our country). So let's review. Eminem loves the military. He also loves the Democrats. Neither of these positions amount to anti-establishment resistance; rather, they signal a desperate attempt by one section of the ruling class to wrestle back control from an unwanted intruder.
That intruder, Donald Trump, is an embarrassment to the ruling circle. His crass racism, lack of knowledge on foreign affairs, and inability to hold his tongue all reflect negatively on the system as a whole. Add in his campaign opposition to war with Russia, all but forgotten since he took office, and Trump earned his position as the ruler's most unacceptable President in recent history, maybe in all of history. What the ruling class despises most is that Trump became President precisely because the system of imperialism is in a crisis that it cannot fix. Without anything to offer the masses but terror and poverty, the two political parties that govern the profits of the few have lost political legitimacy in the eyes of the majority of the population.
“Corporate hip-hop is very much alive while independent music is kept on the margins.”
So the US ruling class has waged a fake resistance against Trump to turn attention away from the decline of US imperialism. Fake resistance has namely centered around a new war drive with Russia and the resurgence of "Cold War" ideology. WikiLeaks and Russia have been equated with the rise of Donald Trump. In fact, Hillary Clinton still blames the alleged collaboration between the two for her election loss. No verifiable proof has surfaced validating her claim. Two years have passed since the allegations against Russia reached mainstream political discourse. Even still, every sector of US intelligence remains busy investigating so-called Russian influence in US electoral affairs. The corporate media provides plenty of support for the sham investigations with a new, evidence-free story each day about Russia's "meddling" in the 2016 charade.
Hip-hop is rooted in real resistance, making Eminem's promotion of the Democratic Party's agenda that much more shameful. The art form sprouted from the ashes of the Black liberation movement of a generation ago but has since been swallowed by the corporate media. Hip-hop artists who choose an independent political and financial path struggle to be seen. Nas declared "Hip-Hop is dead" a decade ago but that obscures the class war inherent in the industry. Corporate hip-hop is very much alive while independent music is kept on the margins. As Jared Ball recently explained, it is easy for Eminem's sub-par freestyle to be dubbed "resistance" when real resistance music, such as Wise Intelligent's latest album, is ignored by the corporate media.
Eminem represents the ruling circle's preferred form of resistance music. He doesn't challenge war or structural racism. He doesn't mention that the corporate oligarchy controls the state in totality and thus has every interest to neutralize any discussion about the economic relations behind all forms of oppression. He glorifies the military and presumes that "we love our country." His freestyle against Trump is the quintessential example how of the decline of US imperialism has led to desperate attempts on the part of the ruling circle to brand the stabilization of the system as "resistance."
“’Resistance’ Democrats and Republicans are the same people responsible for the million plus Black and Latino Americans locked away in cages.”
Eminem's freestyle cannot be separated from the increasingly consolidated corporate rule over the US state. The so-called ruling class resistance to "fascism" has taken its cues from actual fascists. This can be seen in the Democratic Party's alliance with war hawks such as John McCain and Max Boot. It can also be seen in NATO's promotion of the "Forest Brothers" in a recently released documentary. The "Forest Brothers" were pro-Nazi guerrilla bands in the Baltic States. They waged terror on Russia in the post-WWII period. Many of the volunteers were former Nazi collaborators. NATO is the most trusted institution of war for both the Democrats and Republicans alike, making it clear that their "resistance" to Trump only clouds the actually existing fascism rising in our midst.
Eminem dislikes Trump not because of racism or substantive policy but because he provides an opportunity to market himself to Wall Street-owned politicians looking to dispose of the Orange blemish. "Resistance" Democrats and Republicans are the same people responsible for the million plus Black and Latino Americans locked away in cages and the millions of undocumented people who have been violently deported by the state. They are the same people who brought us the destruction of Libya, Syria, Somalia, and more. They are the same people who take their orders from the financial and corporate oligarchy whose system of capitalism has run its course, leaving half the world without wealth while their wealth continues to grow. These contradictions have led to the stagnation of profits in the face of misery and contributed to the ascendancy of the orange billionaire in the White House.
Eminem is all set to get paid for his due diligence to the elites. It will be the masses who suffer. Trump won't be the only one flying in his jet until the bombing stops as Eminem suggests. World War III will be a bipartisan affair that carries as its sole purpose the slowdown of US imperialism’s degenerative process. And when the bombs drop, Eminem will be looking for a seat on the Pentagon’s jet.
Danny Haiphong is a Vietnamese-American activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at [email protected]