I must confess that I’m not very astute about forecasting the next superstar. When Elvis made a hit of Hound Dog, I preferred the version by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. I was even wrong on the Beatles, whom I later grew to love dearly. I think my exact words upon hearing I Wanna Hold Your Hand were, "What’s the big fuss?"
And now along comes Eminem, and I’m trying not to act bewildered.
I don’t want to be one of those old grouches who puts down every artist young people dig. And to be candid, I haven’t yet seen 8 Mile (why isn’t there a plural on the end of that?). Far be it from me to find fault where Roger Ebert sings praise. Until I see the movie, I will assume that Eminem is James Dean reincarnated. I did watch one of Em’s (may I call him Em?) MTV videos one day and finally changed the channel when my depression got the best of me.
I am not against anyone making a profit off singing about his alcoholic, abusive mother. Some might even call it justice when your mother’s behavior not only sends you into therapy, but helps pay for it, with a lot left over. I guess this is where I part ways with Eminem: He never smiles and I find that somewhat disconcerting. I realize smiling doesn’t go along with rapping about killing your mother, but you would think all those trips to the bank would put a smile on his face. I mean what is Eminem really alienated from? Sure, he had a tough start, but now, like many of us in America, he is profiting handsomely from his hang-ups. Just how long does alienation last when your salary is running into seven figures?
I’m told that chicks really love guys who pout. All I know is when I pout, my wife calls me a crybaby and believe me, I can pout with the best of them. For instance, you tell me that I have to go to a wedding on the same night as a major sporting event and you’ll see a pout that would make Eminem look like one of those smiley faces. My daughter’s ultimate revenge against me was that she got married on the night of the seventh game of the World Series (and my friends thought I was crying at the reception because she was leaving the nest). But if Eminem has a trademark, it’s that he has perfected pouting into an art form.
And what’s with the name — Eminem? It doesn’t fit. M&Ms are sugary little capsules of candy-coated chocolate that won’t melt in your hands. M&Ms are everything that is right with the world — they are the candy world’s answer to the smiley face. Eminem is the antithesis of M&Ms. Eminem should be named Brussels sprouts or how about plain old Detroit, if he wants to represent something truly depressing?
I admit the guy has a way with rhymes. I used to play rhyming games with my kids when they were young and now I do the same thing with my grandkids. I’m trying to picture 3-year-old Eminem sitting on his momma’s knee playing rhyming games: "Mother, I’m trying to come up with a word that rhymes with ‘suck’ that isn’t obscene."
Fame and fortune have not come without controversy for Em. Some claim that he isn’t entitled to all his success because he’s white and he has stolen the music of inner-city blacks. That racial argument doesn’t bother me much. After all, did I get upset when Ray Charles made a hit out of country-and-western tunes?
And if you think about it, it’s not as if black rappers are dirt-poor. If it wasn’t for shooting one another, rap artists would live long and prosperous lives. It’s not Eminem’s fault that while they’ve been killing one another, he’s been prospering. I can understand resentment against whites, for instance, when you’re Puff Daddy and Jennifer Lopez runs off with Ben Affleck. But you can make an argument that whites have been rapping long before there was a ghetto. What was Keats doing in his Ode to a Grecian Urn but high-class rapping?
My big beef against Eminem is that he wears his baseball cap backwards. Now that is a rip-off against black rappers, as well as Ken Griffey Jr. Let’s face it — before there was gangsta rap (why is "gangsta" spelled without the "er" on the end?), the only white dude in these parts to wear his baseball cap backwards was Tim McCarver, and although Tim talks a lot, I don’t think he’s ever rhymed two words in his life.
I’m thinking of starting a new form of rap — senior rap. I’m going to start by making all the words on the Social Security application rhyme. Maybe instead of wearing my cap backwards, I’ll turn my knee brace around.
Tom Cardella can be heard before and after the Eagles-Rams game Sunday on 94-FM WYSP.