By Valentine Makoni.
When I was 12 years old, my parents visited America. They asked me what I wanted as a gift. Because prepubescent me was already plugged into pop culture, I asked for a music CD. Specifically, R-Kelly’s Chocolate Factory, or (Eminem’s protégé) 50 Cent’s Get Rich Or Die Trying. Thankfully, they got me the latter album. Of course, being responsible, it was the clean version, complete with Candy Shop sing along melodies.
7 years later, I had access to unlimited WiFi. The year was 2010, on a High School graduate budget, downloading a hip hop album was the best use of my bandwidth. As it were, Recovery by Eminem became the first album I ever owned. (And later received as a physical CD as a Christmas gift from a sentimental girlfriend).
I liked it so much, I wrote a review and posted it on Facebook. I liked it so much, I read all the think pieces around it. I liked it so much I ended up joining a music forum called TRshady.com where I spent an inordinate amount of time talking to other Eminem fans. I liked it so much, I put Eminem in my Top 5 Greatest Rappers of all time list. I liked it so much, I listened to all his previous albums so that I could see what “he was better back then” was all about. I liked it so much, I listened to Jay Z albums, Kanye West Albums, Kendrick Lamar Albums, Tech N9ne albums, Nas albums, Ludacris albums…. Just so that I could argue Eminem was better than your favorite rapper and produce receipts.
The idea of influencer seems shallow now from overuse. Post an egg, put the right amount of effort and the internet is ablaze with virality. Photoshop out some cellulite, add a skimpy bikini and a hashtag might just trend off the back of your banging bod. Trap a couple novices with click bait articles and you can make some change off Google Ads.
The Fandom I had of Eminem was from a different era. It was of a loyalty akin to supporting a football team. You may pick it randomly, but you stick to it through thick and thin. You watch it as often as you can, you love it more than is decent, you are invested. You become one with it.
The value judgement of the merits of such an approach are of little interest to me. As far as I know, I was lucky my Fandom of Eminem happened when it did. I love him still. He became a Gateway artist into scores of amazing hip hop albums.
As it were, the blogs were still a thing in 2010. Critics opinions mattered. You can’t just go to HipHopDx for the news, you gotta go to the Hip Hop Heads for their views. So, in searching for my echo chamber, those who shared a similar view with mine, I sift through the options to land on some favorites.
Anthony Fantano, with his distaste for Eminem was to be viewed with skepticsm. His alternative music chops were impressive, uGod Black Emperor’s Lift your Skinny Antennas like Fists to Heaven is one well-aged recommendation. But, he had no cred on the hip hop streets.
Enter, Deadendhiphop. Four Black guys (BLACK!!), who argued with passion, loved hip hop and posted videos on YouTube about it. For the people in the internet forums, they felt like one of us.
Beezy 430 was from Detroit so of course he was an Eminem fan. A fickle one, but he was one of us. But, the one who stood tall and proud to consistently and relentlessly declare Fandom for Marshall Mathers was Myke C Town. So, the hip hop critic of choice became Myke C Town. He gets it.
What does binge watching Deadendhiphop videos do to you? It makes you resonate with a phat sound that, “bumps in the whip.” It makes you say Scarface is a top Tier rapper (even if you have heard none of his music.) It makes you download and listen to Alchemist instrumentals because he is a rappers best friend. It makes you respect Jay Z. Above all, it makes you think, no, KNOW that Run the Jewels is the best thing to happen to hip hop since Ice Cube on No Vaseline.
You see, a true Eminem fan has to protect himself from the accusation that he “only listens to mainstream music.” So, he has to dig. Past the Drakes, the J Coles, the Lil Waynes and the Kanye Wests to some true underground emcees.
How perfectly Run the Jewels fit the description to the T. They had ties to the Golden Era of Rap. Killer Mike used to be a member of the dungeon family with Andre 3000. They had earned their stripes in the underground. El -P was a pioneer with Def Jux. They had a raw, uncompromising sound that couldn’t care less about an R&B hook. They had the sort of lyrics which needed to be looked up on RapGenius. And, best of all, they had the Myke C Town from Deadendhiphop endorsement. These guys were the real deal.
As it were, Run the Jewel’s music was really good. So good everyone else on Deadendhiphop got converted into fans and Killer Mike did a guest video! So good even the Needledrop liked them. So good, even Pitchfork was giving its endorsement. So good, I felt like a hip hop head finally: I liked a hip hop duo that was a cult classic.
With the skills I had learnt from being an Eminem Stan, I had to listen to these guys all the time. I had lost the zeal to go down the rabbit hole of PROVING that these guys were amazing, but the music and the Blog endorsements made that moot.
RTJ1 – amazing. RTJ2 – Classic. RTJ3 – Knocks! Nobody Speak with DJ Shadow 🔥 🔥 🔥
This is how I found myself curious as to RTJ’s political views, not just because their lyrics were laced with social commentary. In 2016 I watched Killer Mike interview a guy in a barbershop. The video had a decent amount of views (approx 300 000), but nothing viral. The politician pitching was Senator Bernie Sanders. Had never heard of him before. By the end of it, I felt the Bern.
I felt the Bern so much, even a Barack Obama endorsement of Hillary Clinton couldn’t dilute the passion. I felt the Bern so much, I became a card carrying member of a “political revolution.” To make society work for all, “not just the top 1%”.
I felt the Bern so much, I have spent way too much time trying to understand Medicare for all, including how to pay for it. I feel the Bern so much, AOC is the coolest legislator in America.
The 2020 presidential election showed the power of endorsements: Rep Clyburn turbo charged a flagging Joe Bidden to being the prohibitive nominee of the Democratic party.
But, your word doesn’t just mean much because you have a massive audience and platform. Or that you poured millions into ads so celebrities can pad their bank accounts. Your word, your endorsement, matters because it’s an authentic expression of who you are. And, by extension, a part of a community to which we belong.
So blame it on the guy who rapped about premature ejaculation on a Mariah Carey diss song, for why I support a Democratic Socialist from Vermont. Eminem is the reason why I feel the Bern.
Valentine Makoni writes on love, lust, attraction, mental health and culture.
Elegance may be elusive, but it is an ideal worth pursuit.
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