The success of 8 Mile proved that the culture wars about hip-hop in general and Eminem in particular are nearly kaput. “Bin Laden stopped that.” Says Jimmy Lovine of Interscope Records, Eminem’s label. “9/11 showed that (Senator) Joe Lieberman should have been managing the FBI and CIA instead of trying to manage my company.”
But that’s not the whole story. Hip-hop has become so big that it is now by definition the cultural norm, not the rebellious exception.
“People are accepting Eminem because he’s a superstar,” Grazer says.
“They don’t event question things from his past.” lovelin notes that “at first, hip-hop freaked out Hollywood because it wasn’t rock’n’roll.” But no-one any longer argues with its success.
Music this popular has the power to move all kinds of markets. Product placement in hip-hop songs can be a bonanza, as witnessed by ‘Pass the Courvoiser Part II‘ by Busta Rhymes, which increased the brandy’s sake by 45 per cent in the first quarter of last year. Last autumn’s surprise feel-good hit in America, drawing white moviegoers as well as black, was the hip-hop-flecked Barbershop, starring Ice Cube.
Eminem prides himself on sticking to his own artistic impulses, no matter how the scene changes around him. “I’m always going to be me, no matter what,” he insists.
“There’s always going to be a part of me that’s as raw as when I first came out. There’s always going to be that part that I can revert to, if i want to go back and be that battle MC and say those funny punchlines and stuff to make people laugh or make people angry. But as I grow as a person and as I get older I’ve got to mature. If you think that the only way I can make a record is by cussing, then I’ll make a different record to outsmart you and prove you wrong. But every song that I make has to be better than the last one that I just made. Otherwise it gets scrapped. Because if you’re not doing that, you’re stagnant.”
Lovine, whose career began as an engineer on Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run‘, says he thinks Mathers has “the chops to make the transition” to a long-term artistic career. “When you have an artist this great, you have to move forward. You’ll lose people here and there, but those there in the beginning will always be there for him.”
Eminem doesn’t seem remotely caught up in his own commercial fate. He’s instead preoccupied in his finicky way with the job at hand. He disclaims the idea of ever leaving Detroit to “get a $10million home in New York of Hollywood and just be extravagant.” He says he watches his money closely and is always thinking about his daughter’s financial future. And his own? “Eventually I want to branch off into being a producer, and be able to sit back like Dre and kind of behind the scenes and not always have to be the frontman.”
For now, though, he seems more in demand as a star than ever. Event the American government has joined the Eminem bandwagon: it recently started broadcasting his songs in the Middle East as part of its propaganda campaign to enhance America’s image to young radio listeners in the Arab world.