Notes from Everything But the Burden

In “White America,” a song from Slim Shady’s The Eminem Show, he raised a question: “Sitting back looking at shit, wow, I’m like… my skin… Is it starting to work to my benefit now?” No Em, your skin has benefited from black art and culture for years according to essays, poems and a conversation in Everything But the Burden: What White People Are Taking from Black Culture edited by Greg Tate. In the book intro, Tate points out:

Readers of Black music history are often stuck by the egregious turns of public relations puffery that saw Paul Whiteman crowned the King of Swing in the 1920s, Benny Goodman anointed the King of Jazz in the 1930s, Elvis Presley propped up as the King of Rock and Roll in the 1950s, and Eric Clapton awarded the title of the world’s greatest guitar player (ostensibly of the blues) in the 1960s. Whatever Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Chuck Berry, B. B. King, and other African-American pioneers thought about these coronations, they seem to have wisely kept between pursed lips—at least until Little Richard declared himself “the architect of rock and roll” rather than announce the winner at a late-eighties Grammy Awards ceremony.

Then in “The New White Negro,” Carl Hancock Rux chops up Em with quite a sharp blade:

Rappers Big Boi and Dre may go by the moniker Outkast, but Eminem proves that a real outcast has got to do more than make Miss Jackson’s daughter cry—you got to fuck the bitch, kill the bitch, dump the bitch’s dead body in the river, and not apologize for any of it.

It gets mad brutal:

Niggaz may talk bad about bitches and they baby’s mama—Eminem brutally murders his. Niggaz may have issues regarding absent fathers or dysfunctional mothers—Eminem comically exposes their dysfunctions, and hangs his mother’s pussy high up on a wall for all the world to see. Niggaz may be misogynist, may boast of sexual superiority and sexual indiscretions with a multitude of women, may commonly relegate women to just another piece of ass prime for the taking status—but Eminem drugs the bitch, fucks the bitch, moves on to the next bitch.

Welcome to the surrealistic world of Eminem! Like Sir Elton John alleviated us that we shouldn’t “take him seriously.”