The United States Secret Service is investigating hip-hop musician Eminem for alleged death threats against the president within — what shall we call them? — draft lyrics. That right there should be enough. I should need go no further. You’ll understand, not Secret Squirrel — as undoubtedly many enlightened Americans are hoping I was remarking upon — but the guys with the white-wire radios bulging from their ears, black patent-leather shoes and similarly black baseball caps, the ones who are fooling no one. The secret service. My word.
It’s not enough that we’ve by this point come to look pretty silly and boobish on the international scene, now our… What are they really? Sort of a national police force charged with maintaining the security of public officials, governmental offices, etc? Hmm. Our secret service is investigating a rapper for some politically motivated verse.
Now I’m certainly not the most appropriate to comment on this fiasco from a musical perspective. You see, I don’t like rap, hip-hop, trip-hop, what have you. Indeed, there’s not such a record in my collection. There may be a hip-hop fusion album, or perhaps one of those numbers that crossed over quite large on the charts, but it’s not a hip-hopster collection, certainly. In fact, I’m sitting here listening to a Pretty Girls Make Graves record while I write this. What do I know about hip-hop? It’s not that I don’t get the whole rap thing; I get it in large doses out the windows of automobiles cruising round the streets next my apartment. I just, and you hip-hop fans must forgive me, don’t like it — which is rather unfortunate as it puts me in sort of a quandary.
My circumstance would be like you, for example, if you greatly appreciated the genius of Mozart but couldn’t bear any of his operas. Or concertos. Or symphonies. Or ten notes strung together. Rap has been labeled “street poetry” and I’ll give them that and most anything else they want in regard to respect for artistic merit. I am, actually, completely impressed with what I see behind the scenes in hip-hop music, the talent, very timely verse, the ad lib manifestos that are simply amazing. But I’m afraid I don’t find the genre pleasant to my ear, in any sense, even in that unpleasant pleasantness that contemporary music can sometimes have. I’m sorry. I apologize profusely. It’s bothersome really, since I don’t have that same problem with, for example, my example: I appreciate Mozart’s genius and enjoy his operas. But Ludacris, Run-D.M.C., G-Unit: appreciate, yes; enjoy, no.
All this serves to getting round to the point that “street poetry” or whatever you want to call it has a place in the annals of human artistry — whether I happen to like it or not. And attendant to full accreditation as a form of art is some broad amount of freedom to express oneself, love, lust, joy, frustration, anger, malice, without meddling government authorities. Simply put, it’s probably just about alright for an artist to sing that he’d rather see the president dead than die for money. Likely not particularly threatening when taken in the proper context and with that rather largish dose of Haldol someone in the higher-up has been missing on a regular basis. I don’t think we need investigation by the SS (Oh, go on; but it is funny, though, isn’t it?).
You know it’s bad when CNN — been trying to play it so-so patriotic of late, they have — goes at reporting it as if it’s a lamed joke. One thing when they’re laughing at you through commercial break, but something again to see them laughing outright amidst the news segment. I don’t know how it played on FOX News as by doctor’s orders I’m not allowed to watch that network; but I’d guess FOX is at Defense Condition Whatever and Bill O’ Reilly has volunteered himself for some sort of super-double-secret secret service operative role. Agent O’ Reilly, undercover as 2Bill O’Shutup. Hmm. We’ll see.
But a humble wish from an American: Can we stop this nonsense? It’s humiliating. Really.