The annual BET (Black Entertainment Telivision) Hip Hop Awards aired this week, featuring Hip Hop’s biggest stars and awarding them for their dominance in the rap game over the last 12 months. The BET Hip Hop Awards are like no other in that it not only features live performances during the broadcast, but also pre-recorded “cyphers” showcasing the freestyle skills of some of the biggest artists of the day, but also the lesser known underground rappers who perhaps haven’t broken through on the national stage.
The BET Cypher has become a mainstay of the Hip Hop awards to the point where it’s sometimes the only reason why I watch; provocative, raw, uncut lyricism tackling some of the most pressing issues of the day over classic Hip Hop beats.
In walks Eminem.
Em is no stranger to battle rap or the BET Hip Hop cypher, but this time was different. This time Em had something special to say to a special somebody: Donald Trump.
In typical Eminem fashion he didn’t mince words, so much so that his cypher is now trending all over the world, with political pundit Keith Olbermann going as far as to call it “the best political writing of the year across any medium.”
Except…Eminem’s anti-Trump freestyle wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever heard from him or anybody in my opinion. The content was better than the delivery and both were par at best. But the hype he’s receiving is a function of legacy – his legacy as one of the best rappers of all time – and he is, so the hype is deserved. He’s earned it.
Even more so than legacy however, is the fact that Eminem is a WHITE rapper, in a predominantly black genre of music, shooting the middle finger to a white supremacy adjacent president and throwing up black power fists on Black Entertainment Television. He’s the white guy in a traditionally black space using his white privilege to call out injustice.
Had a black rapper of the same stature delivered the exact same rhyme in that exact same setting, no one outside of black America would have noticed because black hip hop artists have long exposed injustice through the medium of rap, and nobody’s noticed except to criminalize it, not celebrate it.
Justice is literally the foundation upon which hip hop was originally built. When NWA said “fcuk tha police” or Public Enemy said “911 is a joke” they were protesting police brutality then. Nobody celebrated. Eminem says “fcuk Trump” on national television and the Guardian Newspaper is reporting on it. I’m certain the Guardian has never reported on the BET Hip Hop Awards.
White privilege is a hall pass. Eminem used his to get up and walk out of class without permission or consequence, to tell the rest of the world how the black and brown kids in the class have long been silenced, because he knew the world would listen to him.
I’m not mad at that. I celebrate it.
The only thing that would have made it better was if he invited some of those black and brown emcee’s standing behind him to offer their own anti-Trump bars alongside his, in the moment that his white privilege created.
That’s what allyship is – taking the privilege you’ve been afforded and sharing it with those who don’t enjoy your platform, prominence, and hype – until the Guardian gives the marginalized voices the same press they give you.
#BET #BETHipHop #BETHipHopAwards #Eminem