Music Monday: Eminem Reigns
Last Friday I spoke about Drake. Today, it’s all about Eminem who just snagged Drake’s position by selling the most records for any Hip Hop artist in one week in 2010. He’s also topping Billboard charts with the hit single “Love The Way You Lie”. This is the second hit from his new album Recovery to reign the Billboard Hot 100 (“Not Afraid” was the first).
Although Eminem came onto the scene in 1999 as a white rapper emulating other white rappers of the time, his style quickly shifted as he became a member of the Hip Hop community under Dr. Dre’s wing. As Hip Hop comes out of the African American community and Eminem is often surrounded by African American performers like Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and the group D12, it’s fair to say he relies on African American English (AAE) for his performances. However, it must be noted that many of the features he uses are also features of other dialects of English.
As we discussed recently, white speakers of AAE are often judged as authentic or not based on social factors like who they’re friends with and where they live. But sometimes it’s not so clearcut. Eminem was raised by his working class mother along the 8 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan. This road is known as the dividing line between the poor, predominately black cities and the wealthier, predominately white suburbs. Although Eminem lived near the divide, he grew up in and attended school in the predominately white suburb of Warren. However, his status as a poor student amongst wealthy classmates may have influenced his choice to identify with Hip Hop, rap, and African Americans (who, according to the 2000 Census, only make up about 3% of Warren, but are a majority on the poorer side of 8 Mile).
Throughout Recovery, it seems like Eminem taps into AAE features and bends his pronunciation of certain words for rhythmic effect. Below are a few African American English features found in his chart topper “Love the Way You Lie” featuring Rihanna:
Deletion of word-final single consonant
- ba’ for ‘bad’
Realization of ng as n in gerunds
- leavin’ for ‘leaving’
- goin’ for ‘going’
- playin’ for ‘playing’
- feelin’ for ‘feeling’
Realization of voiceless th as t
- wit’ for ‘with’
Absence of r after a vowel
- eva for ‘ever’
- neitha’ for ‘neither’
Use of ain’t for isn’t/ aren’t
- “no you ain’t” for ‘no you aren’t’
It may be the case that Eminem is trying to appeal to Hip Hop listeners (to whom authenticity is very important) and downplay his “whiteness” in order to make it in a predominately African American genre. However, as we mentioned before, simply because a speaker is judged inauthentic doesn’t mean they are or are not.