Racially motivated songs from rapper Eminem's past continue to escalate hostilities between him and hip-hop magazine The Source.
They agree on this much, the hip-hop magazine The Source and rapper Eminem: Before the superstardom, before the controversies, before the Grammys and the Oscar, the rapper used racial slurs and racist stereotypes to rap about white women's superiority to black women.
The young Eminem rapped lines such as "Blacks and whites they sometimes mix, but black girls only want your money cause they're dumb chicks" and "Black girls and white girls just don't mix because black girls are dumb and white girls are good chicks."
That is where the agreement stops and the argument starts.
Eminem may have apologized, citing his youth and a breakup with an African-American girlfriend a short time before the songs were recorded, but to The Source co-owners David Mays and Ray "Benzino" Scott, Eminem's dangerous influence goes way beyond these racist raps. They may go after hip-hop's biggest star with an eagerness bordering on religious fervor, but the two insist their anger stems from a perversion of what they perceive as the essence of hip-hop. They feel Eminem's immense success has sucked the attention away from black hip-hop artists and forced them to seek attention with ever-more outrageous lyrics. The magazine also hopes to use Eminem's songs as the jumping-off point for a broader discussion of racial issues in hip-hop.
"This is a battle for hip-hop," Mays says, leaning forward in his office chair as he talks about Eminem and his corporate supporters. "They are literally feet from the goal line, and we are the defenders. If they succeed, they will destroy hip-hop's soul."
In the weeks since The Source called a press conference to unveil the Eminem songs, many prominent hip-hop leaders and artists, as well as hip-hop fans, have taken sides in the fight, though others have tried to stay out of the fray. The battle will likely intensify this week as early copies of The Source's February issue are expected to hit newsstands. Whether that plan will be delayed remains to be seen, since Eminem's attorneys on Tuesday got a court to block The Source from including a CD of the controversial songs with its upcoming issue. The February Source officially goes on sale Jan. 12.
This current controversy only adds to the uneasy feeling that hip-hop is at an important crossroads. Yes, the genre born on the streets of the Bronx has grown into the second-most purchased style of music in America (behind only rock) and is a $2-billion industry annually - not including all the related industries, such as clothing lines, limited- edition sneakers and platinum jewelry. However, is the current fascination with gangsta rappers like 50 Cent and the legions chasing bling-bling and babes painting the genre into a corner artistically?
Jay-Z, one of hip-hop's biggest stars, has announced his retirement, in part because he is bored by the music. Same with rapper DMX. Timbaland, one of the genre's best-known and most respected producers, is considering calling it quits as well.
The Source's Scott, who also raps as Benzino, says the rise of Eminem has forced black artists toward gangsta rap and materialistic pursuits to get attention from the handful of conglomerates that dominate the music industry and the radio stations and video channels needed to promote the music.
"Since Eminem has made his music and sold his music, every other black artist whether they were huge or small has taken a decline," Scott says. "The independent companies as we knew them are damn near wiped out. You see, this isn't about Eminem. It's about the monopolization of a culture to strip it from us, and then we don't get to reap the benefits."
Relaxing in his Manhattan recording studio near Union Square, Scott tries to calmly lay out his argument against Eminem. But as he talks ab
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