Eminem has been fielding criticism about his lyrics since he dropped his debut album — refer to our 2000 interview with Shady, where he explains as much — but that clearly hasn't deterred him from lacing bars with controversial content.
One of the lead singles off Marshall Mathers LP 2, "Rap God," finds Em spitting the kind of fiery bars that you'd expect from the original Marshall Mathers LP era, but included in the song are lyrics that have been deemed homophobic and offensive.
"I'll still be able to break a motherf---in' table/ Over the back of a couple of f----ts and crack it in half," Em spits at one point, going on to use the three-letter F word a couple more times on the track.
But when Em sat down with Rolling Stone, he said "that word, those kind of words, when I came up battle-rappin' or whatever, I never really equated those words [with being homosexual]" and maintained that "the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all."
So when we caught up with Em on Monday night, we wanted to know if this backlash was something he expected from this album. After all, he got a very similar reaction to his original Marshall Mathers LP with such tracks as "Criminal."
"Since I came in this game, my mentality still, to this day, is very much like it was at the Hip-Hop Shop, where I rap to get a reaction," he told MTV News' Sway when asked about the uproar over his wordplay. (We sat down with Eminem shortly after a town hall-style interview at his Shade 45 SiriusXM radio station in New York City.) "Especially then, it was like I need to say this because I might not get to have the mic again, so I always try to rap like that.
Reviews of MMLP2 have praised his lyrical prowess, with the Chicago Tribune highlighting the 41-year-old's "ink-black humor and bruising swagger" and "his prodigious ability with rhymes." But others have taken serious issue with Em's continued use of offensive language and anti-gay slurs, arguing that he revives "some of his worst traits as a would-be provocateur."
While listeners may be up in arms, Em didn't seem to be breaking a sweat about the backlash.
"A bad reaction is better than no reaction... I would rather have some kind of reaction," he added. "If my music sparks debates and conversations or whatever — be it right, be it wrong or whatever — I would rather have it get a reaction — a bad reaction — than no reaction. 'Cause no reaction sucks."
Eminem has certainly evolved as an artist over the past decade, but some things may never change, including his tendency toward controversial lyrics and a penchant for creating off-the-wall characters in his music. "Since I've been rapping and since I got signed with Dre, I always weaved in and out of characters, things like that, that I play on the album. It just is what it is."
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 officially hit stores on Tuesday (November 5).