Lady Gaga may have reassured her Little Monsters that they were “born this way,” Eminem, surprisingly, was saying the same thing — about himself. Yup, back in 1999, Marshall Mathers sat down with MTV News to talk haters, defending both his right to succeed as a white rapper and his right to say whatever he wants.
“Nobody had a choice of what color to be or what to look like or anything when they was born, you know what I mean?” Slim Shady told MTV News more than a decade ago. “That’s the message I try to get across in my music is like, ’Look, I was born this way,’ you know what I mean? This is me, this is what I look like, this is how I act. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to the music.”
Gaga, whose ARTPOP album hit stores on Monday, first put her stamp on the phrase “Born This Way” after releasing an album and song by that name in 2011. The record was her “freedom album,” according to producer and songwriter RedOne. The song was her anthem, an empowering jam for minorities, the LGBT community in particular, and it debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was widely embraced by the LGBT community, specifically Perez Hilton and Ellen DeGeneres, who performed it on her show with Justin Bieber and James Blunt.
When Eminem uttered the phrase, he was making a similar “take me or leave me” assertion. When Em was starting out, he was doubted due to the color of his skin. All he wanted was respect, he said at the time, not the riches inherent in fame. And — over the course of 14 years and six solo albums, including the just-released Marshall Mathers LP2 — it seems the rapper has found just that (along with some cash to spare).
Although Mathers has hooked himself to the stars, however — becoming one of the highest-selling artists of all-time — some things, it seems, never change. Case in point: Eminem’s predilection for shocking, offensive lyrics.
Back when The Marshall Mathers LP dropped in 2000, Em angered LGBT rights groups for his liberal — and sometimes violent — use of homophobic slurs.
Back then, he told MTV News, “If you get offended by my music, don’t listen to it. I’m bringing you into Slim Shady’s world. If you don’t want to come into Slim Shady’s world, don’t come. You know what I mean? It’s that simple.”
In a 2010 interview with Anderson Cooper, Shady explained his use of terms like “f—-t,” saying that they had nothing to do with homophobia. “It was more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or a–hole,” he recently told Rolling Stone.
Em is still facing similar criticism for the imagery in his chart-topping hit, “Rap God” — among other tracks on his recently released MMLP follow-up.
In a series of interviews with media outlets, Eminem fell back on the same explanation he’s been repeating for years now, though, telling Rolling Stone: “I don’t know how to say this without saying it how I’ve said it a million times. … But that word, those kind of words, when I came up battle-rappin’ or whatever, I never really equated those words [with being homosexual].”
He also explained that, in many songs, he’s playing a character, and that you can’t equate his views with those of Slim Shady and company.
Despite his protests, Em is not averse to a little controversy. He reiterated his right to provoke in a recent sit-down with MTV’s Sway Calloway: “I want to say the lines that are going to get people’s attention,” Eminem told Sway. “And I would rather have … even if it’s bad attention than no attention at all. I think it’s cool if my records spark conversation and debate.”