In 1999 the world was introduced to a smart mouth 27-year-old guy from Detroit named Marshall Mathers. Marshall went by his stage Eminem. Marshall shocked the world with his song Hi My Name Is. A song mocking celebrities like the Spice Girls and Pamela Anderson, but, in the same breath, comically revealing the broken home in which he grew up in.
Eminem has bridged many gaps between people. In his autobiography, he explains how he wants to bridge the race war through his music. When was the last time a white person has made such an impact in the hip-hop music scene (does Vanilla Ice count?). And, while I have seen Christian and Non-Christian people and organizations attack Eminem for his immature humor, and, his criminal behavior, but it is his honesty and his demeanor that has attracted millions of fans. Eminem has sold more records than any other artist in the past decade.
What makes Eminem so attractive to the common person, is the very fact, that he seems to be a common person. How many of us get sick of the ridiculousness of celebrities? Is this not the reason we watch and hate Jersey Shore? How many of us grew up in some sort of broken homes? How many people relate to the homes filled with drugs, abuse, and violence? How many of us are also extremely protective of our friends and family as Eminem is? Parents are protective of their kids, friends defend their friends. How many of us have struggled with something that has kicked us down over and over again? Eminem’s struggle with drug addiction, and, his years of sobriety now, gives courage to people who struggle with addiction. How many of us want to see the gaps bridged between people? One of Eminem’s best friends is Elton John. He is a prodigy in a predominant African-American genre of music. Marshall is also a professional artist.
If you have never read the book The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield, you really need to. One of the predominant traits of a professional artist is their relentless work ethic towards their craft. Eminem, spends hours every day in his studio recording music for himself and doing guest vocals for others. If he is not doing that, he is producing music for others or working on his record label. In the recent Rolling Stones magazine, he talks about spending between 8-12 hours a day in the studio and he is currently working on Dr. Dre’s first cd in the last decade. As a teenager he spent hours writing words, and, breaking down each syllable in the word, and, then trying to rhyme every syllable underneath, while making it coherent. A consummate professional like this should be admired.
The late great Henri Nouwen said this : “There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.”
If we as Christians were to follow these great words by Henri Nouwen, then the music and life of Eminem would not be something to look down upon, but, something to be admired and respected. For his constant vulnerability in his music, has given hope and strength to millions because his life says to others “I know how you feel.” If we as Christians were to follow this mold of vulnerability, then the Church would begin being the Church. It would be a hospital for Sinners, not a museum for Saints.