In a recent interview with Elton John for Interview! Magazine, Eminem says that his BET Freestyle was not a protest against the nation itself - “We’re not trying to disrespect the military, we’re not trying to disrespect the flag, we’re not trying to disrespect our country”, he says - yet his latest single, dropped in the early hours this morning, speaks differently.
“Untouchable” is the second song to be released from Eminem’s new album, Revival, which is set to drop on Friday 15 December. The first - “Walk on Water” - had a distinctly different feel, and so fans can expect one of Eminem’s most varied albums to date. This six minute tirade is somewhat of a mirror to Joyner Lucas’ “I’m Not Racist” - an artist he respects - but of course, comes from a Caucasian perspective.
The song starts out with a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement - “Hands up, (officer) don’t shoot” - before going into the first section of the song. Like Lucas, he begins with the perspective of a white man - a cop. And exactly like “I’m Not Racist”, it makes for uncomfortable listening - yet the self-awareness of racial inequality within these lines is crucial.
'I keep telling myself keep doing like you're doing
No matter how many lives you ruin
It's for the red, white and blue
Time to go find a new one and split his head right in two'
As people of colour (and all reasonably aware people) know, this is, unfortunately, the attitudes of not only the police, but the state. Continuing on:
'Black boy, black boy, we don't get your culture and
We don't care what our government's done to f*** you over, man'
Starting off with a racial slur used back in the days of slavery, Eminem notes the historical oppression that’s faced Black people in America - slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, and perhaps, importantly, the ‘subtle’ subjugation of the late 20th century through a number of laws and techniques. Now, in 2017, we still see the open maltreatment of Black individuals by the state and by police.
Simply put, Caucasians are ‘untouchable’ while minorities are subject to unwanted harassment. As the beat switches up for part II, Eminem makes the brave decision of rapping from a Black person’s perspective. After lamenting racial repression, Mathers invokes the class struggle:
'F*** your republican views
Pull ourselves up by our bootstraps,
where the f***is the boots?'
As always, the intersectional view of persecution is vital to any sort of struggle; one can’t simply view such a societal aspect as simply based around one of race or class.
It was a brave song to make - but a principled one. Fred Hampton promoted the idea of a multiracial ‘Rainbow Coalition’ as people of all races come together to seek an egalitarian society. As a (powerful) white rapper with reach and influence, it’s important, as Eminem did, to recognise one’s privilege - it’s a crucial way to support the minority struggle.
We’ll leave you as Marshall does in the song - with these final, poignant lyrics:
'So the whole nation feels like a plantation field
In a country that claims that it was foundation on based on united states ideals
That had its Natives killed
Got you singing the Star Spangled Banner to a piece of cloth that represents the land of the free that made people slaves to build'
Listen to 'Untouchable' below:
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