Since the election of Donald Trump, political pundits and generally decent people everywhere continue to grapple with exactly who voted for—and continue to support—the worst president in modern history. Despite the missteps; daily chaos, erratic tweets fired off at 3 a.m., man-child temper tantrums and his overall propensity to repeatedly damn himself into the wrong side of history, one group still stands by their man. Trump’s base. His continuous rally to “Make America Great Again” panders particularly to this one group: blue-collar workers, the economically downtrodden, racists, sexists and xenophobes.
In other words, angry White men.
Last night (Oct. 10), hip-hop’s prodigal angry White boy, Eminem, returned to the stage at the 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards with a freestyle squarely aimed at Donald Trump and the base. On “The Storm,” the rapper excoriates the President as a “kamikaze that would probably cause a nuclear holocaust.”
For nearly five minutes, Eminem unleashes a blistering wrath on Trump’s hypocrisy and prejudice: “Trump, when it comes to givin’ a shit, you’re stingy as I am/Except when it comes to having the balls to go against me, you hide ’em/’Cause you don’t got the fucking nuts, like an empty asylum/Racism’s the only thing he’s fantastic for.”
Then, there’s the deluge of fuck-ups. “It’s like we take a step forwards, then backwards/But this is his form of distraction/Plus, he gets an enormous reaction/When he attacks the NFL, so we focus on that/Instead of talking Puerto Rico or gun reform for Nevada/All these horrible tragedies and he’s bored and would rather/’Cause a Twitter storm with the Packers,” he continues.
Eminem kicks dust at the claim that this administration will “drain the swamp.” “Then says he wants to lower our taxes/Then who’s gonna pay for his extravagant trips/Back and forth with his fam’ to his golf resorts and his mansions?/Same shit that he tormented Hillary for and he slandered/Then does it more/From his endorsement of Bannon/Support for the Klansmen,” Em delivers.
“The Storm” was the standout moment at the BET Hip Hop Awards. Hours after the show ended, the song continued to trend on Twitter and has garnered nearly 9 million views online as the No. 1 Trending video on YouTube. Celebrities have reacted resoundingly. J. Cole called the freestyle “potent.” Snoop Dogg gave a nod to Eminem’s possible sociopolitical inspirations. Former San Franscisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick, who was shouted out in the freestyle for his “Take The Knee” protests, shared his appreciation.
Voices beyond hip-hop have also given the rapper kudos. Trump critic, author and GQ Special Correspondent Keith Olbermann called “The Storm” the “best political writing of the year, period,” despite not being a fan of rap.
CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza called it a “primal scream.” He writes that the lyrics are too explicit to be reprinted on CNN but calls them, “the likes of which we haven’t seen in the two-plus years since the real-estate mogul emerged on the political scene.”
It’s important to note that rappers have already been vocal against Trump to varying degrees; what Eminem did isn’t inherently historic. As CNN commentator Bakari Sellers told XXL late last year, “We cannot and will not be silent. Hip-hop will be the soundtrack to our activism and artists are going to be on the front lines of change.”
YG and Nipsey Hussle came together for the track “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).” Killer Mike often condemns the administration and recently harangued the Vice President Pence over his NFL protests. “I hope we send his religious nut ass home.” Even other rappers at the BET Hip Hop Awards cyphers name-checked Trump.
The reason that “The Storm” is so powerful isn’t so much what Eminem said—or even his delivery—but the man behind the verse. Eminem’s message speaks directly to Trump’s base because he is them. When a heterosexual White man speaks, they listen.
Historically, Eminem has always represented a unique lens of White male angst in hip-hop. He grew up in trailer parks in the Metro Detroit area and still lives in Michigan (a state that voted for Trump). He’s never shied away from his self-proclaimed “White trash” heritage. His music has tackled addiction, his mother’s mental illness and poverty. He’s rapped about domestic violence and being a single father.
On “W.T.P.” (or, “White Trash Party”), he celebrates “tramp stamps,” a “wife beater” and other stereotypes associated with poor Whites. Unlike his rap predecessors, Eminem never purported to be anything he wasn’t; in regards to race, economics or otherwise. The way that Kid Rock feigned an impoverished backstory to garner credibility, Marshall Mathers actually lived it. Good or bad, he’s embraced the identity. And that includes problematic issues with race, misogyny and homophobia, which critics of “The Storm” have quickly pointed out. But that unabashed, politically incorrect messaging “for White men, by White men” resonates with well, White men.
After all, we have a President who has openly joked about grabbing women “by the pussy” and being able to “shoot somebody and not lose voters.” The same messaging for a White audience that helped Eminem become a hip-hop success propelled a reality star into the White House. “Like him in politics,” raps Eminem. “I’m using all of his tricks.”
Eminem knows there’s an intersection between his fans and Trump voters. Although the numbers show that Trump’s base is a bit complex, for our purposes, there’s no denying that many young White men voted for him. “I’m drawing in the sand a line, you’re either for or against,” raps Eminem on “The Storm.” “And if you can’t decide who you like more and you’re split. On who you should stand beside, I’ll do it for you with this: Fuck you.”
The good ol’ boys who believe in “locker room talk,” Confederate-era statutes and erecting a giant wall to keep out Mexicans may very well have dyed their hair platinum blond back in ’99. Neo-Nazis who marched in Charlottesville, Va. in Dockers with Tiki torches and pray to the altar of Steve Bannon can also be “Stans.” Eminem wants to make it clear: At this point in history, you’re either with him or against him.
In a strange case of déjà vu, back in 2004, MTV put on a special “convention” around Eminem called The Shady National Convention. The politically themed TV show featured Trump introducing the rapper with glowing praise as his “Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Cash.” Flailing his arms and beating his chest, Trump boasts, “And Donald Trump is telling you right now, Slim Shady is a winner. He’s got brains, he’s got guts, and he’s got Donald Trump’s vote. Ladies and gentlemen, our great candidate, Slim Shady!”
Thirteen years later, the line in the sand has been drawn. How will Donald Trump and—more importantly—his base respond?
Watch Eminem’s 2017 BET Hip Hop Awards Freestyle
See 40 Hip-Hop Albums Turning 20 in 2017