Has Eminem–the poster child of American disenchantment–become the new face of activism?
Those who are accustomed to Eminem’s gay-bashing, gun-toting antics will hardly believe their eyes, as they watch his new video in which the top-selling rapper and his posse file into the voting booths, the words “Vote Tuesday, November 2” fading into the screen.
“Mosh” could well be one of the most overtly political pop music videos ever produced, and is easily the most direct anti-Bush cultural statement since Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11. Although the video debuted just a week before the election, it could have an unprecedented cultural and political impact, coming from the top-grossing rap star in America, and one of the seminal pop icons of the last decade.
The largely animated video begins with a suited Eminem reading a book–“My Pet Bush”–upside down to a classroom full of children. Moments later, however, Eminem shifts from his usual mode of sarcastic critique to lyrics reflecting sincere political passion.
We see him shadowboxing in front of a wall plastered with newspaper headlines such as “Bush Knew,” “Bush Declares War,” “Congress OKs $87 Billion” and “Blechtell” [sic]. We see a soldier coming home from the war, only to find his wife holding out a letter stating “Private Kelly, You Have Been Re-Assigned to Iraq.” When the soldier reads the notice, his eyes shift from shock, to fear, to outrage, as he emphatically mouths “Fuck Bush.” Later, we see a woman opening an eviction notice while her children watch Bush talking about “tax cuts” on television.
“Mosh”‘s brooding beat elevates the song’s sense of urgency. “Let the President answer on high anarchy/Strap him with an AK-47, let him go/Fight his own war/ Let him impress daddy that way/No more blood for oil, we got our battles to fight on our own soil,” he shouts.
As Eminem and his battalion of urban foot soldiers march through the rain-soaked streets, there is a sense that an epic battle is imminent. He rallies the troops–“let us…set aside our differences, and assemble our own army, to disarm this weapon of mass destruction that we call our President”– but his army eventually shuns violence for the voting booths.
Critics–especially from the right–will dismiss “Mosh” as a shrewd attempt to boost record sales by capitalizing on the tide of anti-Bush populism. Yet, Eminem has truly made a leap with “Mosh”. In his first four albums–despite pointing out the absurdities of American politics and culture–his mantra, ultimately, was “I just don’t give a fuck.” Never before has he advocated for political change. Even if the song’s late arrival gives it a limited impact on the vote, Eminem’s pronounced political shift should send shivers through the largely unchecked right-wing establishment.