May 11, 2010

Inspiration in the most unlikely of places

[Warning, the following post is rated "R" for language. Not my language, but, well... if you don't mind the F word, continue on and you'll see. Otherwise, better skip today's post.]

Have you seen 8 MILE? You know, the 'Eminem movie'? I used to be one of those people who would never have watched 8 MILE. Eminem is vulgar, I thought. Eminem is disgusting. An angry, venomous man.

But then I met Bear. And Bear loves Eminem. Over the years, I started listening to my husband's music. He started listening to mine. And I wondered... why does he like this guy? Bear's not vulgar or disgusting or angry or venomous.

Slowly, I began to appreciate Eminem's music. Like it, even. Then I bought Bear Em's autobiography for Christmas two years ago and I read it, too. The man's made a lot of mistakes, done a lot of things that hasn't helped his persona, but he's not the insane person the media makes him out to be. It's a show, a lot of it. And he takes his craft very, very seriously.

You can find inspiration in some of the most unlikely places. In Eminem's lyrics is one of them.

Don't believe me? Google the lyrics to his song Beautiful.

And I'm sure just about everybody's hear the theme song from 8 MILE -
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
If you move past the F bombs and references to hoes, (some of) the man's words are inspiring. Not every Eminem song is inspirational, of course. But he's a master of wordplay. He's a writer. And if you look closely, I bet you'll see familiar emotions.

Take 8 Mile, a song off the (what else?) 8 MILE soundtrack:

8 Mile by Eminem

Sometimes I just feel like, quittin' I still might
Why do I put up this fight, why do I still write
Sometimes it's hard enough just dealin' with real life
Sometimes I wanna jump on stage and just kill mics
And show these people what my level of skill's like
But I'm still white, sometimes I just hate life
Somethin' ain't right, hit the brake lights
Case of the stage fright, drawin' a blank like
Da-duh-duh-da-da, it ain't my fault
Great then I falls, my insides crawl
and I clam up (wham) I just slam shut
I just can't do it, my whole manhood's
just been stripped, I have just been vicked
So I must then get off the bus then split
Man fuck this shit yo, I'm goin' the fuck home
World on my shoulders as I run back to this 8 Mile Road
Eminem grew up in a bad section of Detroit, one of the poorest cities in the country. 8 Mile Road separated poverty-stricken Detroit from the affluent suburbs to the north. In Eminem's songs, 8 Mile Road represents his default socioeconomic status (his father abandoned him when he was 2 and he was raised by a single mother), and 8 Mile Road is a symbol for everything he desperately wishes to escape.

Eminem was a talented rapper, and though he worked hard, at that time there were few white people in rap, and he was met with resistance and prejudice, which, at times, made him wonder if he'd ever make it, if the hard work and dedication would ever pay off (starting to sound familiar?).

I'm a man, I'ma make a new plan
Time for me to just stand up, and travel new land
Time for me to just take matters into my own hands
Once I'm over these tracks man I'ma never look back
(8 Mile Road) And I'm gone, I know right where I'm goin'
Sorry momma I'm grown, I must travel alone
ain't gon' follow the footsteps I'm making my own
Only way that I know how to escape from this 8 Mile Road
Eminem was determined not to follow in the footsteps of his mother, who was dysfunctional and poverty-stricken. He had few good memories of his home and family, which he used to fuel his desire to achieve, rather than wallow and give up.
I'm walkin' these train tracks, tryin to regain back
the spirit I had 'fore I go back to the same crap
To the same plant, and the same pants
Tryin' to chase rap, gotta move ASAP
And get a new plan, momma's got a new man
Poor little baby sister, she don't understand
Sits in front of the TV, buries her nose in the pad
And just colors until the crayon gets dull in her hand
While she colors her big brother and mother and dad
Ain't no tellin what really goes on in her little head
Wish I could be the daddy that neither one of us had
But I keep runnin' from somethin I never wanted so bad!
Sometimes I get upset, cause I ain't blew up yet
It's like I grew up, but I ain't grow me two nuts yet
Don't gotta rep my step, don't got enough pep
The pressure's too much man, I'm just tryin to do what's best
He had so much going on in his life, so many things to pull him from his dream. He's trying to stay passionate, to prevent the day-to-day troubles from dampening his spirit. He's trying not to let the world that says - you can't do it, your dream is crazy, go back to your day job - defeat him.
And I try, sit alone and I cry
Yo I won't tell no lie, not a moment goes by
That I don't pray to the sky, please I'm beggin' you God
Please don't let me get pigeon holed in no regular job
Yo I hope you can hear me homey wherever you are
Yo I'm tellin' you dawg I'm bailin' this trailer tomorrow
Tell my mother I love her, kiss baby sister goodbye
Say whenever you need me baby, I'm never too far
But yo I gotta get out there, the only way I know
And I'ma be back for you, the second that I blow
On everything I own, I'll make it on my own
Off to work I go, back to this 8 Mile Road
He doubts himself. He's scared that such heavy focus on his dream might hurt his loved ones.

You gotta live it to feel it, you didn't you wouldn't get it
Or see what the big deal is, why it wasn't the skillest
To be walkin' this borderline of Detroit city limits
It's different, it's a certain significance, a certificate
of authenticity, you'd never even see
But it's everything to me, it's my credibility
You never seen heard smelled or met a real MC
who's incredible upon the same pedestal as me
But yet I'm still unsigned, havin' a rough time
Sit on the porch with all my friends and kick dumb rhymes
He embraces who he is, realizes that his unique voice, his unique experiences, make him unlike anyone else, and that is an advantage.
Go to work and serve MC's in the lunchline
But when it comes crunch time, where do my punchlines go
Who must I show, to bust my flow
Where must I go, who must I know
He experiences others with the same or even less talent making it before him.
Or am I just another crab in the bucket
Cause I ain't havin' no luck with this little Rabbit so fuck it
Maybe I need a new outlet, I'm startin' to doubt shit
I'm feelin a little skeptical who I hang out with
I look like a bum, yo my clothes ain't about shit
At the Salvation Army tryin' to salvage an outfit
And it's cold, tryin' to travel this road
Plus I feel like I'm on stuck in this battlin' mode
My defenses are so up, but one thing I don't want
is pity from no one, the city is no fun
There is no sun, and it's so dark
Sometimes I feel like I'm just bein' pulled apart
From each one of my limbs, by each one of my friends
It's enough to just make me wanna jump out of my skin
Sometimes I feel like a robot, sometimes I just know not
He feels like giving up. He's being distracted by real life responsibilities. He feels alone. No one else understands how important his dream is.
what I'm doin' I just blow, my head is a stove top
I just explode, the kettle gets so hot
Sometimes my mouth just overloads the ass that I don't got
But I've learned, it's time for me to U-turn
Yo it only takes one time for me to get burned
Ain't no fallin' no next time I meet a new girl
I can no longer play stupid or be immature
I got every ingredient, all I need is the courage
Like I already got the beat, all I need is the words
Got the urge, suddenly it's a surge
Suddenly a new burst of energy is occurred
Time to show these free world leaders the three and a third
I am no longer scared now, I'm free as a bird
Then I turn and cross over the median curb
Hit the 'burbs and all you see is a blur from 8 Mile Road
He finally let go of all the internal issues (confidence, fear, etc.) holding him back, stopped making excuses, and just did it.
There's a lot more I could infer from this song, but this post is already long enough.

What unlikely places do you draw inspiration from?


Marquita Hockaday said...

WOW! This is a very uplifting and inspiring post- great use of Eminem's lyrics and writing skills :) My cuz bought me his autobiography for Christmas a few years back and I was transfixed when I read it. I agree, he is NOT as bad as the media makes him out to be. He does do a lot of it for show- but you can tell he has been through a lot of crap in his life and that helps him to be the wonderful writer that he is. Again, AWESOME post...I <3 your for writing it b/c Eminem is in fact one of the famous men that I stalk on a daily basis!

The Blue Lipstick Samurai said...

Awesome post, great dissection of lyrics. I LOVE Eminem and now I need to read his biography. I think it's no coincidence the angry and vulgar and venemous sometimes make the most striking artists; they're just so passionate in their work, their dreams, they can't take the 'real life responsibilities.' And the strangest place I've ever gotten inspiration was a jar of novelty candy.

Abby Stevens said...

Marquita - THANK YOU! I loved his autobiography - especially the pictures of his writing that if you looked close enough you could SEE actual familiar lyrics among his scribbles.

Blue - ( :-) ) It's a very interesting read. I just sat in bed and read the whole thing in one sitting (granted, it's not very long). And I agree - they aren't 'normal people,' they can't take the every day responsibilities, so for them, it's almost like - make it or die. And I'd love to know what that jar of novelty candy inspired!

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