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Listening to Eminem Made Me Slang Toxic Dick
There’s an entire generation of men who don’t feel seen or heard, if the world doesn’t learn to talk to us, the wrong people will.
Welcome to the Black Album: A series of essays using songs to reflect on politics, sex, life, patriarchy and whatever else comes up. Click here for last weeks essay.
Vocals: Eminem Dina Rae
Assistant Engineer: Not Available
Superman, one of my favorite songs from the long discography of Eminem, and also one of the most toxic ones around. When I try to think about what draws me to this song, it always goes back to the way it made me feel the first time I heard it. I have said this many times, or maybe I have meant to say it, but growing up, I was a very angry kid. I didn’t quite have the words to say it back then, but its clear now. There was always a ball of rage sitting in the pit of my stomach.
For a long time that ball remained there, slowly growing lager and larger by the day. I spent a lot of that time feeling ugly, unimportant, disrespected, and unwanted. My stepmother was still my biggest challenge, she would verbally and physically abuse me. My father was physically present… sometimes, but emotionally aloof and completely uninterested in my life. Unless of course, I had done something to piss him off. It felt like everyone had the choice to pick me up and drop me whenever they wanted, and no matter what I did, it was always my fault.
There was no stability, no safety, and an abundance of chaos. As I grappled with those pieces, I was also trying to navigate a community fractured by all of the things that break poor Black neighborhoods. Poverty, gangs, drugs, power, and the police. Everyday was a frantic fight for a life I wasn’t sure was worth living.
Eminem’s music was the first time I had found an outlet besides violence to take back some of that power. It was like he understood what I was going through, and could articulate it perfectly in his songs. Superman was the ballad to the women in my life then, and for much of my adult years as well.
Leap tall hoes in a single bound
I'm single now: got no ring on this finger now
I'd never let another chick bring me down
In a relationship; save it, bitch!
Babysit? You make me sick
Superman ain't savin' shit,
Girl, you can jump on Shady's dick”
The first person on the list of women I was angry at was my stepmother. It’s clear to me now that she was dealing with her own demons, but at the time all I saw was someone who made my life miserable. When words didn’t work, she would use her fist. As a child, I would cower when she became violent, it used to feel like she would get off on my fear. No matter how hard I begged for mercy, she would just raise the stakes. Escalating until she drew blood, or someone intervened, rarely anyone ever did.
In my teen years, I began to rebel, I inflicted violence on others in retaliation to the harm she inflicted on me. Despite the damage I did to other people, mostly men, I never hit her back, but I would respond aggressively. She would take that as a challenge and up the ante, using weapons to knock me down physically while still chastising me. I would sit in my room bubbling with rage thinking of ways I could make her feel as small as she made me, that rage took my mind places I’m ashamed to speak of today, and am grateful I never acted on. Superman let me vent that rage, that desire to do physical harm without ever laying a finger on her.
“Don't put out? I'll put you out
Won't get out? I'll push you out
Puss blew out, poppin' shit
Wouldn't piss on fire to put you out
Am I too nice? Buy you ice?
Bitch, if you died, wouldn't buy you life”
Superman served multiple needs, because my stepmother wasn’t the only woman I was angry with. With no one in this world to call my own, I have always had a deep desire to be wanted, to be someone’s top priority, and for a long time, that desire trumped everything else. I prioritized love and affection from women over my own self respect, but who will love you if you don’t love yourself. After spending most of high-school and college being rejected by the women I had romantic interest for, I started to walk around with a chip on my shoulder. All of the women I liked could only see me as a “friend.” I didn't want to be their friend, that wasn’t good enough. My luck started turning junior year of college. Suddenly I was finding people who were interested, so I decided to use my fathers teachings, and Em’s philosophy in Superman to guide my actions.
From the age of 20-25, I engaged in countless casual and semi serious relationships. My intention in all of them was to fuck, if anything else came of it, that was fine, but it wasn’t my goal. After spending so much of my life wanting and looking for love, I finally had the opportunity to receive it, but was so blinded by years of anger, hurt and rejection, I could do nothing but everything in my power to prove that I was good enough. Good enough meant having sex with as many women as possible, if I did that, maybe my dad would be proud. Good enough meant making the women I dealt with fall for me, or commit, but never allowing myself to go too deep. Good enough also meant gravitating towards women who didn’t necessarily like me at all, because how could anyone ever like or love me? And what happens when you decide that your value is tied to the number of women you can sleep with, while avoiding any effort at an emotional connection? Pain, and lots of it, inevitably, the more I fucked, the emptier I felt, and the more fucking I needed to do to fill that void.
“We'll be friends, I'll call you again
I'll chase you around every bar you attend
Never know what kinda car I'll be in
We'll see how much you'll be partyin' then
You don't want that, neither do I
I don't wanna flip when I see you with guys
Too much pride, between you and I
Not a jealous man, but females lie”
As that void got larger, I had to find more women to fill it. I wanted so badly to prove that no woman could ever hurt me or make me feel as small as my step mother did, I ended up on a very dark path. I have talked about the things that pulled me out of this void, so I won't go through it again, but now that I am ten plus years removed from some of the darkest and angriest times of my life, “Superman” still hits a chord. Em speaks to a piece of me that will always exist, he spoke to a lot of men and boys like me, and while his popularity has weaned, others have begun to fill the hole he left.
Instead of blasting the Eminem show, millions of men are listening to the incoherent teachings of Kevin Samuels. A man who believes that women are only as valuable as their physical features, and men as much as they are able to provide financially. For those who don’t like Kevin Samuels, there are countless examples of masculinity they can aspire to. All of them are tied to “power” but power in this context means the ability to overpower, dominate, and control.
Whether it’s a politician who believes that he is the almighty decider of all things, and willing to crush anyone who dares to question him, or the celebrity who assaults someone in front of millions of people, and then gives a speech about bullying, these are all new versions of “Superman.” They exist, because far too many boys, and even men feel like no one cares about them, or what they have to say, we, and they feel as if empathy isn’t a thing we deserve, and as the world shifts beneath our feet, it feels like to many, we are now becoming the enemy. I am not the only one who has existed with a ball of rage, Eminem was able to tap into it with his music; love, self reflection and a community pulled me out of the abyss. What about everyone else? If we leave these boys and men waiting for Superman, they will eventually find their savior in the wrong things, and the outcome won't be pretty.