Monday, October 25, 2004


politic ditto

Eminem's "Mosh" video.
(credit: Hua Hsu)

The video opens with the sound and sight of an airliner, flying off screen, accompanied with an explosion: the allusion is clear. From there, we see everything referenced from racial profiling by police to a parody of Bush sitting stunned in a Florida classroom, to renters getting evicted by greedy corpoglomerates, to Bin Laden being held up as Cheney's puppet. The ending images are of a mass of black hoodied youth walking through the streets - not to burn the motherfucker down but to register to vote. TO REGISTER TO VOTE. Put aside the fact that Eminem himself has never voted: seriously, this video is a kick to the head, a parade of images and messages that leaves even a tired, old progressive like me feeling simultaneously charged and astonished.

I have to admit: watching Eminem's "Mosh" is pretty damn stunning, especially from an artist who I've called "misanthropic" not that long ago. Em is now extending on Michael Moore's criticisms of the Bush Administration, creating a video where the main thrust is to call for insurrection through democracy. Be a cynic all you want, say it's just some clever P.R. ploy on Em's part to stir up interest in his upcoming Encore album but offer me a more visible call to action that you're going to see on MTV, BET, VH1, etc.?

Here's the 2004 scorecard. Two of the most "political" statements made by rappers this year did NOT come from the expected voices like Talib Kweli and Mos Def. Instead, we have Jadakiss with "Why?" and Eminem with "Mosh." Add to that Jay-Z guesting with Dead Prez, Sean Combs urging MTV viewers to "Vote or Die," and Trick Daddy registering voters (again) and hip-hop's visible political order now seems completely out of whack with expectations.

I want to be very careful in making this argument. As J.C. often reminds me, much of the hip-hop generation's political force comes not from the top down, through media darling icons, but rather through grass roots organizing by thousands (if not millions) of rap-savvy youth who are mobilizing in every corner of America. They are not the outgrowth of P. Diddy; it's the other way around.

I have some more thoughts on this but I'm taking a pause for the cause right about here.