Eminem is notoriously famous for his controversial music, first for being a white rapper and now for addressing issues most people would prefer not to acknowledge. Once again the phenomenal rapper has released a song that forces listeners to see the brutality and injustice in the world. ‘Untouchable’ is the second track to be released from Eminem’s ninth album, Revival, and sees him taking on the persona of different characters to address the serious issue of racism in the modern world.
Listen to ‘Untouchable’ here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56KYMMGudcU
Friday, December 8th saw the release of ‘Untouchable’ and has been the song on everyone’s lips ever since. Before even delving into the lyrics, the song has a backing track that is a mixture of both rock and rap, the seamless blending of genres changing the impact of the lyrics drastically. The first half of the song could be something plucked out of a Limp Bizkit album whilst the second half is more like the Slim Shady we all know. The intro of the song is an almost haunting swirl backed by police radio static behind the lyrics that are a combination of two characters; a white cop and a black civilian. The lines of ‘officer don’t shoot/then pull your pants up, promise you won’t loot’ sound like a stand-off, giving a powerful introduction to the song whilst also drawing attention to the grossly inaccurate stereotypes people still believe to be true. The hard hitting, ‘we may never understand each other, it’s no use’ embodying the feeling of defeat people currently feel with the world’s morals beginning plunged into the past.
The first two verses see Eminem donning the character of a racist white cop, evaluating the thoughts that go through his head and the justifications he tries to give to these thoughts. Eminem calls out Americans, and those like them, for hiding behind patriotism and claiming, ‘I keep tellin’ myself…no matter how many lives you ruin/It’s for the red, white and blue.’ The racial epithet of ‘black boy’ being repeated, at the beginning of each verse, drives home the ignorance of these views due to its outdated and racist origin. The first verse also includes a reference to Freddie Gray’s death when he was thrown into the back of a police van and suffered serious injuries as a result that many believe led to his death. The inclusion of the event through the line ‘we ‘bout to roll up and throw your ass in the van cuffed’ leaves no room for denial by presenting a fact alongside thoughts. Both verses explore racial profiling and the dangers this brings to people’s views of different cultures. The misunderstanding between races is also addressed through lines like ‘black boy, black boy, we don’t get your culture’ and describing the current climate ‘like we’re drifting back to the sixties.’
The chorus of ‘Untouchable’ flips the song on its head, now using the address of ‘white boy, white boy’ in the same mocking tone. The effect of this is causing narrow minded people to realise how ridiculous the whole thing is but how the danger of it is completely serious. The chorus also includes samples from Cheech & Chong’s iconic, comedy piece ‘Earache My Eye’.
The third verse changes the tone of the song completely, the lyrics now being told from the perspective of a black character. The change in voice is extremely clever due to the fact that the whole song is about how white culture claims to not understand black culture, when in fact it’s more of a refusal. The refusal is made clear by the fact that Eminem – a white man – has the capacity to understand and recognise the injustice the black community face. The verse also references Die Antwoord’s ‘Fatty Boom Boom’ video where they were called out for their lead female singer being portrayed in black face. The line of ‘I’d rather hear ‘em day “Die N-word’ than Die Antwoord’ gives an example of white culture mocking black culture whilst also emphasising the defeat people within the community are feeling. It’s sobering that the narrator would rather endure racial slurs than watch white people mock and destroy black culture.
The backing track and lyrics of ‘Untouchable’ combine to create a powerful but also scary song, one that brings to light the regressive world we are heading towards. As the song descends further into the despair conjured by racial profiling, it becomes more haunting and highlights the fear being caused by racism.
Eminem’s new single ‘Walk on Water’ seems to be taking things in a new direction: https://musicnews2dayblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/eminems-new-single-walk-on-water-seems-to-be-taking-things-in-a-new-direction/
Eminem stands against Donald Trump in diss track ‘The Storm’: https://musicnews2dayblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/eminem-stands-against-donald-trump-in-diss-track-the-storm/
Review by Skye W. Winwood