Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Growing old is mandatory..."

“…growing up is optional.” – Chili Davis

Why would I begin this piece with a quote from a former MLB slugger if not for the fact that it perfectly punctuates the lesson I’ve learned in the wake of the release of Eminem’s new single, “We Made You”. At first, the song made me cringe. Why, I wondered, would Eminem put out this obnoxious track to kick-start his presumed come-back to entertainment? It all came to me the following weekend at a friend’s house.

My friend’s fourteen-year-old brother was blasting this track from his room. I wasn’t too surprised, since he’s an adamant follower of radio-rap; nonetheless, I wanted to get the inside scoop on what the kids think about music these days. And then it dawned on me! Therein lies the issue at hand: why had I just used the word “kids”? Responding to my inquiry, my friend’s little bro simply bopped his shoulders and muttered “I dunno, ‘cause I like it”. I probably would have said the same thing when The Eminem Show dropped in 2003, back when I myself was a mere fourteen-year-old, back when my mom couldn’t understand this “phase” either.

I had first heard of Eminem in 1999, when he released “My Name Is”, the second single from The Slim Shady LP. I was only eleven-years-old at the time, green behind the ears, devoid of (most) corrupt thoughts. This was all until I reveled in a fantasy world in which someone might smack a teacher with an eraser, chase him with a stapler, and staple his nuts to a stack of papers. I’m paraphrasing here! When The Marshall Mathers LP came out, I was an enthusiast. When The Eminem Show was released, I was a fanatic. To me, Eminem’s music was a rare – and revolutionary – breed of quirkiness, immaturity, profundity, violence, and vulgarity. But perhaps most explicitly, it was comical. Truly, Eminem was destined to make an impact on the generation of baby-boomer-babies. And he opened up the genre of hip hop to a broad spectrum of kids. I had grown up on a steady diet of rock (The Beatles, mostly), jazz and Motown classics (like Em’, my dad hails from the D). I had only listened to hip hop in spurts throughout my childhood, by commercial artists like Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Tupac, Biggie, Puff Daddy, Ma$e, Montell Jordan, Coolio and… maybe just a handful of others. That’s it. Though I hate to admit it, The Marshall Mathers LP was the first hip hop album I heard in full. That’s how important his music was back then.

Where am I going with this? I bring this all up to show the gap between the “then” and the “now”. Since the late-‘90’s, I’ve dived into hip hop culture, listening to records that would have left my fourteen-year-old self clueless and, perhaps, dumbstruck. Back then, I was bored by the dusty, raw sounds of ‘80’s-era hip hop. Nowadays, I mourn its loss.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that my taste in music has not only grown up, but grown old as well. I’ve felt the very fate that fans of Hannah Montana/Jonas Brothers/you-name-it-Disney-manufactured-pop-act are bound to experience. At one point, the childishness must stop. Eminem’s new music is made with the intent of reaching the old-me’s – and by that I mean the younger-me’s – of contemporary 2009. But I’ve grown old. It was mandatory. Eminem’s music, on the other hand, hasn’t grown up. Grow up, Marshall! For us, the original fans!