Eminem has a long history of violent rhymes about women, famous women not least. In a new cypher promoting the forthcoming Shady Records compilation Shady XV, he found a way to tie in a lyrical threat against a female celebrity with a national controversy over a real, non-metaphorical attack on a woman, as Billboard was first to report.
Eminem raps, “Bitch, I’ll punch Lana Del Rey right in the face twice, like Ray Rice.” He’s referring, of course, to both the Ultraviolence singer and the Baltimore Ravens football player who was suspended from the NFL after video surfaced showing him punching his then-fiancée in the face.
Ugh. It doesn’t sound much better in the context of the adjacent lyrics, as posted by Pitchfork: “But I may fight for gay rights, especially if they dyke is more of a knockout than Janay Rice/ Play nice? Bitch I’ll punch Lana Del Rey right in the face twice, like Ray Rice in broad daylight in the plain sight of the elevator surveillance/ ’Til her head is banging on the railing, then celebrate with the Ravens.”
The line about Del Rey came as part of a group freestyle that also included Shady Records stalwarts Royce Da 5’9” and Yelawolf (watch the part in question, followed by the whole video, below). Shady XV will be available on November 24, and Eminem has shared a new track from the album, “Detroit vs. Everybody,” which brings together a star-studded roster of Detroit rappers: Danny Brown, Big Sean, Dej Loaf, Royce da 5’9” and Trick Trick. At the very least, it’s great to see Brown getting a taste of that Slim Shady money, at least (scroll down to hear the track).
“Detroit vs. Everybody” follows previous Shady XV preview “Guts Over Fear,” a melodramatic Sia collaboration that, with its insistence that “I’d rather make ‘Not Afraid 2′ than another make mothafuckin’ ‘We Made You,’” had appeared to hint at a path away from jokey attacks on celebrities.
Azealia Banks, in a since-deleted tweet after the latest cypher, wrote, “@LanaDelRey but does eminem know that I will personally punch him in his mouth?!”
Nothing about Eminem’s Del Rey lyric is out of character for the rapper. Billboard points out his previous female celebrity targets in verse have included Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey; The Atlantic‘s alphabetized list of “Every Celebrity Eminem Has Ever Dissed” runs more than 50 names long. That’s aside from the less-famous women brutalized in his lyrics, to the point where last year The Onion parodies him with an article titled “Eminem Terrified As Daughter Begins Dating Man Raised On His Music.”
In fact, rather than shocking, at this point Eminem’s violent lyrical imagery, which no one is accusing him of meaning literally, has long since become just a part of what he’s expected to do. Another Onion headline springs to mind. As Flavorwire wrote of puzzling Kendrick Lamar collaboration “Love Game,” from last year’s The Marshall Mathers LP2, at this point Eminem’s return to such subject matter is “boring” and “redundant.” Asked last year by Rolling Stone about whether he’d have a “‘this disrespect for women has got to be through’ moment,” Eminem said, “I mean, listen, my sense of humor has certainly not gone away.”
Del Rey, for her part, is a noted Eminem fan. “I fucking love Eminem,” she said in a 2012 video interview, calling him “the master of lyrics.” And she is no stranger to aestheticizing the punching of women, either, quoting ’60s girl group the Shangri-Las on the Ultraviolence title track when she sings, “He hit me and it felt like a kiss.”
And it’s also true that Eminem is still far from the only rapper who can be criticized for misogynistic subject matter. My former SPIN colleague and current RS staffer Christophe R. Weingarten already tweeted, “Lots of dudes who bump ‘Fight Night’ on the reg doing their best to feign outrage over an Eminem lyric right now,” referring to a recent hit by Atlanta rap up-and-comers Migos. I’d argue there’s a distinction to be made, but is it a distinction without a difference? I don’t know.
In other words, this won’t be the last we hear about Eminem’s Rice-themed Del Rey dis (probably the rapper’s point, considering, once again, he was promoting an album). Eventually, the “Summertime Sadness” singer may even respond, probably setting off a whole new firestorm. Brace yourself for the think pieces — followed by the inevitable Saturday Night Live reconciliations.