To the Editor:

Aisha Gayle doesn’t understand the appeal of Eminem. That much, at least, is clear. But beyond this point, her column (“What Eminem’s fame says about America”, 2/27) recedes into a contradictory and largely incoherent form of passive-aggressive racism that I — not so much as a white-Hispanic individual, but more as a lover of urban music and culture — find offensive.

She begins with nothing new, attacking the lyrics. Of course, she is equally justified in condemning such lyrics as the artist is in producing them. I applaud her for stating her views, and I truly respect the right she has to voice her opinion. But upon further inspection, it is apparent her criticism is not based so much upon offensive lyrics, but rather upon the fact that Eminem is “appropriating a traditionally minority art form.”

She fails to understand one of the beauties of today’s urban culture, namely that it can’t be condensed or generalized along the lines of race, gender or socio-economic background. The backhanded statement that Eminem “supposedly” faced hardships growing up strikes me as a myopic view of the world that one would hope not to find at Yale — we all have our struggles and should try to respect and understand those of others, particularly if we plan to make critical assessments of their art forms.

Eminem’s deft lyrical assault on society and unique off-beat flow have firmly established him in contemporary hip-hop culture. Witness his ascension to superstardom and appearance at the Grammys. His anger, as Gayle notes, is nothing new in the genre, but the way he expresses it is a clear evolution in rap music. So attack Eminem or leave him alone; attack rap music or leave it alone. But please, don’t condemn either from a blatantly hypocritical and biased perspective.

Donny Waack ’03

February 27, 2001