At the 4:25 mark of “Rap God,” Eminem says “I’ma kill you. Lyrics coming at supersonic speed.” Then he’s like an Olympic sprinter off the starting blocks. Em raps fast enough to sing 90 words in 15 seconds,* his voice a machine gun. The sequence ends with “I make elevating music/You make elevator music.” And it all rhymes. Look up the lyrics to this song and you’ll see long sentences, because Eminem can rap at supersonic speed and he has a lot to say.
“Rap God” is one of the best tracks on Eminem’s blockbuster new album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” The other biggest album of 2013 is “Yeezus,” by Kanye West, which includes a song called “I am a God (feat. God).”
So, two hip-hop icons. Each with a new album. Each with a song about how he—is—a—God. It’s a God fight of the highest order.
(Unless you believe in real Gods. Who fight.)
And it’s not even close. Kanye’s “I am a God” is an awesome song, but it’s crap compared with “Rap God.” “I am a God,” Kanye says. Then he says it again, and again, and again. The lyrics in-between that same line on repeat are much shorter. “I am a God” features this absolutely classic line:
I am a God
So hurry up with my damn massage
In a French-ass restaurant
Hurry up with my damn croissants!
Terrific stuff, but it’s also quick and goofy compared with Em. (“I am a God” is half as long as “Rap God,” too.) It’s one thing to be a God because you just say it constantly and brag about how large your life is. It’s another to claim Godly powers and then rap crazy lyrics in this way that thrills for the sheer skill and talent it takes to spit so well.
We can’t sing along with Eminem. We can merely bob our heads and smile.
Kanye sells plain white T shirts with his name on the tag for $120. He proposed to his reality-TV-star girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, by renting out AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. He had an orchestra playing while the jumbo-tron flashed “PLEEEASE MARRY MEEE!”
Eminem married his high school sweetheart twice. Her name’s Kim, and their relationship has been fraught enough to spawn songs about him killing her with the help of their daughter. Eminem has also adopted two other daughters related to Kim (according to Wikipedia).
At the beginning of the great, great “MMLP2” song “The Monster” (featuring Rihanna), Eminem raps about wanting to be an artist, not a celebrity.
I wanted the fame but not the cover of Newsweek
Oh well, guess beggars can’t be choosey.
Wanted to receive attention for my music
Wanted to be left alone in public, excuse me.
He means it. Kanye, on the other hand, loves fame. Cultivates it. The unveiling of his kid’s name (North) was HUGE gossip-mag news. Eminem is adopting daughters and keeping it himself.
At the end of Kanye’s “I am a God,” the music gives way to long screams. The soundtrack goes full-blown slasher-flick. He’s screaming, and we hear the sound of running steps, and the music sounds like it should accompany Michael Meyers slowly stalking a babysitter.
What’s with the screams? The website Rap Genius proffers thus:
(T)hese are screams of being internally tortured.
Kanye is a god in terms of material success, but he ends the song screaming for his life, stopping for breath, panting, only to start again in front of a horrorcore backdrop. He’s like a victim in a slasher flick—except he’s being eternally tortured and pursued by his inner demons.
It’s a theme that’s been apparent from (“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”) onward. The notion that he’s sold his soul for fame and fortune and the juxtaposition between his strongly-Christian upbringing/core and his decadent celebrity lifestyle of sin.
That’s interesting, and when you’re listening to the song it makes you think. But it doesn’t make you bob your head and smile. It’s not really music, listening to a guy scream and run.
Kanye’s a celebrity making art; Eminem’s a writer making music. Being a God is about creation, right? And creation is putting out product. Both men are claiming to be Gods, but one created a better song about it than the other. This God Fight goes to Em.
*Check out the 8-minute mark of this performance.