by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

Editor’s note: This column contains lyrics that could be offensive. But the Free Press thinks they’re important to understand the columnist’s view.

So I went to the Eminem concert in a football stadium last week and here’s one good thing I can say about it right off the bat: There were no long guitar solos. That was good. There were also no musicians. That was bad.

Eminem arrived in a Hummer that came up through the floor of the stadium. That was good. He jumped out and began rapping. That was good. Most of the lyrics were angry, mean, profane, sexist or just plain filthy. That was bad. But I couldn’t understand too much because the bass was booming like a belching Cyclops. That was good.

Did I say bass? Yes. Bass. But there was no bass player. There were records, played over the giant speakers, to which Eminem performed. Singing along with records used to be considered bad. Now it’s considered good. Which I think is bad.

There was one song — is it really a song if it’s a rap? — and it was done by one of the many co-rappers Eminem had with him, and in this song, I swear I am not making this up, the only two words I could understand were “child support.”

Did I mention it was sold out?

Some 45,000 came to that show, rivaling anything Bruce Springsteen or the Rolling Stones could draw. And they have instruments!

Here’s another thing I heard:


It is what it is

At last count, I heard it 279 times. “WHASSUP, DETROIT?” I heard it from Eminem, from 50 Cent, from Obie Trice. (Forget lyrics. The most inventive part of rap is the names.)


Now, being hopelessly square — but willing to learn — I always had taken
“whassup?” to be a form of greeting, sort of like, “How’s things?” or “What’s your sign?”

So the first time they yelled “WHASSUP, DETROIT?” I yelled back “whoo!” The second time, same thing. Third time, a little less.

By the 127th WHASSUP, I was WHAS-OUT. I mean, how many times would you yell,
“I’m fine, thank you”?

But at least I understood those words. Most of the others were too loud or distorted. I did catch this from an Eminem anthem:

I am, whatever you say I am,if I wasn’t, then why would I say I am?

It’s hard to argue with that logic, although I think I first read it in “The Cat in the Hat.” Still, I would rather have a packed stadium singing that than another verse to which everyone — including countless junior high school-aged kids — was urged by Eminem to sing along:

Don’t f—With Shady, Cause ShadyWill f—-‘ kill you.

People sang this and waved their arms and smiled, as if we were all singing

He’s no Rocky Balboa

Oh, well. It had energy and it’s good to see 45,000 at a downtown event. Still, if you asked me to sum up the Eminem football stadium concert, I would say it was mostly about people kidding themselves.

Because Eminem grew up in the Detroit area, he was hailed as “hometown.” This meant the same people who would vilify another rapper who sang about killing his girlfriend instead cheered him like a war hero.

And parents who normally bridle their kids let them go because they saw the movie “Eight Mile” in which Eminem turns himself into Rocky, and they said,
“Oh, see, he’s different,” never bothering to listen to an actual Eminem CD that would make them throw up.

There is also something odd about a guy who screams about being trashy and blue collar and anti-establishment, but lives in a 22,000-square-foot mansion. You can only get so angry at your butler, you know?

On the way out of the show, I passed a man playing a harmonica and collecting money. He wasn’t particularly good, but then, to cite a famous rapper, “He is, whatever I say he is.” And given what I had just heard, I say he’s Mozart.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com.


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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