Marshall Bruce Mathers III AKA Eminem, as I’m sure all of you know, is one of the best-selling music artists in the world. He is a well known individual as a rapper, actor, and producer. Eminem has an unusual style which reflects off of his unique character. He uses profanity like it is his only language. In a way, he makes his lyrics into a beautiful story no matter how vulgar it can get. As I was reading Immanuel Kant’s “What is Enlightenment,” I spent some time thinking of which individuals in modern time would be considered “enlightened.” No one came to mind as I realized the definition of being “enlightened” is difficult to achieve in today’s society. People have become accustomed to routine and following what people tell them to do, whether or not they realize it. Over Thanksgiving break, I bought a poster of Eminem, and as I was thinking about what to write, I pondered if Eminem would be considered “enlightened.”
Kant defines “enlightment” as:
“Man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from others” (522).
When an individual can build up courage and use his own understanding, he can reach enlightenment. Most people are lazy, and therefore, it is easier for them to follow what other people tell them to do. Cowardice is another factor that hinders many from reaching this enlightenment. The moment we can pass our own immaturity and make decisions for ourselves is when we are considered to be enlightened.
Eminem shows through his lyrics what kind of life he had in the past, which ultimately made him an enlightened individual. The life he had was rough as his father abandoned his family when he was only 18 months old and his mother had to raise him in poverty. He dropped out of school at age 17. He was married twice to Kimberly Scott, which ended in a final divorce. He faced many struggles which included: poverty, drugs, game, heartbreak, and depression. However, Eminem was able to learn from these struggles and grow from them.
“Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk…” (522).
Eminem did this as he grew his own record, Shady Records, and his own group project, D12. He has a daughter named Hailie, of whom he raps about in many of his songs. He also adopted Lainey and Whitney and is the legal guardian of Nathan, his younger half-brother. He has achieved a lot in his life to date. With his own record label, he is able to produce and write his songs without any fear. He is fearless as he attempts to go outside the walls of the norm and publicly rap about anything that he wants. He eventually rose to fame and achieved mainstream recognition, and can now be seen as an enlightened individual.
Kant says that the only thing necessary to reach enlightenment is freedom.
“Nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom; and the freedom in question is the least harmful of all, namely, the freedom to use reason publicly in all matters” (523).
Kant believes that with freedom, enlightenment is inevitable. This requires self-appreciation and for each person to think for himself. Enlightenment requires free-thinking.
As I was listening to “Eminem ft. Lil Wayne – No Love” when it first came out, and found myself admiring, once again, the story he can tell through his lyrics. [Skip to 2:40 for Eminem’s Part].
His rise to fame resulted from his music and his courage to voice publicly anything he wants to. His use of crude jokes, humorous subject matter, vulgar images, and profanity is shown in not only this song, but many others. Eminem shows boldness in his lyrics and actions and he has this freedom to voice his opinions and thoughts freely and publicly. This is what Kant is referring to when talking about enlightenment. He writes his own music with no restrictions, unlike many other artists. He writes a majority of his lyrics on paper, which all starts with an idea of how he wants his lyrics to be structured and creates music according to that. He is one of the few individuals that have surpassed others in the way a person can think for their self. Although he seems immature to many, I believe that Eminem is one of a select number of people to freely think and then make his thoughts public. He is “englightened.”