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Eminem Enlightened?

December 8, 2010

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.

Kant states:

“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.”


  1. December 8, 2010 11:29 AM

    This is a good post; very well thought out. I never would have considered Eminem to be considered “enlightened” before this post, but I see where you’re coming from. He is the classic rags to riches story and by doing things in his own way. In growing up in this industry though, he has learned what his audiences like and what they don’t. So I don’t know necessarily if he is writing as freely as he could, but the fact that people expect him to write and rap the way he does, almost cuts down the idea that he is out of immaturity and acting the way he wants to without the influence of others.
    Other’s still influence his decisions on what will sell and what won’t, we would assume; but as an audience we expect his music to be vulgar and outspoken.
    So, i agree with the post, but also there’s another way to look at it.

  2. Sara Mitchell permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:44 AM

    I really enjoyed this blog post because I myself am an Eminem fan. I love listening to his lyrics because they always tell a story and his words are strung together to beautifully. I have always thought of Eminem as a very strong willed and determined person because of what he had to overcome, but after reading this I do think Eminem can be considered Enlightened. He was very immature and one can argue even lazy in his past and he has become a new person and really cleaned his act up. He has come to be what he is today with the help of no one but himself and his drive to be better. I think that Eminem does write as freely as he wants because the lyrics come directly from him and his experiences. I think he chooses the music and rhythms to accompany his lyrics based on what his audiences like and don’t like.

  3. schearer permalink
    December 8, 2010 11:56 AM

    I really enjoyed this blog. The part that really stuck out to me was how you had no one in mind when you were thinking of modern day people who have been enlightened. In today’s society it almost seems as if all people are conformists. When I say this I mean that they act in the same way as every other person because it is socially acceptable. They do this, at times, without realizing it because no person wants to be ridiculed by society. For Eminem to have the courage to do what he wants to do however he wants to do it perfectly portrays the idea of being enlightened. Much of society does not like Eminem, but if they were to listen to his songs and hear the stories he is telling they may be surprised and see that all of society should not be robots only acting as everyone else. We are free people and should act in a way that displays this. There should be more Eminem’s in our society. You could take out the crudeness of his message, but the main characteristic I am talking about is his courage to go out and do something that may not be socially acceptable. On page 522 Kant says, “Have courage to use your own understanding!”-that is the motto of enlightenment. If all the conformists in society had to courage to act in a way they wanted and began to use their own understanding we could have many more influential people in society. Each and every individual should lead their own life, not the life of someone else. In the end I couldn’t agree more about Eminem being enlightened and we need more individuals in the world today with his courage and understanding.

  4. Zach Kudman permalink
    December 8, 2010 4:48 PM

    I found this blog post refreshing and thought provoking. I believe that many people dismiss the works of certain artists because they are labeled profane or obscene. Unfortunately, people often fail to look through these characterizations and analyze the works themselves. In the case of Eminem, he has become famous not just for his rhythms and verses but also for the commentary contained in his songs. By speaking out about the difficult parts of his life, he illustrates his desire to better himself, as well as provide for his loved ones. Eminem is so popular in our society because he is willing to criticize and speak out about a wide variety of subjects, including politics and pop-culture. In the past, his comments and music have been criticized for containing messages that are not “politically correct.” The essence of Eminem, however, is that he does not care about political correctness. I admire Eminem not because I necessarily agree with his viewpoints but because he is willing to voice them regardless.

  5. Jeff Safenowitz permalink
    December 8, 2010 6:02 PM

    This post is very interesting, and has brought forth many ideas that I have never previously thought about. Just like the first comment above, while reading about “enlightenment” Eminem was the last thing on my mind. After reading this post however, I absolutely agree with you. Based on the evidence you provided, it seems as if Kant would agree that Eminem could in fact be considered “enlightened”. This brings up another idea as to what other musicians or even athletes can be considered “enlightened”. I believe that all-star outfielder Josh Hamilton is very similar to Eminem with regards to being “enlightened”. Mr. Hamilton overcame serious drug addiction and returned to baseball as one of, if not the, best player in the league today. Each day is a struggle for him to learn from the past. Due to this, I believe Josh Hamiliton would be considered “enlightened” as well.

  6. Eric Tellem permalink
    December 8, 2010 6:25 PM

    Anyone who doubts Eminem’s genius is sadly mistaken. Lyrically he is on another level then anyone in the rap game, but his smarts goes beyond that. There are very few people that can change a persons emotions through his or her music and Eminem does it better then anyone. He evokes all emotions in music, whos to say that isnt enlightened? Kant would have to agree.

  7. blanchc permalink
    December 8, 2010 7:11 PM

    I agree that Eminem is a very good artist and that he has accomplished a lot in his life. However, I don’t believe overcoming obstacles in life and speaking your mind alone qualifies someone as being “enlightened”. I think in order to know if Eminem is enlightened, you would have to know him personally and even then you may not be able to tell. Only he knows the extent to which he questions things and uses his reason instead of simply following the crowd.

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