Why Eminem is winning his latest feud. Rapper Benzino is trying to raise his own profile by dissing Em, but the hip-hop world isn't buying, says Evan Serpick

By Evan Serpick
Updated February 04, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST
Eminem: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com; Benzino: Zach Cordner/Retna

Why Eminem is winning his latest feud

It was only a matter of time.

Since he first introduced himself to America with ”My Name Is…,” Eminem has been scorned by everyone from GLAAD to my dad, but he was always accepted by the hip-hop community, for one reason: He’s a great rapper. But now that Slim Shady has cleaned up his act, stepped to the silver screen, and earned mainstream acceptance, some hip-hop heads have finally noticed that he’s white. And they’re not happy about it.

Recently, Benzino, a rapper who co-owns The Source magazine, has made it his mission to take down Eminem. In two songs, ”Pull Your Skirt Up” and ”Die Another Day,” he attacked Eminem, calling him ”the rap David Duke, the rap Hitler, the culture-stealer.” The Source recently published a foldout poster of Benzino holding Eminem’s bloody, decapitated head, and an essay by longtime hip-hop writer Harry Allen, which describes the Eminem phenomenon as ”the power of hip-hop fused with the power of white supremacy.”

Thankfully, it seems that most of the hip-hop world has dismissed Benzino’s attacks as a clear attempt to bolster his own rap career. All the hubbub comes as Benzino is desperate to sell copies of his lackluster major-label solo debut, ”Redemption,” shamefully using the once-great magazine he co-owns as a platform: The same issue that includes the poster and Eminem essay includes a five-page feature on Benzino, including a laughably sparse ”Benzino timeline.”

Eminem — though he could be excused for not reacting to attacks from a third-tier rapper with a first-tier platform — responded to Benzino’s dis tracks with two of his own, ”The Sauce” and ”Nail in the Coffin,” which clearly show who the senior lyricist is: ”No more Source with street cred, them days is dead…. Will somebody please tell whoever braids his head/That I am not afraid, he’s just a f—in’ waste of lead/On my pencil, for me to write some s— this simple/So listen closely, as I break it down and proceed/This old G’s bout to get smoked like raw weed.”

Rival hip-hop magazine XXL rounded up quotes about the Eminem question from hip-hop heavyweights like Jay-Z and Nas, the latter claiming, ”[Eminem] brings together white and black people, and he does it while representing rap music in its truest form. The larger he gets, the larger hip-hop gets, no matter what anybody says. This dude lives, breathes, eats, and s—s hip-hop.” It appears that Benzino and The Source are underestimating the hip-hop nation’s intelligence, and one can only hope that their hypocrisy will be punished with disinterest.

It’s true that Eminem’s race helped make him a star, that some white people buy his records because they identify with him more than with black rappers. That’s a reality in America. In one of his few salient arguments, Benzino claims that if Eminem were black, ”No one would care about [his] complicated rhyme style/Another backpack rapper out of style.”

And it’s true that there are talented MCs in the underground who are having trouble getting noticed because they’re black. But it’s also true that Eminem is a true talent — one of the best around, white or black — and a living embodiment of hip-hop in 2003. To deny his credibility is to shortchange the art of hip-hop.