Eminem surprise-released a new album, Music To Be Murdered By, early Friday morning, accompanied by a violent music video depicting the Las Vegas mass shooting and ending with a pro-gun control message.
The video is for the song “Darkness” and it starts out seemingly describing Eminem’s nerves before a concert before you realize he’s rapping from the perspective of the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooter. The final verse lyrics read:
People start to show up, time to start the show up
It's 10:05 PM and the curtain starts to go up
And I'm already sweatin', but I'm locked and loaded
For rapid fire spittin' for all the concert-goers
Scopes for sniper vision, surprise from out of nowhere
As I slide the clip in from inside the hotel
Leanin' out the window, going Keyser Söze
Finger on the trigger, but I'm a licensed owner
With no prior convictions, so loss, the sky's the limit
So my supplies infinite, strapped like I'm a soldier
Got 'em hopping over walls and climbing fences
Some of them John Travolta, staying alive by inches
(Hello darkness, my old friend)
Cops are knockin', oh fuck, thought I blocked the entrance
Guess show time is over
No suicide note, just a note for target distance
But if you'd like to know the reason why I did this
You'll never find a motive, truth is I have no idea
I am just as stumped, no signs of mental illness
Just tryin' to show ya the reason why we're so fucked
'Cause by the time it's over, won't make the slightest difference
The end of the video shows news footage from multiple shootings and a message appears saying, “When will this end? When enough people care. Register to vote at vote.gov. Make your voice heard and help change gun laws in America.” The video then directs people to Eminem’s website “for more information on how you can help” which features links to anti-gun groups like Giffords, the Brady Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety, and March for Our Lives.
Eminem isn’t exactly the ideal messenger when it comes to calling for an end to violence, since the notoriously anti-Trump rapper once rhymed about throwing Ivanka Trump into the trunk of his car.
Reviews on the song and album are mixed, but critics agree that the anti-gun message is a good one.
“It's a difficult song to listen to, but the accompanying music video advocates for stricter gun control,” said Esquire, “[A]t least he has a purpose—to highlight the horrors of our country's obsession with guns.”
Of course, Esquire managed to wedge in the inevitable swipe at Trump supporters in its criticism of Eminem’s shock tactics: “There's no room for simply pissing people off just to be a troll—Trump and his legions of idiot supporters do that every day.”
Billboard called the song “as powerful an anti-gun message as we’ve heard from the Rap God” while Vox called it a “harrowing gun control anthem” and said, “Eminem paints a picture of an isolated man with mental illness, ‘loathing in Las Vegas’ but emboldened by the failure of US gun control legislation.” The New York Times criticized that the ending “clumsily pivots to a PSA about gun violence.”
The Atlantic said the video “results in no greater understanding of why tragedies like this happen. There’s just ineffable darkness, and the availability of guns allows it to have horrific consequences.” They claim, “Experts on mass shootings say … one of the best ways to prevent future tragedies” is “enacting stronger gun laws.” There’s hope that Eminem’s fan demographic of “angry, and white, men,” i.e. potential mass shooters, can be reached:
“His confrontational style combined with his appeal to a demographic that is not, stereotypically, super-woke does make him uniquely positioned to have an impact … If Eminem jolts his fans into taking action to support gun control, that effect will have to be weighed against this grim fact: One of today’s best-selling musicians has humanized the perpetrator of the deadliest mass killing in modern U.S. history.”
But that’s where the focus should be, on the perpetrator, not the weapon.