"Tone Deaf" was ready for cancel culture before cancel culture was ready for Em. And let's face it, the rapper has been cancel-proof since he came on the scene with the line, "Hi kids, do you like violence?"
A deep dive into the lyrical content throughout his career makes it clear he feeds off of this cancel culture and has been doing so since before it even got that name. Moms tried to cancel him back in the 2000s, even the government and law enforcement got involved.
Each move only created another insta-classic album release and even greater success and fame for the man who was at one time the biggest artist on the planet. He may have faded from the glory of those heights, but he can still turn a rhyme.
"It’s okay not to like my s--- / Everything’s fine, drink your wine, b---- / And get offline, quit whinin’, this is just a rhyme, b----" he intones on the track released more than a year before Gen Z started coming for him.
"I won’t stop even when my hair turns grey (I’m tone-deaf) / 'Cause they won’t stop until they cancel me (Yeah, yeah)," he rapped, clearly predicting exactly what has now transpired.
They even got his name trending on Twitter last week, though that was mostly Millennials and Generation X quickly coming to his defense. TikTokers mostly stayed on the younger skewing platform, creating an interesting cross-platform debate over the rapper.
Knowing the scrutiny and attacks he'd endured throughout his career already for his lyrical content, Em knew it was just a matter of time before Gen Z took the time to listen to his music. And there was absolutely no doubt they would seek to cancel him over it.
Eminem was targeted this time around when Gen Z apparently discovered his "Love the Way You Lie" collaboration with Rihanna for the first time. It was the lines "If she ever tries to f------ leave again / I'mma tie her to the bed and set this house on fire" that set them off.
These aren't even the most inflammatory lyrics in Eminem's deep catalog of music, though the artist himself addressed that he says "that s--- in clowing" to a distressed obsessed fan in his Oscar-winning "Stan." And he's certainly not the only artist to express violence in his art.
The premise of his 2010 collaboration that has TikTok in a furor is all about the dysfunction of both parties in a relationship that's doomed to end in destruction -- and yet neither party seems willing or able to separate from one another.
A huge commercial success for the duo, the track was critically acclaimed upon release for its tackling of domestic abuse, with Rihanna saying that its insightful and honest look inside that type of relationship is why the song is so impactful.
She received equal acclaim for a sequel told from her character's perspective that further clarifies the dysfunction of the relationship and the violence perpetuated by both parties. It's not meant to be an easy song (or two) to hear, but it's one that's resonated deeply to those who've been there.