This week’s Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics is the lyrical smackdown that is “Forgot about Dre”. As a reminder to rappers, and the white suburban kids who buy their music, that Dr. Dre was indeed still alive and rapping, Dre and Eminem released “Forgot about Dre” to set the record straight. While Dre’s two verses are stinging, fun, and genius, the portion I want to focus on is the insane, threat laden non sequitur that is Eminem’s verse.
Let’s have a listen (Eminem starts at 1:25):
“Forgot about Dre” came out in 2000 to critical and popular success. It was also during Eminem’s “controversial period” that last from roughly the time he sold his first record to about 2008 (with the release of his middling “Relapse” album, that was not as controversial for the simple reason that mom’s in Nebraska probably didn’t even realize it was out). Way back in 2000, though, “Slim Shady” was ruining America.
Slim Shady, or Eminem, or Marshall Mathers, or Rabbit, or that guy who is ruining America, was knee deep in a cultural backlash for his violent, profanity laden rap style that shocked parents and delighted their kids. It was an image he was both aware and cultivator of. Much later, perhaps as his daughter grew up, he became more reflective, mature and… actually still pretty vulgar. In 2000, he worked on a song with friend and mentor, Dr. Dre, but I’m completely blanking on the name (and yes, I’ve been waiting to use that joke for 13 years).
So what do you say to somebody you hate
Or anybody tryna bring trouble your way
Wanna resolve things in a bloodier way
Just study your tape of NWA.
One day I was walking by
With a Walkman on
When I caught a guy giving me an awkward eye
And strangled him off in the parking lot with his Karl Kani
I don’t give a fuck if it’s dark or not
I’m harder than me tryna park a Dodge
But I’m drunk as fuck
Right next to a humongous truck in a two car garage
Hopping out with two broken legs tryna walk it off
Fuck you too bitch call the cops
I’ma kill you and them loud ass motherfucking barking dogs
And when the cops came through
Me and Dre stood next to a burnt down house
With a can full of gas and a hand full of matches
And still weren’t found out
From here on out it’s the Chronic 2
Starting today and tomorrow’s the new
And I’m still loco enough
To choke you to death with a Charleston chew
Slim shady hotter than a set of twin babies
In a Mercedes Benz with the windows up
And the temp goes up to the mid 80’s
Calling men ladies
Sorry Doc but I been crazy
There is no way that you can save me
It’s OK go with him Hailie
I have a theory about what happened:
Eminem wrote this verse without having seen Dr. Dre’s song. Probably, Dre told him he wanted him to contribute to a song that was a “screw you” to the haters but that he didn’t have it written yet, and so, out on tour somewhere or perhaps in court divorcing his estranged wife for the 15th time, Eminem wrote his verse. If that isn’t the case then the verse makes absolutely no sense in the context of the song. It doesn’t even have the same vibe. Where Dre confines himself to bragging about his success and gently reminding that he is a legend in the rap game, Eminem departs from that theme to explore an altogether trashier hypothetical. It’s a narrative about himself as he paints the town red with unprovoked violence, drunk driving and attempted pet murder. If anything, it shows a level of immaturity that kinda makes me want to forget about Dre and Eminem. Biggie and Tupac dying in a silly, “west coast vs. east coast” pissing contest was tragic, but Eminem and Dre going to jail for life because they burned down a house and killed a barking dog is pathetic. Although Slim thinks that they “still weren’t found out”, I imagine it wouldn’t take much for a young, scrapping, enterprising prosecutor to connect the dots.
“And do you admit that it was you, Marshall Mathers III, who was seen by SEVERAL witnesses holding a can full of gas and a handful of matches the night of the fire? And might I remind you that you are under oath, sir!”
Eminem has made a career out of being a braggart. Even before he had anything to brag about, even on his first album, he spent the entire set list acting like he was entitled to more credit than he was being given. For a while, that credit went underserved, even as he sold a trillion records (citation needed). He eventually earns the credit he always felt he was due, but this song is a rather odd deviation. I don’t know, maybe he had just awoken from a night of drinking, driving, and arson and he remembered the old adage, “Write what you know.”