In the years since the initial uproar over the use of anti-gay slurs on his first two albums, Eminem has performed with and befriended Elton John, endorsed gay marriage and repeatedly told interviewers that he doesn’t actually have any problem with gay people. But he continues to sprinkle his lyrics with language that’s not hard to construe as homophobic. In this excerpt from his upcoming Rolling Stone cover story, due November 22nd, Eminem defends his much-criticized use of slurs in the single “Rap God.”
You’ve made it clear again and again that you don’t actually have a problem with gay people. So why, in 2013, use “faggot” on that song? Why use “gay-looking” as an insult?
I don’t know how to say this without saying it how I’ve said it a million times. But that word, those kind of words, when I came up battle-rappin’ or whatever, I never really equated those words . . .
To actually mean “homosexual”?
Yeah. It was more like calling someone a bitch or a punk or asshole. So that word was just thrown around so freely back then. It goes back to that battle, back and forth in my head, of wanting to feel free to say what I want to say, and then [worrying about] what may or may not affect people. And, not saying it’s wrong or it’s right, but at this point in my career – man, I say so much shit that’s tongue-in-cheek. I poke fun at other people, myself. But the real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all. I’m glad we live in a time where it’s really starting to feel like people can live their lives and express themselves. And I don’t know how else to say this, I still look at myself the same way that I did when I was battling and broke.
I kind of thought you were doing it because when you’re rapping as Slim Shady, part of your mission is to annoy people.
Well, look, I’ve been doing this shit for, what, 14 years now? And I think people know my personal stance on things and the personas that I create in my music. And if someone doesn’t understand that by now, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change their mind about it.