sitemap - feedback

 

Bag Lady #2

Posted on: Friday, June 14, 2019

Eminem proceeds by rhythm and rhyme, concept subservient, although there’s a scenario in mind, and a store of semantic formulae that he can draw on, especially when freestyling.(1)

I’m still thinking of bag ladies when my playlist segues to “Bagpipes from Baghdad.” The intro is an unlikely mingle of bagpipes and traditional Arabic music, which wed very well and, with the beat, have quite a seductive swell. The lyrics [naturally?] pick up on the word “bag” [mixed bag, wandering be-bagged, outcast] in the chorus.(2)  

Here’s the formulaic beginning—perhaps something akin to Beowulf’s “Hwæt,” that Seamus Heaney translated as “So;” Irish “Ní deacair a rá;” folk “As I went a walking,” etc.

Oh! It's music to my ears, oh man!
How can I describe the way I feel?
Fuckin' great man! Okay, let me see,
How could I begin . . .

Then into his experience, conflated with ideas by free association. How does the song’s title herald an invective against a former or desired lover [Mariah Carey denies that they were ever lovers] and her paramours? What is the connection?

Moving from imprisonment in a wine cellar and wine for lunch, the “u” vowel takes the lyrics from comestibles through a statement of musical style and the formulaic rap challenge, to reach a crescendo with “cunt” “fun” “junk” “blood” (oblique), and culminate in “vernacular” and “acupuncture” in the last line of the first stanza. Position clear.

I mean I really want you bad, you cunt.
Nick you’ve had your fun.
I've come to kick you in your sack of junk.
Man I could use a fresh batch of blood,
So prepare your vernacular for Dracula acupuncture.

Note the “sack of junk.” A hint of what’s to come in the chorus, which projects the persona of the rapper as a character in this mise en scène constructed by rap itself. A dramatic self-deprecation. Who is this? He’s a madman (Sweeney astray). See how he walks. What kind of load is be carrying? Bag him (if you can).

Somebody turn the vacancy sign on, 'cause I'm gone, blowing on my
Bagpipes from Baghdad.
I run the streets and act like a madman, holding a Glad bag.

There follows a vicious stanza in which, I think, the rapper is trying to re-sex and then de-sex Mariah’s lover [or both of them]. It seems appallingly violent, but this is the staged aggression on which street rap depends. The use of the word “tickles” seems oddly gentle for the general thrust, until you remember this is mostly about rhyme. Meaning arises randomly. That said, why would you think “brain dead” for a “bed” rhyme? “Dead,” yes. “Half dead”? Too tame I suppose. “Undead?” If there were method here, you might equally argue that the rhyme of “vegetables” and “heterosexual” is a subtle de-boning of the punch. “Titty fucking you” is not mitigated by this reasoning, and one may surmise that there’s some fear and loathing of women-loving-women in the mix.

In the bed with two brain dead lesbian vegetables,
I bet you they become heterosexual.
Nothing will stop me from molesting you,
Titty fucking you 'til your breast nipple
Flesh tickles my testicles.
Is what they said to the two conjoined twins—
How's it going girlfriends, you need a boyfriend?
You need some ointment, just make an appointment.

With regard to bag ladies, I don’t think anyone whose fortunes have veered so badly as to leave them homeless would be of the nature to withstand abuse of this kind levelled at them, formulaic or not. But the target was the home-full Mariah Carey, who responded with a defiant song and a video where she flaunts herself in a “You’re never going to get near me, so suffer,” sense.(3)

The rapper’s persona is constructed as transient and somewhat lost. He’s the person with the refuse sack for a travel case who yells at shadows. The Scottish-Persian cultural collision may have sent the lyrics in this direction, if that’s the way it began. His dis-sing makes a nomad of him, and in the travelling he switches from aggression to self-deprecation. This is all very interesting because Eminem was once poor and has been troubled by instability.

In an essay from “The Night Sky” series in 1995, Ann Lauterbach wrote: “Our world—late twentieth America—is relentless in its desire to dictate to us what we desire . . . It wants us to believe that only Wealth, Fame, and Power (WFP), in some combination or another, are worthwhile goals, because only WFP can confer—what?—celebrity. Celebrity: the modern, secular form of martyrdom, where individuals are cast into the riotous blast of an eviscerating, obliterating light. How many personal disasters of every conceivable kind—suicide, homicide, divorce, addiction—before it is understood that celebrities are victims?”(4)

I admire Ann Lauterbach greatly, but I think this statement is far too extreme. Eminem may have been saved by celebrity, or more correctly, saved by his talent and surviving celebrity pretty well. Crucial to his artistic survival is the street component. I have no idea whether that’s a difficulty for him now that he’s successful. Ice-T changed when he got comfortable. I don’t follow rappers but I do enjoy some of what I consider the better ones. The harder ones. There’s an honesty that reminds me of what’s only a few blocks away.

I thought this rumination was going to talk about reducing object possession and increasing possession of self but the rhythm seemed to take over. Truthfully, the rhythm often takes over. They say schizophrenics hear the words and not the music. What is the condition of hearing the music and not the words?

Why do I walk this parching ground
pulse drumming the rhythm of an order I can’t fathom
gasping from oasis to mirage
lost as the unexamining sky?

– Máighréad Medbh(5)

But at the end of the day, it's a line I said – it's a song. What I actually meant to say is, I wish them the best. That's what I meant to say. That's the whole message of the record.

– Eminem(6)


---------------------------------
Footnotes

(1) Eminem freestyling on Tim Westwood TV.
(2) "Bagpipes from Baghdad."
(3) Mariah Carey. “Obsessed.” 
(4) The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience. New York: Penguin, 2005, 56.
(5) From “Breathing.” Published in Shine On. Dublin: Dedalus, 2011.
(6) Complete Music Update. 19 May 2009.


Other recent blog items

Blue Arrow Bag Lady #2
  Posted on: Friday, June 14, 2019
Blue Arrow Bag Lady
  Posted on: Friday, May 10, 2019
Blue Arrow Against Loyalty
  Posted on: Friday, April 12, 2019
Blue Arrow Motivation: Tales of the Koanan #8
  Posted on: Saturday, March 09, 2019
Blue Arrow Com(m)as
  Posted on: Sunday, February 10, 2019
Blue Arrow Dividual
  Posted on: Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Blue Arrow Stress Births
  Posted on: Saturday, November 10, 2018
Blue Arrow Satisfactions
  Posted on: Monday, October 08, 2018
Blue Arrow Muted
  Posted on: Saturday, September 08, 2018
Blue Arrow Call Upon the Author
  Posted on: Saturday, August 11, 2018
Blue Arrow Need to Know
  Posted on: Wednesday, July 04, 2018
Blue Arrow Selfie
  Posted on: Monday, June 04, 2018
Blue Arrow The Long Truth
  Posted on: Wednesday, May 02, 2018
Blue Arrow Possession
  Posted on: Monday, April 02, 2018
Blue Arrow Resistance
  Posted on: Saturday, March 03, 2018
Blue Arrow New Found Land
  Posted on: Saturday, February 03, 2018
Blue Arrow Framed: Tales of the Koanan #6
  Posted on: Monday, January 01, 2018
Blue Arrow Stop! Go!
  Posted on: Wednesday, December 06, 2017
Blue Arrow Portrait
  Posted on: Thursday, November 02, 2017
Blue Arrow The Formal Network of the Lie
  Posted on: Monday, July 03, 2017
Blue Arrow Political is Personal
  Posted on: Monday, June 05, 2017
Blue Arrow Ideas of Order
  Posted on: Thursday, May 04, 2017
Blue Arrow Dark Reading (Roethke)
  Posted on: Saturday, April 01, 2017
Blue Arrow Mutatis Mutandis: A Reading of 'The Disquieting Muses' by Sylvia Plath
  Posted on: Thursday, March 02, 2017
Blue Arrow Perplexing Pronomials: Tales of the Koanan #5
  Posted on: Friday, February 03, 2017
Blue Arrow Aerial Approach / Pre-text
  Posted on: Thursday, January 05, 2017
Blue Arrow Walking with Ammons and Carson
  Posted on: Friday, December 02, 2016
Blue Arrow Face the Wall (fragments)
  Posted on: Sunday, November 06, 2016
Blue Arrow Blog October 2016: Product
  Posted on: Sunday, October 02, 2016
Blue Arrow The Eye that Primes the Canvas
  Posted on: Friday, September 02, 2016
Blue Arrow Escape: Parvit of Agelast
  Posted on: Sunday, August 07, 2016
Blue Arrow No
  Posted on: Friday, July 01, 2016
Blue Arrow A Reading of 'Indoors' by Eavan Boland
  Posted on: Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Blue Arrow The Look: A Reading of 'The Lioness' by Adrienne Rich
  Posted on: Sunday, May 01, 2016
Blue Arrow The Dental Contract
  Posted on: Friday, April 01, 2016
Blue Arrow A Reading of Michael Hartnett's 'Epitaph for John Kelly, Blacksmith'
  Posted on: Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Blue Arrow A Reading of Medbh McGuckian’s ‘Sidereum Iter (His Journey through the Stars)’
  Posted on: Sunday, January 31, 2016
Blue Arrow Farewell to the Blog
  Posted on: Tuesday, July 28, 2015
Blue Arrow An Old Fragment
  Posted on: Saturday, June 27, 2015
Blue Arrow Private
  Posted on: Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Blue Arrow Architectonics
  Posted on: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Blue Arrow Score
  Posted on: Friday, March 27, 2015
Blue Arrow Armoire
  Posted on: Saturday, February 28, 2015
Blue Arrow Undoing Peace (Lives of the Koanan #4)
  Posted on: Monday, January 26, 2015
Blue Arrow Like One More Wave
  Posted on: Saturday, November 29, 2014
Blue Arrow Beasts, Priests and Virgins: Dylan Thomas and the Love Concept
  Posted on: Sunday, October 26, 2014
Blue Arrow Sane
  Posted on: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Blue Arrow A Girl is a Sliced Fruit
  Posted on: Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Blue Arrow Peace (Lives of the Koanan #3)
  Posted on: Sunday, July 27, 2014
Blue Arrow Shit
  Posted on: Friday, June 27, 2014
Blue Arrow Expressing the Source: Eavan Boland and Adrienne Rich
  Posted on: Monday, May 26, 2014
Blue Arrow A Little Smaller than the Entire Universe
  Posted on: Sunday, April 27, 2014
Blue Arrow Fronts (Lives of the Koanan #2)
  Posted on: Monday, March 31, 2014
Blue Arrow Act
  Posted on: Thursday, February 27, 2014
Blue Arrow Present and Unaccounted For
  Posted on: Monday, January 27, 2014
Blue Arrow Xs
  Posted on: Thursday, November 28, 2013
Blue Arrow Pleasure
  Posted on: Sunday, October 27, 2013
Blue Arrow Amateur
  Posted on: Friday, September 27, 2013
Blue Arrow Wasted Time
  Posted on: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Blue Arrow Apathy
  Posted on: Friday, July 26, 2013
Blue Arrow A Kinder Time
  Posted on: Thursday, June 27, 2013
Blue Arrow Where Spirituality Lies
  Posted on: Monday, May 27, 2013
Blue Arrow Firmament or Fear?
  Posted on: Monday, April 29, 2013