I grew up on 12 Mile Road in the 313.* It's with some affection, then, that I hold the music of Detroit, from Motown to techno, in high esteem.
Eminem is probably one of the most gifted lyricists in rap--he moves far beyond rhyme to embrace assonance, consonance, alliteration, and many more poetic forms in his lyrics. (This 90-second video clip of his interview with Anderson Cooper on the word "orange" teaches more about poetry more than most students learn in all of high school.) His music, however, is not for the faint of heart, given the obscenity and... shall we say, adult content of those lyrics.
An early album in 1997 featured "Just the Two of Us," a song about domestic violence in which Eminem and his daughter conspire to kill the girl's mother. (The song samples heavily from the 1981 Grover Washington Jr. and Bill Whithers song.) The song was re-recorded, extended, and released under the title "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" on another album in 1999.
Last week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument in Elonis v. United States, in which Defendant was convicted of threatening another in a Facebook post. Asking about the scope of the First Amendment when it comes to threatening speech, Chief Justice John Roberts quoted from "'97 Bonnie and Clyde." From the transcript (PDF):
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: What about the language [in] the Petitioner's brief? You know, "Da-da make a nice bed for mommy at the bottom of the lake," "tie a rope around a rock," this is during the context of a domestic dispute between a husband and wife. "There goes mama splashing in the water, no more fighting with dad," you know, all that stuff.
Now, under your test, could that be prosecuted.
MR. DREEBEN: No. Because if you look at the context of these statements--
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Because Eminem said it instead of somebody else?
MR. DREEBEN: Because Eminem said it at a concert where people are going to be entertained.
With that, I thought a mashup was in order. With the enormous help and creative talent of an old friend and talented musician, Nate Wazoo, here's "Roberts and Clyde." an MP3 of a 52-second sample of the song.
You can purchase a copy of the original "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" at sites like Amazon.
*Strictly speaking, that was Royal Oak, not Detroit--the 313 area code was subdivided in 1993.
Copyright notice: the use of any copyrighted material is fair use for non-commercial, satirical, and educational purposes.