As a native Detroiter, it’s hard to watch my dear city go through so much at such a pivotal time in its history, and from afar. From the economic, developmental, educational and housing crises that have plagued Detroit for decades (yes, I admit it wholeheartedly), to a laundry list of elected officials caught up in scandal after disappointing scandal, to the reality of what was once considered the epicenter of modern American automotive innovation now existing as a shell of its former self barely able to scrape together enough funds to pay its bills…to the latest in a series of major psychological blows to the pride of the city with former Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick sentenced to 28 years in federal prison for a series of governmental indiscretions.
To put it plainly, it isn’t easy to be a Detroiter these days, whether you’re still in the city or have moved on to seemingly greener pastures, but still claim the 3-1-3 any chance you get. But just as there’s a lot to be frustrated and disappointed about, there’s also a lot to be hopeful for and proud of when it comes to the city. Especially when it comes to music. The Detroit scene is more thriving that it’s ever been when it comes to several genres and artists, but particularly with Hip Hop.
From mainstream favorite Big Sean, to lesser-known independent Hip Hop collectives and duos like Clear Soul Forces, Cold Men Young, Passalacqua, to super producer and emcees’s emcee Black Milk, to everyone’s favorite druggy/music festival mainstay Danny Brown, Hip Hop from Detroit is making waves like never before. And with all the talk surrounding his latest album set for release November 5, Eminem has positioned himself to help Detroit continue to get back to a place of Hip Hop prominence, even with all of the trials and tribulations it faces as a major U.S. city.
Just last Friday, Em revealed his cover art, track list and guest stars for the upcoming The Marshall Mathers LP 2, which is executive produced by Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin, features and guest spots by Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar and Skylar Grey and will contain both majorly successful singles “Berzerk” and “Survival” within the 16 tracks. But Marshall isn’t merely resting on his past successes to push the album towards the all-important first week sales success mark. In the spirit of cross-brand marketing and product placement, Em has truly gone for broke to ensure that his new music will be heard with a commercial for his new Beats By Dre headphones, and has inked a deal with ABC Sports to have the single “Berzerk” featured weekly on Saturday Night College Football. And let’s not forget that the new video for “Survival” on YouTube and VEVO already has 14 million views in less than a week.
But of course, Em’s story wasn’t always so rosy. We’re all now very well aware of his struggles with addiction that came out in just the last few years. And there are the well-documented domestic issues with his family that he vehemently describes on album after album. And to put it mildly, his music really wasn’t catching the ear of the public after a while (Encore, anyone?)
Just being as blunt as possible, Eminem was on the brink in more ways than one. But thankfully, everyone’s favorite crazy white boy from the Motor city seemed to find his way back in a big way. Just look at the success of his last two albums, Relapse and Recovery, as well as the fact that their titles can be applied to not just experiencing and beating addiction, but to how a certain city can potentially get itself right.
The fact of the matter is the story of Eminem and that of the city of Detroit really aren’t all that different. A local guy uses his unparalleled rhyme skills, dark wit and questionable family background to make a killing in the music industry, falls victim to the trials of addiction, and crawls his way back ever so slightly. Similarly, Detroit finds itself teetering on the brink at this current moment in time after decades of both world-renowned prosperity and severe social decline. A former mayor in prison, elected officials on the run and seemingly unable to provide basic services to residents of the city, a Republican governor in the state of Michigan hell-bent on imposing a solution of receivership on the city as a whole, and to top it all off, an upcoming mayoral election that sees some familiar political faces conveying that they’re ready to take the helm and bring the city back, while Detroiters take their words with a grain of salt and a tone of skepticism. The only thing is, Detroit’s chapter on a return to success is yet to be written.
But through it all, much like its native son Marshall, the city of Detroit has taken the good wit the bad, the ups with the downs, the triumphs with the mistakes and the successes with the failures, all the while determined and resolute that success is still somewhere around the corner. Is this all to say that the success of one iconic Hip Hop artist will contribute to a new and brighter day for Motown? Hell no. It’s merely an observation in parallels between one successful artist and the city that made him famous.
The situation is dire, the reality is harsh, and sometimes the future for Detroit looks awfully grim. But if we as Detroiters and the city itself can learn anything from the example of Eminem’s rise, fall and renaissance, it’s that even the most bleak and desperate of situations have the potential of coming out in the affirmative.Google+