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Justin Bieber, Eminem Feud Explained
Throughout his later career, Eminem has tried his damnedest to resist maturity. Even though he’s a wealthy middle-aged dad, Eminem has attempted to remain the spunky outsider who pisses off parents with his naughty language while his actual music veered into forgettable pop rap. His last two albums Revival and Kamikaze were lacking in ideas, devoid of vision, and completely ignorant of where the genre is heading and what it is capable of in the late 2010s. Most egregiously, on Kamikaze—an album in which the rapper was obsessed with his place in hip hop in 2018—Eminem dropped a presumed homophobic slur directed at the openly sexually fluid Tyler, the Creator.
It was proof that Eminem still doesn’t understand the progress hip-hop has made in recent years. He doesn’t understand—or even care—about the plight of the LGBTQ community. He is the same man who freely used that word as an insult as recently as 2013. And it’s Eminem’s complete blindness to the larger world—whether it be politics or social issues or hip-hop—that explains why he’s been so sensitive about his legacy in recent years.
On that same album, an insecure Eminem takes on Lil Yachty, Lil Xan, Lil Pump, Machine Gun Kelly, Chance the Rapper, Drake, Charlamagne Tha God, Migos, and mumble rap as a whole. “I heard your mumblin’ but it’s jumbled in mumbo-jumbo / The era that I’m from will pummel you, that’s what it’s comin’ to / What the fuck you’re gonna do when you run into it? / I’m gonna crumble you and I’ll take a number two,” Eminem raps on the album opener “The Ringer.”
It’s that argument in particular that Justin Bieber—of all people—took issue with in an Instagram story posted on Wednesday. “I just like Ems flow but don’t like that he’s dissing new rappers,” Bieber wrote in a story posted by Genius. “I like the new generation of rap he just doesn’t understand it.”
Bieber’s not wrong.
Eminem pulls the classic out-of-touch old guy move to dismiss an entire trend just because it’s new. Yes, mumble rap has its issues, and yes, some of the younger stars are only famous for latching onto a trend, but using a blanket diss like Eminem did on “The Ringer” is lazy and inaccurate. Bieber has collaborated in the last two years with a number of the artists that Eminem dissed on that song, like Migos and Chance the Rapper. Not to mention previous collaborations with Drake, Travis Scott, and Young Thug. All of these artists that Bieber has collaborated with are among the biggest names in music.
Given this, who do we think has a better understanding of modern hip-hop?
Matt is the Culture Editor at Esquire where he covers music, movies, books, and TV—with an emphasis on all things Star Wars, Marvel, and Game of Thrones.