Eminem

Editor’s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Vietnam’s “queen of hip hop,” Suboi, released her second album RUN last September. Suboi, the 25-year-old, bilingual rapper will kick off her first U.S. tour this month. Her South by Southwest performance takes place Thursday at The Trophy Club. Suboi spoke with The Daily Texan for a Q&A.  

The Daily Texan: How did you first become interested in rap? 

Suboi: When I was 14. I listened to Linkin Park and Eminem, but I didn’t think about rapping until I saw Will Smith on TV one day. After that, I started writing my first song. There wasn’t any rap in Vietnam though, so I had to find inspiration in other places. I listened to Eminem to teach myself English. He always uses so many bad words and slang, so back then, my English was really rude. 

DT: Without much rap in Vietnam, how did your career get started?

Suboi: It was hard when I first started out. There wasn’t much stuff on the Internet for me to watch, so it was hard to find inspiration or even an album I liked back then. Vietnam was just about pop music, so when my friends asked me to rap in their metal band, I jumped right in. 

DT: How do you feel about performing in the U.S.?

Suboi: I am very, very excited. I never thought I’d be performing at such a big festival. I’m looking forward to seeing the other artists. In Vietnam, there’s not a lot of diversity. I’m also excited to see the audiences. I’ve seen the crowds on music videos and TV, and I hope they’re the same. I just want them to be excited and hear my music.

DT: What do you think you bring to rap? 

Suboi: I started rapping because I couldn’t express myself in school. In my music, I would say half of it is for me, and half of it is about the message. At SXSW, I really want the audience to see that I have something to say, too. I want them to know that somebody from Vietnam has something to bring to the table. 

DT: Do you ever have to worry about censorship in Vietnam?

Suboi: Well, I have to use a lot of metaphors and wordplay as an artist in Vietnam. You have to balance what you want to say, but you also have to worry about staying out of trouble. I like the challenge of trying to get around those barriers, though. 

DT: What artists have inspired you?

Suboi: First of all, definitely Eminem. He has so much rage, and that really resonated with me. Lauryn Hill is definitely my biggest female inspiration. I get different vibes from different rappers, but I like the way they express themselves in their own crazy ways. I was a shy kid growing up, so I liked how American artists had their own opinions and styles. 

DT: Where do you want to see yourself in ten years?

Suboi: When you look at Lauryn Hill, she has a family, and she still has her career. I want to be doing that. I want to travel the world and have people know my music and take it seriously. I want people to see that I’m just like everybody else. I just want to rap. I don’t want to be just mainstream or just underground. I want people to know what I can do. It’ll be different for them and for me — just to see what I can bring to them. 

People love to discuss music in extremes, deeming records or artists either brilliant or trash, without leaving much middle ground. The latest Eminem album is not as bad as the consensus claims, but it will try the patience of even his staunchest fans. Eminem is arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time, not based off of his popularity but rather his body of work — especially his first few releases. But in the past few years, the quality of his music has fallen off, growing repetitive and stale — and The Marshall Mathers LP2 follows suit.

To begin on a high note, Eminem’s latest is a showcase of his lyrical talent. Eminem has always been, and still is, one of rap’s most gifted lyricists, stringing together rhymes with unparalleled skill. He weaves and twists together convoluted phrases with impressive proficiency, no matter how disturbing the lyrical content can be. 

But rampant misogyny and violence run through his well-executed lyrics. He drops homophobic slurs far too frequently, and goes into gratuitously gory detail about the physical harm he wants to cause to women. These aspects made him provocative early in his career, when he coupled them with songs that were risk-taking and innovative enough that their content was defensible. This time around, he ran out of fresh ideas, lazily partaking in the overused practice of rapping over classic rock songs including in “Rhyme Or Reason” and “Love Game.” Most of his pop-culture references are also woefully out of date, making Eminem look like an out-of-touch dad.

There is a solid Texas connection as Denton folk singer Sarah Jaffe sings background vocals on the opener “Bad Guy.” The strangest moment comes with “Headlights,” which features vocals from Nate Ruess of Fun. and basically sounds like one of the band’s pop songs with Eminem rapping the verses. While it does not entirely work, it does showcase Eminem’s strongest work on the album, as he makes a starkly emotional apology to his mother — his confessional style coming off as self-aware and refreshingly sympathetic.

The Marshall Mathers LP2 shows that Eminem is well past his prime and seems unwilling to push out of his comfort zone. The album is not the creative resurgence many hoped it would be, but that won’t stop die-hard fans from downloading it for themselves.

Sports and celebrities have always been intertwined; all athletes want to be celebrities, and all celebrities want to be athletes.  Most superstars satisfy these desires by following their favorite teams, wearing their jerseys, and cheering at games. From Spike Lee to Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio to President Obama, famous people everywhere bleed their team’s colors.

This holds especially true with rappers. Something about the rap industry brings out the true fandom in these performers, and it often carries over into their work. Here is a list of the top ten rappers who are defined by their teams.

10. Usher – Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA)

Although it is unknown to even many Cavs diehards, Usher has been a fan since he became a part owner in 2005. Usher attended nearly every game the first year, but once the initial thrill wore off, fans stopped seeing him at the stadium. Rumors swirled that Usher was unable to pay his $50 million stake in the team, but as of today he remains a minority owner.

9. Drake – Toronto Raptors (NBA)

Although he can be regularly found at the club with NBA stars, from Lebron James to Chris Paul, the Canadian-born Drake is a fan of Canada’s only NBA team, the Raptors.  The rap game’s representative of the Great White North is pretty serious about his dedication to this team. He once said, “I am a Raptors fan to the death.”

8. Snoop Dogg – USC (NCAA Football)

While Snoop has several other professional fan allegiances, his true devotion lies with the cardinal and gold. He can often be found wearing his Trojan jersey at the Coliseum on game day. Athleticism even runs in his family; his son, Cordell Broadus, is a four-star wide receiver recruit with scholarship offers from ten schools, including USC.  If his dad has any say, his decision will be obvious.

7. Eminem – Detroit sports

Eminem grew up in and was molded by Detroit, and he has repaid the city as fan for a while. In the video for his new single Berzerk, Em can be seen rocking a shirt commemorating the late ‘80’s bad boys Pistons teams.

Slim Shady also discussed his Lions fandom in classic Eminem style during this recent bizarre interview during the Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game.

6. 2 Chainz – Atlanta Hawks (NBA)

Born Tauheed Epps in Atlanta, the 6’5” rapper now known as 2 Chainz has an athletic past. He received a scholarship to play D1 ball at Alabama State, where he played one season before he found his calling and joined the rap game. On his dunk at the end of this video, it seems as though 2 Chainz had a sense of flair on the court as well.

In Kanye West’s song The One, Mr. Chainz name-drops his favorite team, describing “sittin’ courtside at the Hawks game” before going on to explain that he is close enough to the action to trip a player with his Louis Vuitton shoes.

We love you, 2 Chainz. Never change.

Stay tuned for the second half of this list, coming next week.