Love—and respect—between brothers from different mothers.
When I first heard Dr. Dre’s latest single (featuring Eminem) my jaw dropped a little. Not because of the profanity, or homophobic or sexist slurs—I am well used to the duo’s coarse language after years of being a (self-loathing) fan of Marshall Mathers’.
It was these lyrics that first caught my attention:
…all I know is you came to me when I was at my lowest,
you picked me up, breathin’ life in me. I owe my life to you.
…I don’t think you realize what you mean to me, not the slightest clue.
Whoa! That’s lovey dovey stuff! From Eminem?
I listened on, and realized that at its core, this song really is about love. It’s a love letter from Eminem to Dr. Dre, and from Dr. Dre to Eminem.
And it’s pretty mushy.
Sure, the lyrics are not extremely sophisticated (although, at moments, some of Eminem’s wordplay hints at his true talent). The track tells a tale of brotherly love and loyalty—and even of overcoming racial boundaries.
Throughout the song, Em is giving a thorough pep talk to a man who is clearly his friend, mentor, and ally.
Dre is characterized as someone who has lost his way, hit a low point in his life and is “fightin’ demons.” Eminem’s effort in getting his pal back on his feet is touching, and filled with heart-baring sentiments:
It hurts when I see you struggle.
It was you who believed in me, when everyone was tellin’ you don’t sign me.
Everyone at the fu*kin’ label, let’s tell the truth.
You risked your career for me, I know it as well as you.
Nobody wanted to fu*k with a white boy, Dre. I’m cryin’ in this booth.
You saved my life, now maybe it’s my turn to save yours.
But I could never repay you, what you did for me is way more.
I applaud both rappers for being vulnerable, and revealing their pain to the world. I still can’t get over Eminem’s admission that he’s crying!
Dre’s response is equally touching. His anger and pain comes through loud and clear, but beyond that, the lyrics he dedicates to Eminem are really very sweet. Here’s an example:
[In reference to their first recording session together]
You walked in, yellow jumpsuit … cracked jokes,
but when you got inside the booth — told you, mic smoked.
Went to friends, some of them I put on, but they just left.
They said they was ridin’ to the death,
but where the fu*k are they now?
Now that I need them, I don’t see none of them, all I see is Slim.
Fu*k all you fair-weather friends, all I need is him.
“All I need is him,” huh? Sounds pretty serious. This song feels like the rap equivalent of a friendship bracelet.
Honestly though, I find it genuinely touching to hear these two macho guys unashamedly profess their love for one another. In the contemporary iteration of rap music, lyrics are dominated by misogyny, materialism, threats of violence, one-upmanship, and inter-crew feuding. In such a homophobic hip-hop climate, I applaud these two men for getting emotional, and exchanging what are essentially love letters. “Love flow,” I guess.
My biggest criticism of this song, however, is directed toward Dr. Dre. He uses the word “faggot” a few times, completely without context or cause. We all recognize that “F word” as a slur used against men who love other men, and so is quite ironic within the context of this incredibly homo-amorous song. I wish Dre had enough self-awareness to pick up on his hypocrisy, and enough humility to overcome his bigotry.
Here’s the video for “I Need a Doctor” (Explicit) by Dr. Dre ft. Eminem and Skylar Gray
[Before you watch this music video, I would like to warn you that from an artistic perspective, it’s just plain bad. It seems like the only reason they produced the video at all was so that Dre could show off his new physique (which is admittedly pretty damn good), Em could show off his new veneers (pretty damn bad), and so they could get in enough product placement to solidify “sellout” status for the both of them. ]
Dre and Em, sitting in a tree, R.A.P.P.I.N.G.
Sasha Aronson has a degree in Literature from Colby College. She worked for publishers in the Big Apple, but prefers living mindfully and adventurously in Boulder, Colorado.