Sunday, April 3, 2022

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Vote '22: Eminem

This is Eminem’s first time on the ballot, 25 years after the release of his debut album, Infinite, which Em claimed sold a total of 70 copies. What I keep hearing is that he’s a first-ballot- shoo-in, which I tend to agree with – he’s got to be the best-selling artist in hip-hop history, right?

THE SONG: “Without Me” encapsulates Eminem pretty well for me – for all the horror and angst of songs like “Stan” and “Lose Yourself,” he makes a pretty great and lovable goofball. Nobody listens to techno, but we sure listened to this:


THE CASE FOR: Eminem is almost certainly the best-known rapper of all time. He’s had a whopping ten Number One albums and 17 Billboard Top Ten hits (not including “Stan,” which didn’t make the Top Forty despite being one of his most inescapable songs, and I’m sure there must be a reason for this but I don’t know what it is).

The fact that he is white certainly had something to do with Eminem’s explosion as a star at the end of the 1990s, but there was more to it than that. As Chuck Klosterman has pointed out, Eminem enunciated the best of all the major rappers, which contributed significantly to his popularity. He was funny, he was unpredictable, he didn’t take himself seriously. “You know the world is going to hell,” Em said, “when the best rapper is white and the best golfer is black.”

Most of the 21st century's rap world shows Eminem's imprint, but his influence goes beyond hip-hop; Lin-Manuel Miranda says he based Hamilton's rapping style on Em's. "My Shot" sure owes something to "Lose Yourself," doesn't it?

THE CASE AGAINST: The only real argument I’ve heard posted against Eminem’s candidacy was from my friends over at the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast. They argued that the Hall has done a poor job of inducting the hip-hop legends who paved the way for Eminem, and people like Eric B & Rakim and Snoop Dogg need to get in before we induct Eminem. While I have tremendous respect for those guys – it was mostly Brian Hiatt making this argument, and he knows way more than I do about contemporary music – I have to disagree with it.

Eminem is overqualified for the Hall of Fame, and it’s not his fault that Snoop Dogg hasn’t been inducted yet. It would be totally unfair to Em to deny him an honor he richly deserves just because others might deserve it as much, or even more.

And as a practical matter, denying Eminem a vote isn’t going to get Eric B & Rakim into the Hall one day earlier. It would more likely be the other way around: I could see Eminem praising those who came before him in his induction speech (he did do the honors already for Run-DMC), or maybe his entrance will reinforce the idea in other voters' heads that rappers are an important part of rock & roll. It's certainly not going to slow down the momentum for people like Salt-n-Pepa. 

If you want more pioneers of hip-hop in the Hall of Fame, vote for Eminem. This isn't Snow we're talking about; it's Emin freakin' Em.

Anyway, the whole podcast is worth listening to, even the parts I disagree with. These guys take the notion of the Hall of Fame very seriously, which is exactly what the Hall of Fame needs. I suspect I might be returning to it in the next few weeks.

MY VERDICT: Eminem is the kind of person the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was established to honor. I'm voting YES for him. 


  1. Here is where I need an explanation. I agree that Dolly is not close to rock & roll but how is Eminem? Except for the anti-establishment aspects and a prominent beat where is rap rock?

  2. Rock and roll here has always meant popular music in what Casey Kasem and Dick Clark would call the rock and roll era (since 1955). Hip hop is the pop music of this century. Eminem is a no-brainer. Dolly Parton is amazingly talented but in terms of pop music was basically a country crossover artist for about 5 years around 1980.