Eminem’s freestyle takedown of President Trump at the BET Awards is going viral this week. In the video, the Detroit rapper explicitly draws a line in the sand, telling his fans to choose a side. He says they cannot be loyal supporters of both the president and himself.
The video sends a strong visual message as well. Eminem stands in front of a group of black men who watch on as he freestyles about Trump. The fact that he launched the video from BET Awards lays bare who Eminem views as his people, versus his audience.
But the rapper—whose legal name is Marshall Mathers—comes from an area of Metro Detroit that is very different than the image he projects in the video.
He was raised in Macomb County, a region that arguably propelled Donald Trump into the White House.
The county has long been viewed as a bellwether in American politics, epitomizing the idea of fierce working class white independence. It’s also home to Kid Rock—legal name Bob Ritchie—who represents a different side of Macomb County voters, that is those who remain unceasingly loyal to Trump.
This week, POLITICO Magazine Digital Editor Zack Stanton—also a native of Macomb County—wrote “The Bellwether County That Explains Eminem and Kid Rock” an article exploring the two artists as political figures.
Stanton says Eminem and Kid Rock “encapsulate different aspects of Macomb.” Kid Rock comes from a place of “wealth and relative privilege,” while Eminem “represents the real working class southern part of Macomb County.”
“We’ve seen this push and pull between the two aspects of Macomb County over decades reflected in the politics,” explains Stanton. “Southern Macomb County tends to be Democratic. Northern Macomb County tends to be Republican.”
Brian McCollum of the Detroit Free Press has been covering music in Detroit since the 1990s and saw the ascent of both artists first-hand. At that time, journalists covering Kid Rock or Eminem weren’t particularly concerned with their politics.
“I don’t think I, or many other journalists back then, would even have thought to ask them ‘hey, who are you voting for this November? To see them emerge over the last two decades into these very visible political proponents is…really interesting,” he says.
Click on the audio player above for the full conversation on Detroit Today.
Here is Eminem’s freestyle from the BET Awards. WARNING: Contains graphic language.