XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
Coming off the success of his massively successful diamond-certified album, The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem was by far one of the most polarizing figures in the music industry. A result of his maverick attitude, dark song content and perhaps what caused him to receive the brunt of the vitriol hurled his way; the perception was that the Detroit rhymer was homophobic.
Many organizations took issue with what they perceived to be homophobic lyrics by Eminem, with The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) being at the forefront of this crusade against him. GLAAD picketed in front of the Staples Center, where the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards were being held in 2001, urging people to boycott Em as a result of their assertion that his lyrics incite violence against homosexuals. This is what made the performance with Elton John, one of the preeminent celebrities in the gay community, all the more unexpected.
Eminem started out the song rapping his verse on a darkened stage, with a light shining only on himself. When it came time for the chorus, the entire world was sent into a frenzy when everyone realized who was singing. Elton John sang Dido’s chorus on the song while playing keyboard. At the end of the performance, Elton John and Eminem came together onstage, hugged, then held hands together and raised them in solidarity, effectively ending all speculation that Eminem was a homophobe.
This performance is still regarded as one of the most important performances in hip-hop history and sent shockwaves throughout the music community, and subsequently, the entire world. Twenty-two years ago, this Grammy performance showed the entire world that hip-hop, notorious for its homophobia within the genre, could make strides towards acceptance of everybody, regardless of sexual orientation.
Eminem and Elton John remain good friends till this very day.—Marvin J