Eminem’s career is littered with tracks and music videos that diss and denigrate LGBTQ+ people.
But now, on a newly leaked collaboration with rapper Joyner Lucas, they ask whether or not two grown men could remain friends, should one of them reveal that he’s not straight.
On “What If I Was Gay,” Lucas plays the character of a closeted gay man addressing his close friend, who is apparently homophobic. The pair have bonded since childhood, talked about women, and the things that purportedly “made them boys.”
Lucas raps from the perspective of someone who keeps their sexuality hidden because they’re afraid of the “eternal damnation” preached by faith-based bigots, and want to be themselves in public but fear being abandoned by the people they love. Meanwhile, Eminem initially starts out his lyrics as the straight person who believes being gay is a “disease.” According to him a gay man would be straight if he tried having sex with a woman or got a girlfriend, among many other missives that assume being gay is abnormal and unwanted.
Then, the song turns. A lifetime of enduring homophobia results in Lucas’s character dying by suicide. Eminem apologizes for his harsh words, prays to God for forgiveness, reveals his own internal struggle with sexuality, and then closes with another question asked to the friend who can no longer hear him: “What if I told you I’m gay too?”
The song “What If I Was Gay” leaked online on Halloween, days after a snippet surfaced in online forums. According to Genius, some users pooled together to pay a leaker for the release of the track.
Since Eminem’s debut, he’s faced ardent protests from activist groups and has faced strong rebukes from critics for lyrics oozing with homophobic messages, as well as his usage of slurs. For example, on the song “The Real Slim Shady,” he compares cross-species breeding with two men eloping to get married, going further on the music video to physically split apart a kissing gay couple to show his disgust. On other tracks, such as Nicki Minaj’s “Roman’s Revenge,” he raps that “f*ggots can suck it.”
Yet ever since Donald Trump took office, Eminem has evinced a growing understanding of the impact of his words. He took aim at Trump on a burn track, and after dissing Tyler, The Creator’s sexuality on a track by using a slur, he apologized saying that he was hurt and wanted to punch back, but realized that he was also hurting others in the process. Elton John has gone on record to say that Eminem is not homophobic, as he brought John and his husband matching diamond-encrusted cock rings as a wedding gift.