The Real Stan Just Stood Up: A Lacanian Interpretation of The Game’s ‘The Black Slim Shady’ (Eminem Diss)
The Game recently released a diss track, a song called ‘The Black Slim Shady’, aimed at his former Aftermath labelmate who goes by the name Eminem. The track is based on two beats. The first is a vintage Dr. Dre/G-Unit sounding beat (circa 2003) and the second one is very Stan-esque. Between the two beats, there’s a skit or interlude in which The Game interacts with Stan’s little brother Matthew Mitchell. As is well known, Stan is the titular character at the center of Em’s song ‘Stan’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000). Stan is an obsessive fan who writes Em a series of letters expressing both his deep admiration and growing frustration with the rapper. Anyway, Em refers to Stan’s little brother Matthew on ‘Stan’ and also on the song ‘Bad Guy’ (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013).
This diss track is unique for a number of reasons. For starters, Em has never publicly dissed Game, so there’s the question concerning Game’s motives. Second, the song clocks in at a whopping ten minutes and twenty-five seconds, which is extraordinarily long for a diss song. Third, the song is filled with an excessive amount of references to Em’s music, many of which are obscure ones. And, fourth, Game uses a lot of Em’s rhyme schemes and cadences. In other words, there’s something obsessive and excessive about this song. If The Game proves anything here, it’s that he’s very erudite in the lore of Marshall Mathers, but Game stubbornly insists that he never listens to Em in the following lines starting at 4:58 of the song:
I never heard you in a club, I never heard you in a bar
Eleven albums and ten never got played inside of my car
I’d rather listen to Snitch9ine like sixty-nine times
And participate in 69s with sixty-nine nuns than listen to you
However, if Game never listens to Em, if he’s not a student of Em’s work, then how does he go on the make a multitude of references to lyrics spread all across Em’s discography? There’s a strong inconsistency at play here that the acute listener can hear, but that The Game could not. Between the cracks of Game’s explicit disses, one can detect his actual desire (what he truly wants). I’m going to argue that this desire can be found in the very structure of the song, that is, in its length and in the excessive references. And this leads us to the main point I want to make in this post: The Game’s The Black Slim Shady’ is a great example of how the unconscious, the truth of one’s desire, will manifest itself without one (the ego) realizing it. But before going into this psychoanalytic (Freudian-Lacanian) interpretation, let’s have a look at Game’s references to Eminem’s music in chronological order (these are just the twenty-plus references that I myself recognized).
0:50 — The line “Hi, I’m the Black Slim Shady” obviously refers to “Hi, my name is, my name is, my name is, Slim Shady” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999).
2:07 — Game says, “I killed Dr. Dre in my basement last night. On ‘The Real Slim Shady’, Em says, “Dr. Dre’s dead, he’s locked in my basement” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000).
4:08 — Game uses the rhyme scheme from ‘Lose Yourself’ when he raps, “So, oh, he goes platinum, and, oh, I’m on the ‘Math with him.” This is mimicking Em’s cadence in the lines “Ope, there goes gravity. Ope, there goes Rabbit (8 Mile: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture, 2002).
4:22 — Game identifies himself as D’Angelo Bailey. And who is this? It’s the name of Eminem’s childhood bully who is discussed on ‘Brain Damage’. Em says, “I was harassed daily by this fat kid named D’Angelo Bailey. An eighth grader who acted obnoxious, ’cause his father boxes, so everyday he’d shove me in the lockers” (The Slim Shady LP, 1999).
4:24 — “You depressed. You just maskin’ it. You pop an Adderall, a Vicodin, and an Aspirin.” Game is poking fun at Em’s depression and pill addiction as discussed on the album Recovery (2010) and elsewhere, for example, Em starts off his song ‘Beautiful’ (Relapse, 2009) by saying ‘I’m just so fuckin’ depressed. I just can’t seem to get out this slump.”
4:30 — The rhyme scheme and the cadence employed here are very reminiscent of those Em uses on both ‘Criminal’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000) and ‘Lose Yourself’ (8 Mile: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture, 2002). The way Game rhymes “my mind”, “defied rhymes”, “blind eye”, “five nines”, etc., is purposely imitating the beginning of the third verse of ‘Criminal’ where Em rhymes the following lines:
Windows tinted on my ride when I drive in it
So when I rob a bank, run out and just dive in it
So I’ll be disguised in it and if anybody identifies
The guy in it, I hide for five minutes
Come back, shoot the eyewitness
Fire at the private eye hired to pry in my business
And these lines are similar in sound and structure to the ones we find in the early stretch of the third verse of ‘Lose Yourself’:
But I kept rhymin’ and stepped right in the next cypher
Best believe somebody’s payin’ the Pied Piper
All the pain inside amplified by the
Fact that I can’t get by with my nine-to-
Five and I can’t provide the right type of life for my family
‘Cause man, these goddamn food stamps don’t buy diapers
And there’s no movie, there’s no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life
5:15 — The reference to Phil Collins and his song ‘The Air in the Night’ is actually meant to refer to Em’s own reference to the song in ‘Stan’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000).
5:17 — Game raps, “Aah-aah-aah-aah-aah-aah”, Epstein’s chasing me around Epstein Island”. The “aah-aah-aah-aah-aah-aah” is what Em does on the chorus to ‘Just Lose It’ (Encore, 2004).
5:25 — Game says, “Nothing rhymes with orange”. This is a reference to Em’s 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper. In it, Em explains how one can bend words that don’t actually rhyme in ways that can make them rhyme. It all rests on the enunciation of the words. His famous example is “orange”, which can be made to rhyme with “four inch”, “door hinge”, etc. This also refers to Em’s song ‘Tone Deaf’ (Music to Be Murdered By — Side B, 2020). On ‘Tone Deaf’, Em jokes that he can rhyme “orange” with “banana”.
5:28 — Game’s “Slim Shady please stand up” is a clear reference to Em’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000).
5:33 — Game says to Em “I could drop the world on your head with one arm”, which refers to Lil Wayne’s song ‘Drop the World’ (Rebirth, 2010), which Em features on.
5:55 — Here, Game refers to the famous song ‘Renegade’ that Em did with Jay-Z for the latter’s album The Blueprint (2001). There’s a general consensus with hip hop fans that Em’s verse was way better than Jay’s. This is why Nas, on his Jay-Z diss track ‘Ether’, said to Jay, “And Eminem murdered you on your own shit” (Stillmatic, 2001). Despite the strong consensus among rap fans, Game is saying that he thinks Jay’s verse on ‘Renegade’ was better than Em’s.
6:10 — The “I’m crazzzzyyyy” Game does at is a reference to a song by The Madd Rapper called ‘Stir Crazy’, which Em featured on. The song was on The Madd Rapper’s album Tell Em Why You Madd (2000). During the chorus, Em does the “I’m crazzzzyyyy”. Only a true Eminem fan would know abut this deep cut.
6:33 — Game says, “So when the bat signal goes up in the clouds above the buildings . . .”, which is referring to Em’s music video for ‘Without Me’ (The Eminem Show, 2002), wherein Em dresses up as a superhero (a Robin-esque costume) and responds to an Em signal in the sky.
6:41 — Game says to Em, “Well, I’m cleaning out your closet for you and your half-brother”. A reference to ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’ (The Eminem Show, 2002).
7:00 — Game does the chainsaw sound, the “vrinn, vrinn, vrinn”, that Em did on ‘Kill You’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000).
7:03 — Game says, “Pagin’ Dr. Dre” and, then, we hear the sound of Dre bound and gagged, which we find in the second verse of Em’s ‘Criminal’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000).
7:15 — “Mariah wasn’t picking you, so the cannons is blam-blammin’.” Game is referring to Em’s feud with Mariah Carey and her ex-husband Nick Cannon. Em exchanges disses with them. Check out his songs ‘Bagpipes from Baghdad’ (Relapse, 2009) and also ‘The Warning’.
7:36 — “This is not Mom’s spaghetti”. Another reference to ‘Lose Yourself’ (8 Mile: Music from and Inspired by the Motion Picture, 2002). Em said, “There’s vomit on his sweater already, Mom’s spaghetti.”
7:50 — Game says that Em’s mom, Debbie Mathers, had to see her son looking like a “wigga in jeans”. This, to me, seems to be a vague reference to Em’s words on ‘The Way I Am’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000):
And I just do not got the patience
To deal with these cocky Caucasians
Who think I’m some wigga who just tries to be black
8:10 — Game’s mention of being left in the “blistering cold” is a reference to ‘Stan’, wherein Em says, rapping as Stan, “We waited in the blistering cold for you” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000).
9:09 — The “Hi kids, here’s some fun” refers to the first line of ‘My Name Is’ (The Slim Shady LP, 1999). Em starts the song off by saying, “Hi kids, do you like violence?”
9:15 — “Your fans want a rap god, so, fuck it, I’m a give ’em one.” Em has a song called ‘Rap God’ (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013).
Ok, ok, but how does the structure or form of the diss track, its excessive length and its barrage of references, relate to The Game’s unconscious desire? Well, I want to answer this question through interpreting the song as if its a dream. It’s important to highlight that Sigmund Freud did not view the unconscious to be a cauldron of wild, dumb, animalistic instincts repressed by the laws and norms of society. Instead, the unconscious is profoundly rational — though rational in its own unique way. The unconscious is a supercomputer of desire, a clever jokester, a masterful linguist, a logician of libido. The dream itself is a thinker. Alenka Zupančič says, “Ingenious dreams, slips of the tongue, jokes, as well as many (other) highly spiritual forms and creations, are all manifestations of the work of the unconscious. . . . There is nothing simply irrational about the unconscious. Lacan also liked to point out how the biggest scandal provoked by the Freudian notion of sexuality (as related to the unconscious) was not its alleged dirtiness, but the fact “that it was so ‘intellectual.’ (What Is Sex?, p. 2). Simply put, you might not be an intellectual but your unconscious is. Freud famously wrote, “The interpretation of dreams is the royal road to a knowledge of the unconscious activities of the mind” (The Interpretation of Dreams, p. 604). The Freudian unconscious is one that articulates itself — especially in dreams. As Todd McGowan put it:
The basis of psychoanalysis is the discovery of the unconscious. The German Idealist Friedrich Schelling was the first to use the term “unconscious” (unbewusst in German) to describe the functioning of the mind, and several Romantic poets and philosophers, like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, picked up on this concept. But the unconscious of Romanticism is not the unconscious that Freud discovers. The Romantic unconscious is an inner self formed by emotions and feelings, and this unconscious doesn’t appear externally. For Freud, the unconscious doesn’t defy articulation but manifests itself through speech and other acts. In psychoanalysis, the unconscious is not a site of emotions and feelings. It instead houses a logic incompatible with the conscious mind, a logic oriented around desire. Freud takes an interest in dreams because they unlock the unconscious.
(Psychoanalysis and the Rules of the Game, p. 2)
On a side note, I just want to say that that the introduction in McGowan’s Psychoanalysis and the Rules of the Game is wonderfully insightful for the person striving to get a fundamental grasp of what psychoanalysis is all about. I want to thank Michael from the Žižek and So On podcast for motivating me to read it. I highly recommend it!
Freud’s concept of the dream and his method of interpreting it have long been misunderstood. Most people think that the Freudian dream has two key components: (1) manifest content (2) latent content. The manifest content is the immediate content of the dream that the dreamer can easily describe. The latent content is the secret or hidden meaning of the manifest content. According to Freud, the latent content is transformed into the manifest content by way of two mechanism: (1) displacement and (2) condensation. But what exactly are these structural operations? Sean Homer explains them like this:
Condensation designates the process whereby two or more signs or images in a dream are combined to form a composite image that is then invested with the meaning of both its constitutive elements. In persecutory dreams, for example, the dreamer may dream that they are being punished by an unknown authority figure and try to identify that figure with someone in their life. This figure may well in fact not be a single person, however, but a composite, or condensation, of a number of different persons — parental figures, employer or partner. All of the ambivalent feelings that the dreamer has around these figures combine into a single persecutor in the dream. Displacement describes the process through which meaning is transferred from one sign to another. Let us take the example of anxiety dreams. In anxiety dreams the dreamer may become anxious about some very minor incident in their lives, but this functions as simply a way of avoiding, or displacing, a much more serious problem that they are facing. These two processes are what Freud called primary processes in contrast to the secondary processes of conscious thought.
(Jacques Lacan: Routledge Critical Thinkers, p. 43)
On a side note, Lacan would go on to refine Freud’s concepts of condensation and displacement by interpreting them in linguistic terms. Lacan, relying on the work of Roman Jacobson (albeit in a modified form), would connect condensation to metaphor and displacement to metonymy. This is why Lacan famously said, “the unconscious is structured like a language”. If the formations of the unconscious are the unconscious and if the unconscious is structured like a language, then the formations of the unconscious are structured like a language. As Lacan said, “The creation of a witticism, as we have seen, belongs to the same order as the production of a linguistic symptom” (Seminar V: Formations of the Unconscious, p. 35). Now, if language consists of metonymic axis and a metaphoric axis, then we must be clear about the basic definitions of these terms. In this context, metonymy is the name for the combinatory principle of language and metaphor is the name for the substitutive principle of language. Simply put, language primarily consists of combinations of signifying elements and also of substitutions of them. In even simpler terms, language depends on (1) words being able to combine with other words in order to generate new meanings and (2) words being able to be substituted for one another. Condensation and metonymy are homologous insofar as they both involve the combination of signifying elements. Displacement and metaphor are homologous insofar as they both involve the substitution of one signifying element for another. It is in this way that the primary process or unconscious thinking is “structured like a language”. To quote Lacan again, “symptoms can be entirely resolved in an analysis of language, because a symptom is itself structured like a language: a symptom is language from which speech must be delivered” (‘The Function and Field of Speech and Language in Psychoanalysis’, Écrits, p. 223).
Now back to Freud’s dream theory. Freud referred to the two formal mechanisms of condensation and displacement, these two ciphering protocols, as the “dream-work”. The latent content is thought to be what the dream is truly about. The mistaken concept of dream interpretation holds that the aim of interpretation is to discover the latent content, the secret meaning, behind all of the “irrational” images of the manifest content. Wrong! For Freud, as well as for the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and the psychoanalytic philosopher Slavoj Žižek, the true goal of the interpretation of dreams is not the discovery of hidden meaning, but, rather, the unconscious desire (what Freud called “dream wishes”) operative within the dream. And here’s the main point: the unconscious desire is located in the dream-work itself, that is, in the structure or form of the dream and not in the manifest or latent content. As Freud said:
I used at one time to find it extraordinarily difficult to accustom readers to the distinction between the manifest content of dreams and the latent dream-thoughts. Again and again arguments and objections would be brought up based upon some uninterpreted dream in the form in which it had been retained in the memory, and the need to interpret it would be ignored. But now that analysts at least have become reconciled to replacing the manifest dream by the meaning revealed by its interpretation, many of them have become guilty of falling into another confusion which they cling to with equal obstinacy. They seek to find the essence of dreams in their latent content and in so doing they overlook the distinction between the latent dream-thoughts and the dream-work. At bottom, dreams are nothing other than a particular form of thinking, made possible by the conditions of the state of sleep. It is the dream-work which creates that form, and it alone is the essence of dreaming — the explanation of its peculiar nature.
(The Interpretation of Dreams, p. 510)
When it comes to the dream, there are three key features: (1) manifest content, (2) latent content, (3) form or unconscious desire. The unconscious desire is located precisely in how the latent content gets transformed into the manifest content. Now, we know that the form of the dream involves displacement and condensation. Understanding why x was displaced and/or condensed in the particular way that it was is how we discover the unconscious desire at work in the dream-work. Desire is in the form. Let’s look at how Žižek explains this:
Herein, then, lies the basic misunderstanding: if we seek the ‘secret of the dream’ in the latent content hidden by the manifest text, we are doomed to disappointment: all we find is some entirely ‘normal’ — albeit usually unpleasant — thought, the nature of which is mostly non-sexual and definitely not ‘unconscious’. This ‘normal’, conscious/preconscious thought is not drawn towards the unconscious, repressed simply because of its ‘disagreeable’ character for the conscious, but because it achieves a kind of ‘short circuit’ between it and another desire which is already repressed, located in the unconscious, a desire which has nothing whatsoever to do with the ‘latent dream-thought’. ‘A normal train of thought’ — normal and therefore one which can be articulated in common, everyday language: that is, in the syntax of the ‘secondary process’ — ‘is only submitted to the abnormal psychical treatment of the sort we have been describing’ — to the dream-work, to the mechanisms of the ‘primary process’ — ‘if an unconscious wish, derived from infancy and in a state of repression, has been transferred on to it’.
(The Sublime Object of Ideology, p. 5)
Zupančič reiterates this point, but adds to it an extra insight:
The unconscious desire is not the content of the hidden message, it is the active designer of the form that latent thoughts get in a dream. This is why the key in psychoanalysis is not a key to a hidden meaning, but the key that “unlocks” this form itself (makes what has been associated to compose the hidden meaning dissociate). And this is what “the right word” does.
(What Is Sex?, p. 68)
Unconscious desire is the formal designer (engineer, architect) of the dream’s content, but it’s the right word, the proper signifier, that unlocks or names the unconscious desire that is active in the dream-work, in the form of the dream. The right word breaks apart the configuration of manifest and latent meanings and, in so doing, clears a space for the unconcealment of unconscious desire. The unconscious desire of the dream is the unconscious truth of the dream. Dream interpretation seeks to disclose the unconscious desire that is imperceptibly present within the dream-work, within the structure of the coded messaging (displacement, condensation) of the dream’s content (manifest meaning, latent meaning). The unconscious is not something buried deep down in the psyche, but, instead, something hiding right there in plain sight within a person’s speech, dreams, fantasies, slips of the tongue, symptoms, etc. The key is to bring this superficial unconscious into one’s conscious intelligibility by way of the right signifier, which is what the interventions and interpretations of psychoanalysts aim at when it comes to dreams. Check out Derek Hook’s YouTube videos for more on Freudian dream theory:
Now, in order to better understand the dream, we must understand the relation between unconscious desire and fantasy. Lacan argued that a person’s desire is always configured, organized and established by a fantasy at the most fundamental level of subjectivity. Unconscious desire is constituted by a fundamental fantasy. But why did Lacan see such an essential connection between desire and fantasy? In what way does fantasy give desire a certain set of parameters that provide it with consistency? Put differently, why does desire require a fantasy in order to have an enduring determination? The answer lies in Lacan’s concept of desire itself. According to Lacan, desire is the desire of the Other or desire is the Other’s desire. These aphoristic formulations have two main meanings (1) the subject desires to be desired by the Other (as Cheap Trick put it, “I want you to want me”), and (2) “the subject desires the things that the Other desires”. For Lacan, desire is Other-oriented.
Pure desire has no built-in determinations of its own, since desire is free to desire any and all things. But, practically speaking, to desire everything is to desire nothing. For desire to desire specific objects, for it to take on particular desires, desire must be informed regarding what it ought to desire. Young children find themselves thrown into a familial situation structured around conflicting demands and desires due to the fact that all of the people around the child are split, inconsistent subjects (they themselves are divided between the conscious and the unconscious). “Mommy says she wants this, but I can tell she actually desires something else. The same goes for Daddy, Grandma, my brother and my sister.” The desire of the Other, the desire of all those significant people in your life, is traumatic for the child, since it is ultimately unknowable and enigmatic. The child desires the Other’s desire, but the Other’s desire is precisely what the child cannot know about. Lacan always spoke of the Other’s desire in terms of the Italian question “Che vuoi?”, which means “You keep telling me what you want from me but what do you really want from me?” The Other assails you with conscious demands, but these conscious demands never actually articulate the Other’s unconscious desires. This gap of the Other’s desire, this failure of explicitly stated demands, this anxiety-provoking enigma, is what fantasy answers. Fantasy tells the child what the Other’s unconscious desire really is and, in so doing, constitutes the subject’s own desire. The problem, of course, is that this fantasy is just that — a fantasy. It’s not the actual truth of the desire of the Other, but, rather, merely a fantasmatic, imaginary veil of this lack. However, the fantasy of the Other’s desire, once it has taken hold, functions as the cause (what Lacan termed objet petit a) of the subject’s desire, that is, it is what causes the subject to desire the specific objects that he or she desires. Lacan said:
An object can thus assume, in relation to the subject, the essential value that constitutes the fundamental fantasy. The subject himself realizes that he is arrested therein, or, to remind you of a more familiar notion, fixated. We call the object that serves this privileged function a. It is to the extent that the subject identifies with the fundamental fantasy that desire as such takes on consistency and can be designated . . . In other words, to use our terminology, in the subject it stands for the desire of the Other with a capital O.
(Seminar VIII: Transference, p. 170)
So, if the subject’s unconscious desire is constituted in a fundamental fantasy that gives positive particularity to the Other’s desire, then what’s the relation between fantasy and the dream? Here, we reach a point of disagreement between Freud and Lacan. Freud held that the desire within the dream is merely the staging of a wish fulfilment. The dreamer wants certain things in real life, but, for whatever reason, cannot attain in his or her waking life, which causes the subject to dream about having these wishes fulfilled. From the Lacanian perspective, the problem with Freud’s model of desire is that it is subject-oriented, that it takes the subject’s desire to be spontaneously self-generated, whereas, in truth, it is Other-oriented. If unconscious desire is the desire of the Other, then the particular wish fulfillments staged in the dream are secretly those of the Other’s desire. But these particular desires are rooted in a fundamental fantasy. As Dylan Evans puts it, “Lacan holds that beyond all the myriad images which appear in dreams and elsewhere there is always one ‘fundamental fantasy’ which is unconscious” (An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, p. 61). Lacan not only held that desire is constitutively Other-oriented but also asserted the Other-oriented constitution of dreams themselves:
Everything that we know of the unconscious right from the outset, on the basis of dreams, leads us to the conclusion that there are psychical phenomena which occur, develop, and are constructed in order to be heard [entendus, which also means “understood”] — which occur, develop, and are constructed for the Other who is there even if one does not know it. Even if one is not aware that they are there in order to be heard, they are there in order to be heard, and by an Other to boot.
(Seminar VIII: Transference, p. 175)
Before moving on with our analysis, we should have a look at how Žižek summarizes these lines of thought for us with remarkable lucidity and comprehension:
The first thing to note is that fantasy does not simply realize a desire in a hallucinatory way: rather, its function is similar to that of Kantian ‘transcendental schematism’: a fantasy constitutes our desire, provides its co-ordinates; that is, it literally ‘teaches us how to desire’. The role of fantasy is thus in a way analogous to that of the ill-fated pineal gland in Descartes’s philosophy, this mediator between res cogitans and res extensa: fantasy mediates between the formal symbolic structure and the positivity of the objects we encounter in reality — that is to say, it provides a ‘schema’ according to which certain positive objects in reality can function as objects of desire, filling in the empty places opened up by the formal symbolic structure. To put it in somewhat simplified terms: fantasy does not mean that when I desire a strawberry cake and cannot get it in reality, I fantasize about eating it; the problem is, rather: how do I know that I desire a strawberry cake in the first place? This is what fantasy tells me. This role of fantasy hinges on the fact that ‘there is no sexual relationship’, no universal formula or matrix guaranteeing a harmonious sexual relationship with one’s partner: because of the lack of this universal formula, every subject has to invent a fantasy of his or her own, a ‘private’ formula for the sexual relationship — for a man, the relationship with a woman is possible only inasmuch as she fits his formula. . . .
This radical intersubjectivity of fantasy is discernible even in the most elementary cases, like that (reported by Freud) of his little daughter fantasizing about eating a strawberry cake — what we have here is by no means a simple case of the direct hallucinatory satisfaction of a desire (she wanted a cake, she didn’t get it, so she fantasized about it . . .). That is to say: what one should introduce here is precisely the dimension of intersubjectivity: the crucial feature is that while she was voraciously eating a strawberry cake, the little girl noticed how her parents were deeply satisfied by this spectacle, by seeing her fully enjoying it — so what the fantasy of eating a strawberry cake is really about is her attempt to form an identity (of the one who fully enjoys eating a cake given by the parents) that would satisfy her parents, would make her the object of their desire. . .
(The Plague of Fantasies, pp. 7, 10)
Let’s now return to The Game’s ‘The Black Slim Shady’. What follows is my Lacanian interpretation of The Game’s “dream”, but before getting to that, I want to provide a little more context surrounding the release of this diss track. The Game was originally signed to Dr. Dre’s record label Aftermath on which his major-label debut album The Documentary (2005) was released. The Game was born and raised in Compton, California, and this was a big deal at the time, since East Coast rappers had been dominating hip hop ever since the decline of West Coast rap, a decline that occurred in large part due to the implosion of Death Row Records. None of the most famous and influential rappers at this moment where from the West Coast. Let’s go down the list: Jay-Z, 50 Cent, DMX, Nas, Method Man, Jadakiss, Lil’ Kim, Fat Joe, Ja Rule, Cam’ron, were all from new York; Outkast, Ludacris, T.I., Juvenile, Lil Wayne, Mystikal, Lil’ Flip, Lil’ Jon, were all Down South rappers; Eve was from Philadelphia; Redman hailed from Newark, New Jersey; Missy Eliot was born in Portsmouth, Virginia; Eminem was from Detroit; Nelly came from St. Louis, Kanye West was straight out of Chicago. The West Coast had ruled hip hop throughout the ’90s, so it was waiting for a superstar rapper to emerge. The Game was thought to be the rapper that would bring the West Coast back and the fact that Compton’s own Dr. Dre was executive producing The Documentary made it seem guaranteed. The album turned out to be a big success.
During this time, Dr. Dre decided to have Game become a member of 50 Cent’s group G-Unit (fellow members included Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo). Part of what made The Documentary so good was Game’s collaborations with 50 Cent, who featured on the songs ‘Hate It or Love It’, ‘Westside Story’ and ‘How We Do’. However, 50 and Game quickly found themselves in a very public feud. There was so many ins and outs involved in this rivalry that one would have to watch a detailed account about it’s history to truly be able to understand it. Here’s the point: 50 Cent and The Game soon discovered that they did not like each other and would go on to take shots at each other all the way up to now. They always end up dissing each other on songs or fucking with each other on social media. But the main nerve of this enmity is that The Game was dropped by Aftermath and had to sign with Geffen Records. Game’s follow-up album Doctor’s Advocate was successful, but the absence of Dr. Dre’s production was very noticeable. From that point on, Game’s career would have its good moments here and there while also never again reaching the heights of The Documentary. Throughout the years, Game has made it clear that he harbors a lot of resentment towards 50 Cent for how things went down with Aftermath. Dr. Dre, Eminem and 50 Cent have all solidify themselves as not only hip hop legends, but also as icons of pop culture in general. The Game, on the other hand, has not and more or less has fallen into pop culture obscurity and irrelevance. It’s apparent that Game feels that he could have also attained an iconic status if only he had had the continued support of Aftermath. This, for the Game, is a traumatic missed encounter.
While Game was always quick to exchange insults with 50, he never really took shots at Dre or Em, but this all changed with ‘The Black Slim Shady’. Why did Game finally decided to broaden his attack to include Eminem and Dre to a lesser degree? Some have argued that it’s merely a marketing gimmick employed to attempt to sell more copies of Game’s latest album, which, in part, it is, but I believe the true straw that broke the camel’s back was the Super Bowl LVI halftime performance that starred Dr. Dre. Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige. (On a side note, while Snoop was never officially signed to Aftermath, he has always been an honorary member due to his history with Dre during their days on Death Row Records — they made absolute classics together). Dre was the one who put together the performance, a performance that included four of his biggest protégés (Mary being the one exception). But not only do we have the assemblage of all of these rap icons on the grandest stage of them all, the Super Bowl halftime show, the event took place in Los Angeles of all places. Being left out of this performance is precisely what brought The Game to finally diss Em and Dre. Why? Let’s interpret his “dream” and find out.
I must say upfront that while this is a psychoanalytic interpretation of the song, it is not and cannot be an actual psychoanalysis of The Game himself. For it to be an authentic analysis, Game would have to be the one to unlock the unconscious dimension of the diss track via his free-associational speech. What I’m doing here is merely applying psychoanalytic concepts to the song while taking the greater context surrounding it into account. Idiosyncratic context and the unconscious associations between words are essential to dream interpretation proper, which means that this is really less of a dream analysis and more an exercise in the application of psychoanalytic concepts. This is why there is so much compatibility between Freud’s concept of the dream and Lacan’s concept of the signifier. The idea is that the dream itself is composed of idiosyncratic signifiers. Simply put, the dream is primarily built out of words, but words that have extremely particularistic connections. These associative links between the words (signifiers) give rise to singular meanings or idiosyncratic significations.
For example, if someone dreams about a dog, the psychoanalyst cannot rely on the universal and general meaning the signifier “dog” usually signifies. The unconscious resonance of “dog” can have little to nothing to do with actual dogs or even with the other common meanings it has for the general public. Imagine a young girl staring out the window as her mother is driving her home from school. The girl sees another girl playing on a sidewalk with a cute puppy and enthusiastically says, “Look! A dog!” Her mother quickly and harshly responds, “I’m never getting you a dog!” Now, the signifier “dog”, in this particular case, can come to unconsciously mean something like “my mother does not love me”. It is in this idiosyncratic sense that the Lacanian signifier is not a Saussurean sign. One of Lacan’s famous refrains was “the signifier represents the subject for another signifier”? The idea is that the unconscious subject (unconscious desire) is made known through how one signifier provides an idiosyncratic-individualistic meaning to another. The signifier “dog” says nothing at all about the person who says it, but retroactively pinning down its meaning with another signifier “my mother does not love me” is how the unconscious desire of the subject is made known. This gets at one of the big differences between Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis and Jungian psychoanalysis. For Jung, dreams consist of universal symbols or collective “archetypes”, whereas, for Freud and Lacan, they are woven out of singular signifiers. This is why, according to the Freudian-Lacanian perspective, it is absolutely essential to focus on the actual signifiers present in the speech and in the dreams of the patient and not fallback on the standard signifieds (meanings) those signifiers normally bear.
However, while I confess the limitations of my endeavor, I still would argue that it can give us a glimpse of what is stewing in Game’s unconscious. The reason I think this is because of the striking similarity between dreams and hip hop lyrics (“bars”). Rap lyrics or bars are really like dreams insofar as both rely on polysemies, metaphors, homonyms, double entendres, witticisms, puns, punchlines, etc. It’s very easy to hear a lot of rap lyrics as Freudian slips. The unconscious itself spits bars. The unconscious is a true hip hop head. If this sounds a bit odd to you, then check out some of the videos by YouTubers such as Stevie Knight, Knox Hill, No Life Shaq, Lost In Vegas, Crypt, etc. These guys break down the lyrics of the best rappers around. If you watch enough of their videos, you’ll quickly get attuned to just how semiotically rich and layered that hip hop lyrics really are. Simply put, the analysis of hip hop lyrics really lends itself to psychoanalytic interpretation.
On the hook of Game’s song ‘Dreams’ (The Documentary, 2005), the lyrics include “I brought you all my dreams”. Well, he forgot to give us one, but he finally got around to it with ‘The Black Slim Shady’. The manifest content of the “dream”, the direct and explicit meaning, consists of Game playfully mocking Eminem’s style and lyrics. The diss track’s manifest content lacks the stone cold aggressiveness we find in Tupac’s ‘Hit ’Em Up’ (Biggie diss) or the cerebral viciousness of Pusha T’s ‘The Story of Adidon’ (Drake diss). However, while ‘The Black Slim Shady’ is, by and large, comedic and lacking in severity at its manifest level, there’s still something weighty operating in the background for Game. The silliness of the manifest content disguises the bitter seriousness of that of the latent. What is this ambivalence truly about?
To start off, how is the mechanism of condensation at play in ‘The Black Slim Shady’? Remember, condensation occurs when multiple thoughts are condensed into a single thought or dream-image, e.g., a figure of authority within a dream may very well represent a number of people including one’s father, mother, boss, coworker, teacher, friend, etc, in a compressed form. It can take certain conflicts the subject has with each of these people and condense them (mash them up, superimpose or overlap them) into one authority figure. Now, here’s where things get even trickier. This sole figure of authority can actually have the appearance or image of one of the people it represents, that is, this figure can look like one’s teacher while simultaneously embodying your teacher and your father and your coworker. I read the figure of Eminem as a condensation of Eminem, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, lloyd Banks, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, Jimmy Iovine (co-founder of Interscope Records), the staff at Aftermath, etc. Basically, in the “dream”, Em is really a condensation for all of the libidinal baggage Game has in relation to the whole situation from 2005 (a situation that was obviously traumatic for him). Lacan’s way of describing condensation is helpful:
You would be wrong to think that condensation simply means the term by term correspondence of a symbol with something. On the contrary, in a given dream, the whole of the dream-thoughts, that is to say the whole of those things signified, the meanings of the dream, is taken as a network, and is represented, not at all term by term, but through a set of interlacings.
(Seminar 1: Freud’s Papers on Technique, p. 266)
This condensation, this “set of interlacings”, explains the strangely disoriented feel of the song. On the one hand, it feels somewhat like a tribute to Eminem, but on the other, it contains, at times, lyrical outpourings of prankish hostility, which gesture towards even stronger feelings of animosity. Many reviewers have noted the bizarre circumstances surrounding the song. As I mentioned above, Eminem has never disrespected Game in the public eye. In fact, I don’t recall him ever even taking any indirect or subliminal shots at Game. Em stayed clear of the beef between 50 Cent and Game even though 50 is one of his closest friends. Em never did anything to instigate The Game, which is why so many hip hop fans can’t get behind this diss track. Things get much clear once we interpret the Eminem in Game’s “dream” as a multifaceted condensation, a complex compression, of all of the people connected to Aftermath. The Game’s “dream” about “Eminem” is just his unconscious aftermath of Aftermath.
What about how the mechanism of displacement is at work in the “dream”? Freudians and Lacanians speak of different things being “displaced” within dreams, but a primary one is that of the affect (an emotion, mood, feeling). For Freud and Lacan, moods are never unconscious, that is, there is no such thing as an unconscious emotion. (To clarify, both men argued that the unconscious is comprised only of thoughts or “signifiers”. Now, there are unconscious desires, fantasies and even forms of enjoyment that are connected to one’s unconscious thoughts/signifiers, but none of these are affects or emotions in the strict sense). While affects are never unconscious, they do, however, get detached from their original object, and once they are detached from their source-object, they can drift around the psyche and come to be reattached to a different object. This is what we are getting at when we say to someone “Stop taking it out on me!” Freud and Lacan explicitly rejected the notion of the unconscious emotion:
In the first place it may happen that an affective or emotional impulse is perceived but misconstrued. Owing to the repression of its proper representative it has been forced to become connected with another idea, and is now regarded by consciousness as the manifestation of that idea. If we restore the true connection, we call the original affective impulse an ‘unconscious’ one. Yet its affect was never unconscious; all that had happened was that its idea had undergone repression.
(‘The Unconscious’, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume 14, pp. 177–8)
On the other hand, what I said about affect is that it isn’t repressed. Freud says it just as I do. It’s unfastened, it drifts about. It can be found displaced, maddened, inverted, or metabolized, but it isn’t repressed. What are repressed are the signifiers that moor it.
(Seminar X: Anxiety, p.14)
I argue that the key displacement operating in ‘The Black Slim Shady’ is the displacement of Game’s feelings towards Dr. Dre on to Eminem. The Game does have certain emotions towards Eminem that he needs to work through, but the main affects motivating this “dream” are those he has towards Dre. Why do I make this claim? Well, because the significant aspects of a dream are usually tucked away inside of those parts of it that seem to be the most inconsequential and unimportant. Any psychoanalyst worthy of the name knows the dream-work hides the important dream-thoughts in the most insignificant of details. What immediately strikes the listener of ‘The Black Slim Shady’ is that it’s really two entirely different songs with two different beats (the shift from one beat to another is even a nice musical expression of displacement). The first one really is odd. It’s lyrics are honestly pretty generic and unspecific ones. Yes, Game is kind of rapping like Em, there’s a little mimicry of style and sound, but he never mentions him directly (unless we consider Game referring to himself as the “Black Slim Shady” to be that). However the one relevant person he does speak of is Dr. Dre:
I killed Dr. Dre in my basement last night
I was wasted last night, I went ape shit last night
Chopped his body up, and forgot where I placed it last night
If we focus on the trivial aspect of Game’s “dream”, then we see that Dr. Dre is at the heart of the matter — not Eminem. This is where the displacement of affect occurs. And it’s crucial to acknowledge that Game raps these lyrics in a very playful and jocular way. He “jokes” about killing Dre the way Em has done in the past, but this type of joke is very different when Game makes it (the enunciated or spoken content is similar but the position of enunciation, the subjective position from which the content is spoken, is not, which, in a specific sense, makes the meaning of the content different). Keep in mind that Freud explored at length how the unconscious manifests itself in jokes. What forces this “joke” to be so conspicuous in the first song within ‘The Black Slim Shady’ is the lack of any disses or jokes aimed at Em, 50, etc., throughout the rest of it. After this section concludes, we pivot into the skit where Game hunts down Matthew Mitchell, then, after that, the second song kicks in, which is the main section of the song as a whole. This stretch kicks off with Game returning to Dre before turning his attention to Em.
All I got is my word, my dick and my MAC-10
One thing you can never have is my motherfuckin’ black skin
This ain’t no suit that I wore
This ain’t a mansion, a hangin’ plaque, this ain’t no stupid award
So, oh, he goes platinum
And, oh, I’m on the ‘Math with him
He got all the blackest friends
He wants to be African, me
Left for dead on the Doctor’s Advocate
Dre never executive-produced it, I just imagined it
Some of these lyrics mean more than Game is aware of and will majorly factor into my interpretation. The “Ask Dre” actually gets at the privileged position Dre has in the Game’s world (his “Symbolic order”). Dre is essentially Game’s big Other or ultimate authority — especially the authority when it comes to all things West Coast hip hop. The last two lines are the most load-bearing, however. As Lacan pointed out in his analysis of Edgar Allen Poe’s story ‘The Purloined Letter’, the unconscious signifier hides in plain sight. “Left for dead on the Doctor’s Advocate” refers to Game being dropped from Aftermath prior to the recording of his second album, which meant that he didn’t have Dre’s production to rely on. As Game says, “Dre never executive-produced it”, but the line that follows, the “I just imagined it”, gets at the main nerve of Game’s fantasy structure. This is background context in which Game disses Em.
Now, a fundamental fantasy tells a person what they must be in order to satisfy the desire of the Other, that is, what he or she must be like in order to fill in the lack in the Other. This insight enables us to interpret the core (unconscious desire) of the Game’s “dream”. Here’s how I see the various dimensions of the dream fitting together. The manifest meaning of the “dream” is something like “I want to lyrically and playfully challenge Em as a rapper for the sake of hip hop competition”. Game said this in interviews leading up to the release of his new album Drillmatic. The latent meaning is basically “I harbor deep resentment and jealousy towards Em based on my relation to Dr. Dre. I must have Dre’s recognition and support in order to be the savior of West Coast hip hop, but Eminem has monopolize that recognition and, thereby, has deprived me of it.” Notice how the lyrics I just quoted above are a mixture of disappointment with Dre and spiteful jealousy towards Em. However, the unconscious desire in the dream-work, the true secret of the dream, is something along the lines of “I desire to be the savior of West Coast hip hop because that is what will fill in the lack in the Other — that is what will make the Other desire me.” When Game says later on in the “dream” that “These are the deepest secrets I keep”, he’s not lying — in fact, he’s speaking far more truth than he even knows about. In other words, there’s an excess of unconscious truth expressed in the “dream”.
Let’s add some more detail to this point. There is a fundamental connection between unconscious fantasy and the conscious ego. The ego is one’s conscious sense of self, but there are layers of the ego. The ego is not merely a collection of aspects of one’s actual body and actual personality that one identifies with, that one says “That’s me!” to, but also, and more importantly, consists, in part, of one’s idealized image of oneself. This is what us Lacanians call the ideal-ego. The ideal-ego is the fantasmatic image I have of the self I desire to be. But there is yet another dimension of the ego for Lacan, which he referred to as the ego-ideal. If desire is the desire of the Other and if one’s ideal-ego is the fantasmatic self-image one desires to be, then the ego-ideal is the desirous gaze of the Other for whom I desire to be my ideal-ego. The ego, therefore, is structured by two types of identification: (1) Imaginary identification and (2) Symbolic identification. Žižek explains the distinction like this:
The relation between imaginary and symbolic identification — between the ideal ego [Idealich] and the ego-ideal [Ich-Ideal] — is — to use the distinction made by Jacques-Alain Miller (in his unpublished Seminar) — that between ‘constituted’ and ‘constitutive’ identification: to put it simply, imaginary identification is identification with the image in which we appear likeable to ourselves, with the image representing ‘what we would like to be’, and symbolic identification, identification with the very place from where we are being observed, from where we look at ourselves so that we appear to ourselves likeable, worthy of love.
(The Sublime Object of Ideology, p. 116)
Symbolic identification with the ego-ideal is primary, since it’s precisely the “constitutive” one. The ego-ideal constitutes the ideal-ego. Symbolic identification causes Imaginary identification. But why? Because Symbolic identification, the ego-ideal, is what tells the subject what sort of characteristics they must possess in order to attain social recognition. If one seeks to have a high social status, then one must be x, y and z. Imagine yourself standing in front of Jesus Christ, Beyoncé, Jeff Bezos, Gandhi, Frida Kahlo, Richard Ramirez, Kim Kardashian, Mike Tyson, Karl Marx, Aleister Crowley, Bruce Lee, Socrates, etc. Picture all of them staring intensely at you with judgment in their eyes or, more accurately, in their gazes. In this anxiety-provoking moment, you’ll quickly know at a gut level that you are being evaluated from very different positions of value. Your image, your physical appearance, would have to be extremely different in order to gain the affirmative recognition of each of them. This is not because of their Imaginary features (they way they appear to you), but because of their Symbolic positions, that is, because of the set of evaluative criteria they have.
However, while the ego likes to chase the recognition of the big Other, desire pursues something else. For Lacan, as opposed to the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, desire itself, desire in all its fantasmatic constitution, is not fundamentally oriented towards recognition (approval, validation), but, rather, towards desire and excessive enjoyment (jouissance). This is where things get a little tricky. While unconscious desire is primarily concerned jouissance and not with recognition, fantasy can nevertheless convince desire that recognition is an essential condition of the attainment of jouissance.
Recognition plays a key role in The Game’s fundamental fantasy. The fantasy answers the question concerning the Other’s enigmatic desire. Game’s unconscious desire is an answer to the question Che vuoi?, which, in this case, is “I must be the savior of West Coast hip hop in order to be desired (loved, embraced, cherished) by the Other. (We might even be able to say that the specific Other whose desire Game desires to satisfy is West Coast hip hop itself — Game desires to fill in the void of West Coast hip hop). The Game’s unconscious says, “I necessitate Dr. Dre’s recognition in order to be desired by the Other.” This fantasmatic answer to the mystery of the Other’s desire unconsciously structures The Game’s ego. Dr. Dre is Game’s ego-ideal and Eminem is his ideal-ego. Dre is his ego-ideal because Dre has long been considered the Symbolic authority (big Other) in all things concerning West Coast hip hop, which is what causes Em to be Game’s ideal-ego. It is no secret that Em has a privileged place when it comes to Dre’s recognition. Dre expressed the special bond he has with Em in the song ‘I Need a Doctor’ (2011):
Went through friends, some of them I put on, but they just left
They said they was ridin’ to the death
But where the fuck are they now, now that I need them?
I don’t see none of them, all I see is Slim
Fuck all you fair-weather friends! All I need is him
Game’s ego identifies with Em (ideal-ego), since Em occupies the position that has captured Dre’s recognition (ego-ideal). However, the subject always shows both love and aggression towards the ideal-ego owing to the fact that one fundamentally identifies with it while also never being able to actually be it. Hate it or love it? Hey, Game, are you sure it’s not both at the same time when it comes to Em? And therein lies the source of the conspicuous ambivalence of the song. Game is conflicted insofar as it is both a homage and a diss, which is precisely the dynamic between the ego and its ideal-ego. The Game requires Dre’s recognition, but Em keeps on monopolizing it, so Game both wants to be like him, since he has what it takes to earn Dre’s respect, and wants to kill him, since he occupies the spot of Dre’s recognition that Game must acquire. Again, Eminem never went out of his way to make things hard on Game, but 50 Cent has done just that time and time again for two decades. In many ways, 50 Cent is the thief of The Game’s enjoyment, so why do we get the sense from this “dream” that Em ultimately matters more to Game than 50 does? It’s because Em has a greater proximity to and a stronger resonance in The Game’s fantasy space than 50 does due to how Dr. Dre clearly cares more about Em than 50. It is Dr. Dre, not Eminem, that is the main person Game is addressing in ‘The Black Slim Shady’ albeit in a displaced, condensed and disguised form. Behind the manifest dream-thoughts about Em, we discover the latent dream-thoughts about Dre. Game is a Stan in the sense that he studies Em in order to try to know how to gain Dre’s recognition, which, in turn, is the condition for satisfying the desire of the Other.
But to stress it again, unconscious desire is that which uses the mechanisms of the dream-work to simultaneously reveal and conceal itself. The unconscious desire operative in the dream is something like “I desire to be one of Dr. Dre’s iconic protégés because this is how I will make the Other desire (love) me.” The reason why this unconscious desire transforms the latent dream-thoughts, those concerning the profound sense of disappointment, resentment, sadness, anger, and bitterness, that The Game has towards Dre, into the “competitive” lyrics, playful attacks, silly mimicries, childish digs, etc., of the manifest dream-thoughts is because of how these obfuscations actually enable the expression of the unconscious desire in disguised form. How so? The condensations and displacements enable Game to wear the mask of Eminem. Because he is “mocking” Em’s lyrics, voice and flow, Game gets to pretend to be Eminem. But this “fictional” space of make-believe (mockery, mimicry, imitation, etc.) is the space wherein unconscious desire let’s itself be known in a disguised manner. Because Game can say to himself, “I’m just playing around in this diss song. By pretending to be Em, I’m actually using Em against Em”, Game sets up an defense mechanism (rationalization) for his ego while simultaneously expressing his unconscious desire to be Em. This “dream” truly let’s Game become the black Slim Shady. The dream-work allows The Game to wear the mask of Eminem, but the mask is his true self (the realization of his fantasmatic ideal-ego), that is, the fulfillment of his unconscious desire. Žižek is great at explaining this strange logic:
The emotions I perform through the mask (the false persona) that I adopt can in a strange way be more authentic and truthful than what I assume that I feel in myself. When I construct a false image of myself which stands for me in a virtual community in which I participate (in sexual games, for example, a shy man often assumes the screen persona of an attractive promiscuous woman), the emotions I feel and feign as part of my screen persona are not simply false: although (what I count as) my true self does not feel them, they are nonetheless in a sense true. Suppose that, deep down, I am a sadistic pervert who dreams of beating up other men and raping women: in my real-life interaction with other people, I am not allowed to express this true self, so I adopt a more humble and polite persona. In this case, doesn’t it follow that my true self is much closer to what I adopt as a fictional screen persona, while the self of my real-life interactions is a mask? Paradoxically, it is the very fact that I am aware that, in cyberspace, I move within a fiction that allows me to express my true self there — this is what, among other things, Lacan means when he claims that ‘truth has the structure of a fiction’.
(How to Read Lacan, p. 32)
The trick of the mask is to make us think that it is a mask. The truth is the mask is the true face — the true face that the literal face masks. The face is the mask and the mask is the face. One puts on a mask in order to show the real face. Hollywood films are filled with examples of the “mask” being that which provides the opportunity for the true self to reveal itself. Perhaps to most famous example is that of Michael Myers in the Halloween franchise. The mask Michael Myers wears is his true face. We also see this logic at work in Ready Player One (2018), wherein all of the main characters’ “true selves” are actually their digital avatars within the Oasis. We all know from our experiences on social media that most people like to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., to wear the masks that are their true selves (either the expression of their fantasmatic self-images or that of their obscene forms of jouissance). However, one of Žižek’s favorite examples of the mask is that of the Joker: “He is not a man without mask, but, on the contrary, a man fully identified with his mask, a man who is his mask — there is nothing, no “ordinary guy,” beneath his mask. This is why Joker has no back-story and lacks any clear motivation: he tells different people different stories about his scars, mocking the idea that he should have some deep-rooted trauma that drives him” (Surplus-Enjoyment, p. 327).
The Game’s mask is the face of Eminem. This is why the length of the song is itself an expression of unconscious desire — the length of the “dream” implies an obsessive-fantastic fixation with Em. For ten minutes and twenty-five seconds, Game gets to lose “himself” in himself, that is, in occupying the position of Eminem. This excessively extended “attack” on Em, this longwinded and fixated exercise in ambivalence, reveals more about The Game’s unconscious than he would have hoped for. But his unconscious truth is expressed in yet another way here.
Not only does Game position himself as Em, as the black Slim Shady, but also as one of Em’s Stans (super-obsessed fans). We know Game is positioning himself as a Stan via the signifier “Dear Slim” (5:35), since this is how Stan started off his letters to Em. This is where the litany of Em references comes into play. Again, the particular content of the references isn’t what matters. What matters is how they structured the song itself. Only a Stan would be capable of referencing this many of them. The Stan position is one of obsessive admiration and violent retaliation. Both of Eminem’s fictional Stans, the characters of Stan and Matthew (Stan’s little brother), are defined through their love-hate relationships with him. The song ‘Stan’ (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000) and its sequel ‘Bad Guy’ (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013) are meditations on this sort of ambivalent obsession, which is precisely what we also see in ‘The Black Slim Shady’. Hey Game, why so much fixation on Em if you have no love, admiration, respect, etc., for him as a rapper and if he has never really done anything to you? Game is clearly rapping from the Stan position in the following lines:
Let’s get this shit all together, the picture was ripped, I fixed it
But none with me, you, and 50, let’s stitch this shit all together
You like it, Slim?
I made it just for you
I even kidnapped Stan’s brother and baited him here for you
But you would just say, “No”
Probably leave us in the blistering cold
He goes on to add, “And Matthew’s dead now, it’s just you and me”. So, Game kills Matthew, but by killing Matthew qua obsessive Em fan Game gets to kill the Em Stan in himself while simultaneously rapping from the Stan position (he’s killing Matthew, i.e, Stan 2.0, while rapping as the ultimate Stan). This is yet another point at which we can read Game’s conflicted, ambivalent, contradictory, symptomal, unconscious desire. However, in trying to master Em via his obsessive knowledge of him only reveals is own lack. Why? The character Matthew Mitchell actually killed himself (and Em) in the song ‘Bad Guy’. Game obviously dropped the ball in his referencing of Matthew. As the YouTuber Crypt points out in his humorous video ‘Everything WRONG with The Game’s “Black Slim Shady” (Eminem Diss)’, Game must be talking to a fucking ghost, since Matthew Mitchell is already dead in Eminem lore. Any true Stan would have known that. Your lack, your castration, is showing, Game.
Another thing about the “dream” that jumps out to the psychoanalytically minded is the presence of negation (Verneinung) in it. The diss track has two instances of the Freudian type of negation. Freud explained his concept of negation like this:
The manner in which our patients bring forward their associations during the work of analysis gives us an opportunity for making some interesting observations. ‘Now you’ll think I mean to say something insulting, but really I’ve no such intention.’ We realize that this is a rejection, by projection, of an idea that has just come up. Or: ‘You ask who this person in the dream can be. It’s not my mother.’ We emend this to: ‘So it is his mother.’ In our interpretation, we take the liberty of disregarding the negation and of picking out the subject-matter alone of the association. It is as though the patient had said: ‘It’s true that my mother came into my mind as I thought of this person, but I don’t feel inclined to let the association count.’ . . . Thus the content of a repressed image or idea can make its way into consciousness, on condition that it is negated. Negation is a way of taking cognizance of what is repressed; indeed it is already a lifting of the repression, though not, of course, an acceptance of what is repressed.
(‘Negation’, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume 19, pp. 235–6)
What exactly is the connection between the unconscious and negation? To quote Nick Castellucci’s clarifying formulation, “For Freud, the red flag of the unconscious here is when you deny something voluntarily without being prompted to” (Nick is one member of the Lacanian-Žižekian duo, the other member being Andrew Flores, that comprises the YouTube channel Que Vuoi? — this quote is from their video titled ‘Verneinung — “It’s NOT my mother”’). Freud’s idea is that the unconscious is manifesting itself whenever a person insistently and stubbornly denies or negates something. Imagine a group of guys hanging out when, out of nowhere, one of them forcefully says, “I do not want to go out with that waitress at Applebee’s!” There’s usually a prolonged silence after such a negation followed by one of his friends responding, “Uh, nobody ask about her.” Whenever someone spontaneously goes out of their way to negate or deny x, it’s safe to assume that they are actually expressing an unconscious desire but simply in a negative form. Bill Clinton provided us with one of the most famous instances of negation in the history of American politics: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!”
While this sort of negation is conceptually linked to the unconscious, we can always see a profound relation between negation and the ego. The ego is the subject’s fundamental negation. We can call this the big Negation. Why? Because what the ego does is negate the subject’s lack of consistency. When a young child caught inside of its own fragmentariness, within its lack of bodily coordination, finally comes to identify with its image in the mirror (bodily imago), a fundamental negation is asserted (though, of course, it’s not literally spoken). This unspoken negation declares, “I am not a fragmentary being! I am not a divided subject!” Thus, the ego is the subject’s illusory sense of being whole and consistent. The ego says, “I say what I mean and I mean what I say — I am master in my own house!” The ego is the affirmative illusion that convinces the subject that it is what it is and that it transparently knows itself as it is. Well, the negative-inverted form of this affirmation is “I am not a being that is internally divided and that does not know itself. Simply put, the ego says, “I do not have an unconscious!” The ego as such implies this foundational negation of the truth of split subjectivity.
In fact, the ego is forged precisely for this purpose. The ego does not merely have defense mechanisms — the ego itself is the ultimate defense mechanism. This is why the ego is the symptom par excellence. The ego is the subject’s primary way of avoiding any and all confrontations with its own unconscious. Therefore, the ego is an internal deadlock or the way in which subjectivity trips over itself. Lacan himself said, “The ego is structured exactly like a symptom. At the heart of the subject, it is only a privileged symptom, the human symptom par excellence, the mental illness of man” (Seminar I: Freud’s Papers on Technique, p.16). The profound irony, of course, is that the ego is the subject’s most basic way of attempting to not trip on itself. The subject is not a substantial thing, which causes it much anxiety, so it attempts to reify itself into a thing through the formation of ego, but this very split between the subject and ego, in truth, only serves to more fully constitute the contradictory or split status of the subject. The ego is the externalization of the subject’s inability to own up to, to reconcile itself with, its ontological division or lack of substantial being. “I am not a contradictory being!” Say it! Say the thing, Queen Gertrude! “The lady doth protest too much, methinks!” We arrive at the unconscious truth through negation.
So, how exactly does negation factor into ‘The Black Slim Shady’? Some of you can probably guess where this is going. The Game emphatically insists that he does not listen to Eminem. Let’s take a second look at those lyrics I quoted above:
I never heard you in a club, I never heard you in a bar
Eleven albums and ten never got played inside of my car
I’d rather listen to Snitch9ine like sixty-nine times
And participate in 69s with sixty-nine nuns than listen to you
Game, then, goes on to add:
You are not top five in mine, B.I.G. or Pac eyes
No André, no Nas, stop tellin’ white lies
Ok, in the first lines, the negation is not in the “not”, but, instead in the “never” as well as in his assertion of his preference for the terrible music of “rapper” 6ix9ine over Em’s. However, as we’ve all just seen, Game sure knows a lot of Em references for someone who never ever listens to his music. In truth, Game is a Stan, but he can’t bring himself to cope with this aspect of himself, so he can only express it via negation. Game, then, goes on to say that Em is not on his list of top-five greatest rappers of all time. The funniest thing about this is that Game posted the list of his top-ten best rappers alive on Twitter just a year ago and Em was number four on it. Here, I’ll say it for you, Game: “I don’t know who my ideal ego is, but I know with absolute certainty that it is not Eminem!”
What it all boils down to is that Eminem is The Game’s symptom. But what is a symptom? Lacan said, “Here, what I am calling a symptom in the most general sense is a morbid symptom as well as a dream and anything that’s analysable. What I am calling a symptom is anything that is analysable” (Seminar V: Formations of the Unconscious, p. 305). A symptom is that which psychoanalysis seeks to analyze. A symptom arises whenever there is a conflict in the subject’s desire or, as Žižek put it, “According to Lacan, the symptom as a compromise-formation bears witness to how the subject ‘gave up his desire’”(The Metastases of Enjoyment, p. 142). In other words, a symptom emerges whenever someone compromises his or her desire. The symptom is the way the unconscious goes about expressing its repressed desire. As Zupančič explains:
What is a symptom that one “brings” to analysis? It is always a subjective solution to some contradiction or impasse. And it is a solution that usually makes one’s life very complicated; it comes with some degree of suffering. Yet it is a solution, and it involves serious subjective investment. The work of analysis consists in forcing out the contradiction “solved” by the symptom, in relating the symptom to the singular contradiction of which it is a solution. Psychoanalysis does not solve the contradiction; rather, it solves its solution (given by the symptom).
(What Is Sex?, p. 66)
Lacan explained the connections between the symptom, the dream and unconscious desire like this:
What was it that the Freudian discovery emphasized at the outset? It emphasized desire. What Freud essentially discovers, what he apprehends in every kind of symptom, whether they are pathological symptoms or whether they are what he interprets in what till then had presented itself as more or less reducible to normal life — namely, dreams for example — is always a desire.
Moreover, in dreams, he doesn’t just talk about desire but about the fulfilment of desire, Wunscherfüllung. We should not fail to be struck by this fact — namely, that he speaks about the satisfaction of desire, precisely, in dreams. He also indicates that, in symptoms themselves, there is something that resembles this satisfaction, but it’s satisfaction whose problematic character is quite marked, since it’s also satisfaction turned upside down.
It already seems, then, that desire is linked to something that is its appearance and, to use this word, its mask. In the way desire presents itself to us in analytic experience, the close link that it maintains with what cloaks it, problematically, invites us to reflect upon this as an essential problem. . . .
The question is that of the link with desire, which remains a question mark, an x, an enigma, which the symptom cloaks itself in — the link, that is, with the mask.
We are told that, insofar as a symptom is unconscious, it is, in short, and to a certain extent, something that speaks and of which one can say with Freud — with Freud from the outset — that it’s articulated. A symptom, therefore, goes in the direction of the recognition of desire.
(Seminar V: Formations of the Unconscious, pp. 301, 307)
This passage really says it all. Freud’s discovery of psychoanalysis was a discovery concerning the workings of desire and how to go about analyzing it. If psychoanalysis is a science, then it is the science of desire. Repressed desire is the hard kernel of the symptom (dreams, slips of the tongue, bungled actions, jokes, etc.). Dreams are not merely about desire, but, instead, actually stage and narrativize the fulfillment of desire. However, unconscious desire only expresses itself via its mask, i.e., its symptom. If desire is that which is repressed, then the return of the repressed is the return of desire in the form of a symptom (mask, cloak, veil). But what exactly is the logic at work here between repressed desire and its symptomal expression? The desire is too strong, to potent, for the subject to directly identify with. The symptom is the way the unconscious dilutes the truth of the subject’s desire.
We see this same strategy employed in an episode of Stranger Things. In the episode ‘Dig Dug’ (season 2, episode 5), Nancy, Jonathan and Murray have attained stunning evidence (an incriminating confessional tape) of the corrupt government crimes and coverups that have occurred in the town of Hawkins. However, the truth of this situation involves monsters from an alternate dimension called the Upside Down as well as a girl name Eleven with superhuman powers, which is a truth so unbelievable, so traumatic, that the general public, the “Them” with a capital “T”, would never be able to accept it. Murray insists, “Your priests, your postman, your teacher, the world at large . . . they won’t believe any of this.” What to do? Murray takes a sip of the cocktail consisting of vodka and soda water that he just poured for himself only to discover that the drink is way too strong. He goes back to the kitchen and pours in some more soda water, takes another sip, and says, “better”, then he proceeds to add in more soda water, takes another sip, smiles, and says, “perfect”. This inspires Murray to concoct a clever tactic, one that he doesn’t even have to actually say, since Nancy has already read his mind and says it for him, “We water it down”. In other words, they have to edit out all of the truths about faceless monsters from a parallel dimension and government experiments on children with psychokinetic abilities in order to moderate their story and, thereby, make it tolerable. Here’s the analogous point: the symptom is the way in which the unconscious makes repressed desire tolerable. The symptom is desire’s soda water. The undiluted truth of desire is far too strong for the ego to swallow, which is why it requires a mixer in order to make it “drinkable”. A dream, for example, waters down desire via the dreamwork, that is, the distortions of condensation and displacement. The symptom articulates desire through its distortive dilutions. But since desire speaks via the symptom, it is able to be analyzed, interpreted and deciphered.
The Game’s “dream”, his diss track, involves all of these dynamics, which is what makes it psychoanalytically interpretable and which, in turn, makes it a symptom. What the dream reveals is that Game’s relation to Eminem is itself a symptom, that is, a contradiction between conflicted desires: “I do not want to be Em, but, at the same time, I want to be Em!” Remember, Em has done nothing to The Game, which means that the diss is entirely unprovoked. The Game’s relation to Em is his relation to Em, that is, a relation constituted through his own desire, fantasy, symptom, ego and enjoyment. Eminem is the symptom of the Game. Žižek popularized the Lacanian maxim “enjoy your symptom!”, but what exactly does this mean? It means that one ought to take responsibility for one’s symptom and the jouissance one gets from it. It means that one owns up to the fact that the symptom does not have its source out there in another person, but, instead, has its source in the unconscious conflicts of your own desire. The Game himself exists only through Eminem qua his symptom. Hey, Game, enjoy your symptom? No! Enjoy your Slimptom!
Every symptom provides the subject with enjoyment and this is hardest aspect of it for the subject to accept. Symptoms are phenomenologically experienced as outside intruders, as agents of external disruption, so it can be quite difficult for us to come to terms with the fact that we are the sources of our symptoms. However, it’s one thing to face up to how you yourself are the source of your symptom, but its an entirely different thing to accept that you actually get enjoyment from it. The real trauma for Game is in how his form of enjoyment is fundamentally dependent on his symptomal relation to Em. In fact, Game’s death drive gets self-destructive jouissance from how he self-sabotages the realization of his fantasy. This refers to the way in which he gets actual-partial enjoyment from not getting the ideal-whole enjoyment staged in his fantasy. Todd McGowan refers to this as “enjoying what we don’t have”. Here’s how he explains the logic of the drive:
The death drive emerges with subjectivity itself as the subject enters into the social order and becomes a social and speaking being by sacrificing a part of itself. This sacrifice is an act of creation that produces an object that exists only insofar as it is lost. This loss of what the subject doesn’t have institutes the death drive, which produces enjoyment through the repetition of the initial loss. Subjects engage in acts of self-sacrifice and self-sabotage because the loss enacted reproduces the subject’s lost object and enables the subject to enjoy this object. Once it is obtained, the object ceases to be the object. As a result, the subject must continually repeat the sacrificial acts that produce the object, despite the damage that such acts do to the subject’s self-interest.
(Enjoying What We Don’t Have, p. 13)
Game himself continuously undermined the realization of his fundamental fantasy through all of the ways he destroyed his relationships with Dre, 50, Em, and Aftermath. This is the traumatic Real that Game cannot bring himself to confront. Game acts like Em, Dre and 50 are the thieves of his enjoyment, when, in truth, he himself was the true thief (he stole his own fantastic enjoyment via the partial enjoyment of his death drive). As the late great Pat Stay (batter rapper extraordinaire) put it in his own diss track directed towards The Game:
But he ain’t new to this shit
That’s why he got booted from every crew he was with
And left in the shadow like a lunar eclipse
You turned on everybody who’s helped you, deceitful
Either scamming people or biting the hand that feeds you
But, hey, what you give is what you get in return
Now you’re left in the pile of ashes of all the bridges you burned
The Game is his own worst enemy. It’s his fundamental fantasy, his ego, and his death drive, that have been the cause of his disappointing circumstances. The cause is not external to himself. The cause is not Em, Dre or 50. Game himself is unconsciously doing this to himself. Ti West’s new film Pearl contains a sequence that perfectly illustrates the psychoanalytic point I’m making here. The film centers around a young farm girl named Pearl who has big dreams of becoming a dancer in movies. She suffers from loneliness, since her husband is off fighting in World War I and because her parents, especially her cold and strict mother, do not support her desire to be a dancer. Whenever she is sent into town to buy medicine for her ailing father, she always sneaks off to the movie theater to watch the chorus line dancers she idealizes. One day, after she steps out of the theater, Pearl finds herself in a flirtatious conversation with a handsome projectionist. He tells her that she is pretty enough to be one of those dancers up there on the big screen and that he’ll let her sneak into the movies for free whenever she wants if she simply knocks on the side door. On top of that, he goes and cuts out a single frame of film of the dance scene in the movie she just finished watching and gives it to her as a romantic gift. On her way back home, the still frame gets blown out of her pocket by the wind and flies off into an immense cornfield. She goes chasing after it and soon finds herself in a clearing with a plain-faced scarecrow. This brings us to the relevant moment. Pearl begins to dance with the scarecrow, which is her way of fantasmatically living out her dream to be a dancer in the movies. However, when she turns and looks at the face of the scarecrow, she suddenly sees the face of the projectionist she now has a crush on. She is disturbed by this and hurls the scarecrow on the ground and shouts “I’m married!” at it. But, then, Pearl gives into her fantasy of the projectionist. She moves towards the scarecrow, hops on top of it and dry humps it until she orgasms.
This is true of fantasy in general, since one person’s fantasy always uses another person as a masturbatory prop, that is, the other person is merely a blank screen there for the fantasy to be projected on. Of course, the issue is not with the scarecrow itself, but, rather, with Pearl’s own fantasmatic projection. However, she herself experiences her projected fantasy as some alien intruder or external obstacle. The actual scarecrow is guilty of nothing. In fact, it simply found itself caught in the nightmarish trap that is the Other’s fantasy. In a lecture titled ‘What Is the Creative Act?’, the philosopher Gilles Deleuze warned:
As soon as someone else dreams, there is danger. People’s dreams are always devouring and threaten to engulf us. The other’s dream is very dangerous. Dreams have a terrible will to power and each one of us is a victim of the other’s dreams. Even the most gracious of young girls is a terrible devourer, not because of her soul but because of her dreams. Beware of the other’s dream, because if you are trapped in the dream of the other, you are fucked.
Eminem, like Pearl’s scarecrow, found himself trapped in the dream, in the fantasy, of The Game. One of the goals of psychoanalysis is to lead the subject into taking responsibility for his or her own unconscious structures. “Enjoy your symptom!” means take responsibility for your unconscious conflicts. It means face up to how your yourself are the source of your own troubles.
In what ways would Lacanian psychoanalysis seek to help The Game? Two words: subjective destitution. This would involve his realization that there is no big Other (that there is no ultimate authority to bestow official recognition on you). This occurs through an encounter with the lack in the Other or with the “missing signifier”. It would also involve the traversal of the fantasy, which occurs when the subject finally comes to own up to, to reckon with, his or her fantasy. The fantasy is merely a contingent and illusory answer to an unanswerable question. Fantasy is the mechanism that conceals the lack in the Other, the Other’s forever enigmatic desire, and in doing so, relieves the subject of the anxiety and pressure that comes with not really knowing what the Other truly wants and expects from you. However, in truth, there is never a final answer to the Other’s desire, since it is always changing, moving, skipping from one object to another, etc. The Other has no hidden desire that is absolutely consistent and this is what fantasy obfuscates. The hard truth is that neither the Other’s desire nor the subject’s desire can ever be fully satisfied. Desire desires desire. Psychoanalysis also seeks to bring the patient to identify with his or her symptom (libidinal-psychical conflict): enjoy your symptom!
Let’s get this shit altogether. If The Game were to confront the lack of the Other, the inconsistency of the Other’s desire, then he would understand that Dr. Dre’s recognition is not truly authoritative. Dre himself is a split subject just like Game, but Game’s fundamental fantasy has elevated Dre to the status of the big Other. Since Dre is thought to be the unbarred (non-lacking) big Other, it is assumed that he can provide Game with a guaranteed identity that is certain to satisfy the Other’s desire. However, this is precisely what Dre cannot give, since he is a lacking-desiring subject filled with contradictions, inconsistencies and symptoms of his own. If the recognition sought is the type that is able to see the subject in a wholistic, complete and perfectly identified way, then recognition is impossible, since the subject is ontologically split and contradictory. To fully accept that there is no unbarred big Other that can authoritatively recognize you as a pure substance, as a non-contradictory identity, as an undivided essence, is to find oneself standing in the freedom of an authentic and radical atheism. To proclaim “there is no big Other” is to say “I am freed from the Other”. It’s for this very reason that The Game needs to say, “There is no Dr. Dre” or “Dr. Dre does not exist”.
But this realization would simultaneously involve the traversal of the fantasy. Why? Because if Dre cannot provide Game with the recognition that functions as the condition of satisfying the Other’s desire, then the enigmatic desire of the Other is seen to be fundamentally unsatisfiable. Dre’s recognition is not really the objective answer to the Other’s desire, but, rather, is merely Game’s own subjective hypothesis that fantastically fills in the lack in the Other or answers the question concerning the desire of the Other. To traverse the fantasy is not simply to reject it or depart from it. No! The traversal of fantasy is to see how it is your fantasy, that is, it is to be claimed by it in a radical way. To traverse the fantasy is to be able to own up to the fact that I am the one that is making the fantasy fantasmatic. In other words, I am the source of the fantasy’s fantasmatic power. If my desire is the desire of the Other, then the Other’s desire, in truth, is my own fantasmatic interpretation of it. In the words of Lacan:
It is in so far as I am objet petit a that my desire is the desire of the Other and it is for that reason that it is through this that there passes the whole dialectic of my relationship to the Other, the big O. . . . For phantasy is nothing other than this conjunction of the division of the subject with the objet petit a thanks to which a fallacious completeness comes to overlap the impossible aspect of the real. The character of covering that the phantasy has with respect to the real cannot be, ought not to be articulated otherwise.
(Seminar XII: Crucial Problems for Psychoanalysis, 16/6/1965, Gallagher translation [translation modified])
What I ultimately desire is my interpretation of the Other’s desire rooted in my own fantasy. But if I fantasmatically misidentify my interpretation of the Other’s desire with the Other’s desire itself, then it’s no wonder why my desire gets tied up in symptomal knots, in contradictory deadlocks. One can be said to have traversed the fantasy once one has reckoned with the ontological unsatisfiability of the Other’s desire. You never can truly and fully fill in the lack in the Other, and, therefore, can also never fill in your own lack. The Lacanian ethics of psychoanalysis seeks, in part, to bring the subject to affirm desire in all its perpetual dissatisfaction.
Game’s subjective relation to Em is rooted in his fan-tasy or Stan-tasy. We’ve seen that one of Game’s primary symptoms is in him making Eminem into being his ideal-ego, but this Imaginary identification has its source in Game’s Symbolic identification with Dr. Dre, in Dre functioning as his ego-ideal (big Other). There’s a causal chain at work here. The Game’s fundamental fantasy causes Dr. Dre to become positioned as the big Other or ego-ideal, which, in turn, causes Eminem to be forced into the position of the ideal-ego. Em becomes Game’s symptom due to how Game’s desire is profoundly conflicted when it comes to Eminem. But the symptom is subjectively generated, since it springs from the conflicts of desire and desire itself springs from the fundamental fantasy. Desire can get twisted up into symptoms in different ways. Oftentimes, a desire is at odds with the ego’s own idealized image of itself. Other times, the subject stands in an ambivalent relation to a single desire. And, sometimes, the subject has two distinct desires that are diametrically opposed to each other. We are symptomal beings because we are split between conscious and unconscious. The symptom is at the core of our very being. To identify with the symptom, to enjoy the symptom, is to reckon with oneself as a symptomal being. In the case of The Game, identifying with Em, not as his ideal-ego, but as his symptom, would mean that Game recognized how his relation to Em is his relation to him. For Game, to identify with the symptom is to see that Eminem is the Em-in-him. The Game’s subjective destitution: (1) there is no Dr. Dre, (2) traversal of the Stan-tasy, (3) identification with the Slimptom.
For Game, the desire to satisfy the Other’s desire is the desire to be the savior of West Coast hip hop, to have been a true Aftermath icon, to have been close with Dre, Em, 50, Snoop, etc., which, to bring us up to date, also means to have been a key part of the iconic Super Bowl performance. I claim that Game’s “dream” was sparked by his traumatic absence from this event. To make matters worse, the halftime performance went on to receive the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special, that is to say, Dre, Em, Snoop, 50, etc., each received an Emmy for the performance. Game was the black sheep of Aftermath (is it in this sense that he truly is the black Slim Shady?). He always felt like the odd man out. This is what he’s getting at when he said, “Left for dead on the Doctor’s Advocate. Dre didn’t executive produce it, I just imagine it.” Game being left out of the Super Bowl Half-Time Performance in Los Angeles of all places. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Game fantasmatically considers himself to be the official rapper of L.A., which is precisely what Game believed he was on his way to achieving while writing the song ‘It’s Okay (One Blood)’ wherein he said, “Everybody know that I’m the heir to the Aftermath dynasty” (Doctor’s Advocate, 2006). The self-destructive tragedy of The Game’s rap career, a tragedy rooted deep in his own libidinal economy (fantasy, desire, ego, symptom, drive) gives all new meaning to the words he once wrote . . . “Workin’ with Dr. Dre was a dream.”
On top of that, Game was expecting to sell a lot of copies of his new album Drillmatic thanks to the controversy surrounding ‘The Black Slim Shady’, but the album turned out to be a dud. It sold only 18k in its first week. After his album flopped and after not receiving an Emmy, Game launched into a rant at one of his concerts and talked some shit on 50. 50 Cent, being the all around nice guy that he is, decided to kill Game with kindness by quickly taking to Instagram to show Game some good ol’ compassion and support:
When it comes to The Game’s ‘The Black Slim Shady’, I can’t help but think of Em’s rap feud with MGK from back in 2018. Not because the feuds themselves are similar but because of one of the lines Em launched at MGK on the song ‘Killshot’. The feud itself was different because of how it built up over time. MGK said some stuff about Em’s daughter Hailie that Em, to say the least, did not like at all. MGK sent out a tweet saying that Hailie is “hot as fuck”. The problem is that Hailie was only fifteen or sixteen at the time, so you can understand why Em was so pissed about it. However, this thing about Hailie isn’t what initially got Em upset with MGK, since Em didn’t even learn about the tweet until much later. What got Em annoyed with MGK is that he claimed in his LA Leakers freestyle that Em got him banned from Shade 45 (Eminem’s Hip Hop channel on SiriusXM). Then, in his verse on Tech N9ne’s song ‘No Reason’, MGK rapped “You just rap, you not God”, which clearly refers to Em’s song ‘Rap God’. MGK ultimately fired the first shots. Em finally responded on the song ‘Not Alike’ (Kamikaze, 2018). MGK quickly responded with ‘Rap Devil’, which both disses and, at times, compliments Em. Em soon responded with ‘Killshot’, which basically brought the feud to an end. And this brings us back to ‘The Black Slim Shady’. On ‘Killshot’, in response to ‘Rap Devil’, Em asks MGK, “Is that a death threat or a love letter?” To me, Em’s words apply just as much to The Game’s diss song as they did to MGK’s. The real Stan just stood up and his name is The Game.
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