This is the tale of how I began listening to Eminem. The drawings are from Summer 2001, a short time before 9/11.
Last month I re-organized my art studio for my next phase of creative living and I pulled out all of my old drawings to archive them in an organized and productive manner. Seeing life through the art you have created and accumulated over the decades is illuminating and entertaining. It’s a hot mess, time machine trip into your soul and back. You can really see what ideas are important to you by how often you revisit them in your artwork.
After the Upright Citizens’ Brigade show on Comedy Central ended I was looking to find a new job as an artist. A really nice woman who knew a woman I knew ran a temp agency and got me some office gigs here and there to help me feed my face and pay my rent. The agency got me a temp gig as a receptionist for Fashion Designer Emanuel Ungaro in some weird annex office that could not have been his main office because it had zero glamour. I too had zero glamour, so I was the perfect fit. The regular receptionist was on vacation. I don’t know why this bitch needed a vacation. I don’t think the phone rang once the whole time I was there and I vaguely remember someone coming in once and chatting with me but I don’t remember what they said. I just remember that I didn’t have to do any work as a result of that conversation. I had no idea what Emanuel was paying me for. Never met him so I couldn’t ask him. I did nothing but sit there and wait for something to happen. Seriously. I did absolutely nothing for the man. I sat at my desk and was less than a human paperweight because I didn’t even have any paperwork to do. It was the least eventful job I ever had in my life.
One day the agency got me a meeting with a guy named, Jon, who needed an Illustrator/Web Designer for a new site he was trying to launch. The agency seldom got clients looking for artists and they never had a weirdo cartoonist/designer temp like me, so they were hoping that I, their little charity case, was going to be the perfect temp for this new client.
I met with Jon, where we met, I don’t remember. He was a very cool, young, savvy entrepreneur type. White guy, shaved head, white collar, casual pants, straight talking, with a good hand shake, who is not afraid of eye contact because he uses it to scope you out. He fed me a meal and told me what he was trying to accomplish and as we talked I did some napkin drawings for him.
Jon wanted to launch a sexy website, promoting “Hip Hop Honeys”. It would also promote the music that made those girls shake their asses in thongs in VIP lounges around the world. He looked at the drawings and smiled a big smile. He liked my ideas for his promotional material and hired me on the spot to help him design his new enterprise. We went up to his office to meet the IT dude on his staff who I’d be sending my designs to. I was grateful to have an art gig after my pointless days as a badly dressed, Fashion Designer’s Back-Alley, “‘Deliveries Only’ Entrance”, Receptionist.
Jon’s office was a man cave with a big, dark, main room with most of the light coming from the computers that were at various work stations along the walls. His personal office was off to the side, clean, organized, and it had lights. He introduced me to the one full-time dude he had, the only person besides us there, who barely turned around to meet me. He smiled and was nice, but he was your typical IT guy, face buried in his robot, doing his thing. He was a stocky dude and a hip hop fan, I could tell by his clothing and hat. As I got the tour of the space I noticed gold and platinum CDs around the walls.
I looked closer at the CDs on the wall. They were Eminem CDs. “Oh, wow. You worked with Eminem?” and he said, “Yeah, are you a fan?” I shook my head, “I don’t really know his music. I just hear that Slim Shady song, everywhere, all the time.” He nodded. “You should check him out.” Then he reached into a small cardboard box and pulled out two shrink wrapped Royce Da 5’9″ CDs and gave them to me. He said Royce was great too. The 5′ and the 9″ was confusing the shit out of me. I was so pathetically out of the hip hop loop.
At the time this was all happening I was really into heavy metal, punk, surf, rockabilly, blues, grunge, anything with a focus on guitars and drums. I was drumming regularly with my brilliant guitarist friend Dan and I spent my time listening to our jam sessions and any other music that might teach me things that could make me a better drummer for our jam sessions. I’d heard crazy things about Eminem, about his anger, and his genius, and his anti-establishment edge and that totally intrigued me artistically, but I was in a different headspace musically and artistically. I was not looking for lyrical genius, I was seeking out music that kept me focused on my music with Dan. Me and Dan were the original White Stripes but I could never convince Dan that a two person band could be ‘a real thing’. When the White Stripes hit it big I did want to fucking kill Dan, I did. I did want to kill him, a little bit. But I fucking love the White Stripes, and I love Dan even though I haven’t seen his ass in ages, so there you go. He’s still alive.
The gig with Jon was great. I worked from home, emailed him stuff and he was always so positive in his feedback. He made me feel like he was really glad he found me for his project and I was very grateful for his confidence in me. We were making some fun, unique-looking stuff. Things were going so great and they got better, I got a call-back from an interview I’d been on months before I met Jon. I was offered a web design job for a major magazine publisher, for more money than I’d ever made in my life, now I had two cool art jobs. I was on cloud nine. I was feeling so good about my life as a working Artist in NYC. If I can make it here I can make it anywhere. And then 9/11 happened.
I went into a state of shock that lasted months. All I could do was go to work, come home, go to work, come home. When not at work I would watch TV and read about 9/11 on the internet until I fell asleep. At work we would exchange horror stories of people lost, lives destroyed. One colleague and his fiance fled New York because the lights from ground zero were casting giant floor to ceiling shadows all across the walls and ceilings of their apartment. They were living with giant, monster-sized shadows of the rescue workers digging all night long, looking for our beautiful fellow New Yorkers who were buried in that smoldering hell. They had to leave. You can’t eat dinner in that home anymore, or relax there, and make love there, and go on living there, surrounded by death. It was just too much for them to bear, to see the heartbreaking futility of their fellow human beings’ desperate efforts, in such a stark and haunting way. I understood. I was under a spell, in a trance, practicing determined observation of every microsecond trying to understand the myriad of complex ways everything was changing all around me every day. I could not do anything else but think about 9/11. I needed every free minute I could get to process what I saw that day. I remember laying in bed and not being able to move one Saturday when Jon, who had been trying to get a hold of me left another message on my answering machine. “Where are you, Yvonne? Trying to get a hold of you. What happened? I really want to work with you. Give me a call. OK. Take care. Bye.” Click.
Life was totally different for me. Before 9/11 I could work for Jon. After 9/11 I had absolutely no patience whatsoever for girls who wanted to dance around topless and promote themselves on their looks. I did not care about those girls’ ambition to be the world’s most famous video ho’s. There is no time to be frivolous! We need to do something. Did you muther fuckers not just see what happened on 9/11? I needed to get on a stage and tell the world not to trust George W. Bush!! I needed to do something to try and stop the never ending war that was going to come!! I had to get fucking serious about my life and get fucking real, FAST because those stupid bitches in the bikinis have powerful, talented men spending all of their free time and business savvy figuring out more ways to promote sluts. Those stupid bitches have a bigger audience than me and I actually have something to say, I am trying to say “Yo! America, America is in the hands of fucking traitors, America! Wake the fuck UP!” I did not understand how everyone did not change on 9/11. People all over the world are going to suffer unimaginable horrors if we don’t DO SOMETHING! How the fuck could anybody give a shit about pictures of pretty girls on the Internet right now? Aren’t we all using the Internet obsessing over our foreign policy sins in the past, present and future? Aren’t people using the Internet trying to understand how the Bush Administration pulled off 9/11?! WHAT THE FUCK!? We need a fucking political revolution, not another sex site full of fucking stupid, vain, frivolous, girls who never think deeply about shit and tempt men to throw away their brains too, just for a chance to stare at the asses of these idiot sluts on the Internet! Sorry, Jon. Wish I could call you back, Jon, but how do I say, “Stop promoting those stupid bitches, Jon. We have some real shit to do to save the fucking world!” to someone like Jon who was so nice to me? So I didn’t call him back.
Something kept making me remember the Eminem CDs I saw on Jon’s wall. So I decided it was time to listen to this Eminem person, so I bought The Marshall Mathers LP and as soon as I heard the first few lines of ‘Kill You’ I knew I was saved, there was the voice of my savior, a self-made genius, who came from the same wretched poverty that made me. My savior is stuck on this Earth with me, trapped in the post 9/11 matrix with me. He is a brilliant wordsmith, an unapologetically honest, creative, tenacious, relentless, hilarious, terrifying, fearless shit starter, who is devoted to his art (and his daughters who he loves above all others), and he hates, with a poetic passion, the same vain, frivolous, stupid, shallow, bitches that make me want to kill.
Glory be to God.