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Rock History 101: Eminem’s “Mosh”

on March 07, 2010, 8:00am

Eminem has always been a provocateur; but for the most part, he seemed content to pursue shock value for its own sake. That all changed in the fall of 2004. Shortly before that year’s presidential election, the Detroit-born rapper channeled his righteous indignation into the politicized track “Mosh” (from his fifth album Encore). Combining a head-nodding, subterranean beat, a stark piano riff, eerie violins, and some blistering rhetoric, he exhorted his listeners to fight the power by voting George W. Bush out of office. Though his call to arms didn’t work, “Mosh” is still a notable part of his oeuvre for several reasons.

The track is one of the few instances in Eminem’s career where he makes an explicit political statement. No doubt, he’d done his share of snarky social commentary on songs like “We Made You” and “Lose Yourself”, but “Mosh” marked his first foray into current political events.

Almost as important as the song’s message is its music. Known for intricate production and lightning-fast vocal delivery, Eminem slows things to a dirge-like crawl on “Mosh”. The song’s musical landscape is bleak and martial. It opens with a chorus of children’s voices reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before segueing into a plodding rhythm. Throughout, Eminem unleashes the force of his rage, but this time his target is dysfunctional government instead of dysfunctional family.

On the chorus Em commands, “Come along follow me as I lead through the darkness/As I provide just enough spark that we need to proceed.” At one point, he rails, “F*** Bush.”

“Mosh’s” accompanying video fits the song perfectly. The animated clip features a series of vignettes showing average people being crushed under unfair policies (in one scene, a just-returned army veteran learns he’s set to be redeployed). Galvanized, each person joins Eminem’s army (“We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march/Through the swamp, we gonna mosh through the marsh/Take us right through the doors”).

An alternate version of the video was released after Bush won the 2004 election. This time, it featured a crowd rushing the U.S. Capitol during Bush’s State of the Union address.

“Mosh” stands out as one of Eminem’s most thought-provoking songs. Making a forceful (and in some ways unexpected) political statement, Em proved his lyrics could move beyond the myopia of his own life. In doing so, he produced a blistering political critique and call to arms.

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