5 Controversial Things Eminem Has Said - And Why People Love Or Hate Him For It

He's regarded as one of the most polarizing rappers of all time.

eminem controversy Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Rapper Eminem is probably seen as one of the most private, but also polarizing, artists of his time. During his decades-long career, Eminem — whose real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III — has done quite a bit to either upset his fans or garner support from them.

Despite keeping most of his life out of the spotlight, the 'Lose Yourself' rapper sometimes has a habit of doing some rather questionable — and also controversial — things that seem to make headlines, whilst simultaneously either upsetting his fans or causing them to love him even more.


Here are 5 controversial things Eminem has said - and why people love or hate him for it.

1. He took a knee during his performance at the Super Bowl.

During his halftime appearance, Eminem was seen taking a knee during his performance of his 2002 hit song 'Lose Yourself,' according to CNN. The kneeling gesture was thought by many to be a callback to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who used it as an act of protest against police brutality and racial discrimination.

Kaepernick, who is a former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, was heavily criticized for starting this form of protest during the national anthem at a 2016 preseason game, according to Sporting News.


Eminem has a long history of showing support to Kaepernick. In 2017, during the BET Hip Hop Awards, he performed a 4.5-minute freestyle rap, calling out former President Donald Trump and embracing Kaepernick and his message on racism and police brutality, according to CNN. 

The Detroit-born rapper raised his fist and rapped, "F— that, this is for Colin, ball up a fist and keep that s— balled like Donald the b—-."

However, it's worth noting that according to the NFL, his kneeling was less of a surprise. They claim the decision to do so was made ahead of time in rehearsals and was something that they were expecting.

Either way, fans of Eminem were in support of the rapper's decision to kneel, admiring his support to Kaepernick, and what the form of protest represents.


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2. There was leaked audio of Eminem rapping about Chris Brown and Rihanna.

Back in November 2019, Eminem made headlines after leaked audio was released, which featured lyrics of Chris Brown assaulting Rihanna back in 2009, according to E! News.

In the leaked audio, the 49-year-old rapper can be heard saying, "I'd side with Chris Brown, I'd beat down a b-h too."


A Reddit user had posted the seven-second snipped, which was titled, "(SNIPPET) Eminem - Things Get Worse (Rihanna Diss)." The leaked audio was seemingly from an unreleased  version of a song that made it onto B.o.B.'s 2011 song, titled "Things Get Worse."

Once people heard about the leaked audio, many of them were furious for Eminem’s choice of words, and the subject of the lyric.

"Eminem's grown a-- really glorifying abuse for a damn song after my fav lends her vocals to numerous songs for him is disgusting," a Twitter fan wrote, according to E! News.

Another Twitter user wrote, "who likes him anyway?"

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3. He freestyle rapped about wanting to punch Lana Del Rey in the face.

'The Real Slim Shady' rapper once again made headlines after a freestyle in his music video "Shady Cxvpher," caught fans' attention back in 2014, according to Billboard.

In the freestyle, Eminem raps about wanting to punch singer Lana Del Rey in the face "like Ray Rice," a former NFL player who had been fired from playing with the Baltimore Ravens after video footage showed him brutally assaulting his wife, Janay Palmer, in an Atlantic City elevator, according to E! Online.

The lyric came as a surprise to many people, especially because Del Rey, whose real name is Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, had publicly admitted to being a fan of Eminem's music.

During a 2012 interview with Pop Crush, Del Rey said, "I f--king love Eminem," adding that he is "the master of lyrics."


Many people were quick to come to Del Rey's defense, including singer Azealia Banks, who had posted several messages aimed at Eminem.

"But does Eminem know that I will personally punch him in his mouth?!" she wrote in a now-deleted tweet, according to E! News. "Tell him to go back to his trailer park and eat his microwave hot pocket dinner."

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4. He released a freestyle with gruesome lyrics referring to the Manchester bombing outside of Ariana Grande's concert.

In 2018, Eminem released an 11-minute long freestyle that contained lyrics about drugs, sex, rap, and other NSFW topics.


During the middle of his verse, however, the rapper seemingly mentions the May 2017 bombing in Manchester, England that happened at an Ariana Grande concert, according to E! News.

He raps, "Squashed in-between a brainwashing machine / Like an Islamic regime, a jihadist extreme radical / Suicide bomber that's seeing / Ariana Grande sing her last song of the evening / And as the audience from the damn concert is leaving / Detonates the device strapped to his abdominal region."

The lyric immediately received hoards of backlash, including Figen Murray, a parent whose son had died in the attack, expressing her disapproval on Twitter.

"Ok, I just watched the 11 min clip," she tweeted, according to NBC News. "Feels like he is piggybacking on the fame of Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber and says distasteful things about other celebrities. Not clever. Totally pointless. And before all Eminem fans pounce on me, I am not interested and will not engage."


Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham also spoke out about the song, telling the BBC, "This is unnecessarily hurtful and deeply disrespectful to the families and all those affected."

However, there were fans who were quick to come to Eminem's defense.

"For people mad at Eminem referencing the Ariana Grande concert bombing: these are merely lyrics," one Twitter user said. "He raised $2 million for the victims, which is way more than you did. You were also probably laughing at WWIII jokes about bombing Iran..at least be consistent with what offends you."

Another Twitter user said, "You should listen to Darkness," adding that Eminem is not making fun of tragedies. "In a dark manner as always, he is using his platform to address an issue."


RELATED: 24 Powerful Eminem Quotes & Lyrics About Insecurities, Enemies & Never Backing Down

5. He used a homophobic slur aimed at Tyler, the Creator.

In 2018, Eminem came under heavy fire after using a homophobic slur to describe rapper Tyler, the Creator, according to E! News.

On his song 'Fall,' the rapper said, "Tyler create nothin', I see why you called yourself a (fa----), b-ch/It's not just 'cause you lack attention/It's because you worship D12's balls, you're sack-religious/If you're gonna critique me/You better at least be as good or better."


Eminem explained in an interview with Sway Calloway that he had decided to stand up for himself after Tyler had criticized his 2017 song 'Walk on Water,' on Twitter, despite the fact that the two rappers had expressed mutual admiration for each other over the years

"When Tyler tweeted out the thing about 'Walk on Water'—this f--king song is horrible, I was like, 'Alright, I need to say something now because this is f--king stupid,'" the rapper told Calloway.

In November 2017, Tyler had tweeted out, "Dear god this song is horrible sheesh what the f--k," seemingly in reference to the track. However, Eminem expressed regret over the lyrics and his retaliation against Tyler, the Creator.


"I realize now and I realized when I said it, but I wasn't like in the mind frame — I was angry when I said the s--t about Tyler. The fact of like every time I saw this kid, always so cool to you. I loved his energy. He was a funny dude like he's super charismatic and s--t," he continued in the interview. 

"In my quest to hurt him, I realized that I was hurting a lot of other people by saying it and, at the time."

People under the comments of the interview showed respect for Eminem's apology, and defend his actions. One user commented, "Eminem comes from a battle rapper past it's his instinct to come back at ppl who try to diss him or say something about him he's not sensitive he's just competitive."

"You know considering the area Em grew up in, the culture he came into, and the people he's had around him throughout his life it's actually kind of big of him to admit he was wrong to use the f word, because in that area and the hip hop culture, in general, a homophobic mindset is ingrained into you," another user commented.


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Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.