On this day, February 21st, in hip-hop history…
February 21, 2001: On this date 13 years ago, Eminem and Elton John performed Em’s critically acclaimed song “Stan” live at the 2001 Grammy Awards. Coming off the success of his massively successful diamond certified album The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem was by far one of the most polarizing, if not the most polarizing figure in the music industry. A result of his maverick attitude, dark song content and perhaps what caused him to receive the brunt of the vitriol hurled his way; the perception that Eminem was homophobic.
Many organizations took issue with what they perceived to be homophobic lyrics by Em, with The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) being at the forefront of this crusade against Eminem. GLAAD picketed in front of the Staples Center, where the Grammys were being held, urging people to boycott Eminem as a result of their assertion that Eminem’s lyrics incite violence against homosexuals. This is what made the performance with Elton John, one of the preeminent celebrities in the gay community, all the more unexpected. Eminem started out the song rapping his verse on a darkened stage, with a light shining only on himself. When it came time for the chorus, the entire world was sent into a frenzy when everyone realized who was singing. Elton John sang the chorus of the song, while playing keyboard. At the end of the performance, Elton John and Eminem came together on stage, hugged, then held hands together and raised it in solidarity, effectively ending all speculation that Eminem was a homophobe.
This performance is still regarded as one of the most important performances in hip-hop history and sent shockwaves throughout the music community, and subsequently, the entire world. This performance 13 years ago showed the entire world that hip-hop, notorious for its sometimes homophobic culture, could make strides towards acceptance everybody, regardless of sexual orientation. Their friendship continues still till this very day. —Marvin J