I’ve been receiving many emails regarding Eminem’s new song, “Not Afraid”. Many people are requesting that I should do a breakdown of the song and the music video to it. To be honest, there isn’t much symbolism in the music video, at least not occult symbolism anyway. But lyrically speaking, the message the song delivers is very much loud and clear, so not much explanation is required. However, some people might not fully understand the metaphors Eminem uses in this song and may have missed out on important little details, so this gives us a good excuse to look at it in more depth.
Please remember that this is my interpretation of the lyrics and the music video. My interpretation could be right or wrong in some, or even wrong altogether.
The music video starts with the hook playing over the intro lyrics. We’ll focus on the hook further on, but for now let’s take a look at the intro lyrics:
- Yeah, it’s been a ride
- I guess I had to go to that place to get to this one
- Now some of you might still be in that place
- If you’re trying to get out, just follow me
- I’ll get you there
“That place” refers to his ‘cage’ and period of drug-addled depression, which inspired his rebirth. Eminem’s drug addiction became strong when his best friend, DeShaun (aka Proof) died. Eminem was still taking drugs, such as sleeping pills well before his friend’s passing. In the last three lines, he is calling out to other celebrities who are going through the same phase as he did not too long ago. It also applies to his fans.
The video shows Eminem living two lives. There is a period of quickly alternating shots showing him in a messy, disorganised basement which presumably represents his home and then him on a rooftop where he stands dangerously close to the edge. This segment represents his new found freedom which is being out from his ‘cage box’ to being free and in power. However, while Eminem is standing close to the edge on the rooftop, he takes another step forward after he sings, “And all those who look down on me I’m tearing down your balcony”. My interpretation of this can be seen in two different ways:
1. He gains more confidence in what he’s saying and shows this by stepping forward.
2. By him stepping forward, it symbolises that his words put him in more danger.
- You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay ‘em
- But you won’t take the sting out these words before I say ‘em
- Cause ain’t no way I’mma let you stop me from causing mayhem
- When I say I’mma do something I do it, I don’t give a damn
- What you think, I’m doing this for me, so fuck the world
- Feed it beans, it’s gassed up, if it thinks it’s stopping me
- I’mma be what I set out to be, without a doubt, undoubtedly
- And all those who look down on me I’m tearing down your balcony
- No if ands or buts don’t try to ask him why or how can he
- From Infinite down to the last Relapse album he’s still shitting
- Whether he’s on salary, paid hourly
- Until he bows out or he shits his bowels out of him
- Whichever comes first, for better or worse
- He’s married to the game, like a “fuck you” for Christmas
- His gift is a curse, forget the earth he’s got the urge
- To pull his dick from the dirt and fuck the whole universe
The above verse refers to the ‘higher-ups’ who control the music industry. Eminem says they can read the lyrics to the song before it’s released, like they do with every mainstream song, but they won’t be able to take the “sting” out of his words, because the sting is felt when the song is performed and is released to the public. A sting is an injection of a poison via stinger by an animal or plant, so here he is metaphorically implying that this song will sting those higher-ups who try to control him.
He then goes on by saying he won’t let them stop him from causing mayhem and then follows on to say, “When I say I’mma do something I do it, I don’t give a damn what you think, I’m doing this for me”. He doesn’t care about them in regards to what they think, and states he will do and say whatever he wants. The next line then reads, “So fuck the world, feed it beans, it’s gassed up, if it thinks it’s stopping me”. To gas somebody up is to confuse or trick the person, and as many of you already know, beans give people gas. I’m not too sure who Eminem refers to as being tricked, but it could possibly mean the media will feed the public more beans and therefore ‘bloat’ them with lies and fabricated stories about Eminem in the future. He then says, “And all those who look down on me I’m tearing down your balcony”. Again, he is speaking metaphorically, referring to the higher-ups with their “balcony” implying their high level and all-seeing position.
After that he says, “He’s married to the game, like a ‘fuck you’ for Christmas, his gift is a curse”. A “Fuck You” for Christmas is a gift that’s a curse, and this is linked in to the fact that he sometimes thinks of his talent as a curse because of where it where it has gotten him.
- Ok quit playin’ with the scissors and shit, and cut the crap
- I shouldn’t have to rhyme these words
- In the rhythm for you to know it’s a rap
- You said you was king, you lied through your teeth
- For that fuck your feelings
- Instead of getting crowned you’re getting capped
- And to the fans, I’ll never let you down again, I’m back
- I promise to never go back on that promise, in fact
- Let’s be honest, that last Relapse CD was “ehhhh”
- Perhaps I ran them accents into the ground
- Relax, I ain’t going back to that now
- All I’m tryna say is get back, click-clack BLAOW
- Cause I ain’t playin’ around
- There’s a game called circle and I don’t know how
- I’m way too up to back down
- But I think I’m still trying to figure this crap out
- Thought I had it mapped out but I guess I didn’t
- This fucking black cloud still follows me around
- But it’s time to exercise these demons
- These mother fuckers are doing jumping jacks now
When he sings, “And to the fans, I’ll never let you down again I’m back”, he walks onto a busy road narrowly avoiding collisions with cars and buses symbolising how he won’t let anything stop him or get in his way. It’s also interesting to note that one of the buses has a partially visible advertisement with the words “wake up” shown for a fraction of a second. There are 3 plausible explanations for this:
1. It is a coincidence (which I believe it to be).
2. The advertisement is real and the production crew only noticed this during post-processing of the video and decided to keep the “wake up” part only.
3. The “wake up” advert was intentional and planned.
In the basement which Eminem is living in, a puppet can be seen hanging from a structural beam. The puppet is seen throughout the video several times including some close up shots of it, although it is shown quickly and is not so noticeable. The puppet is most clearly displayed when Eminem sings, “Relax, I ain’t going back to that now”. Keep in mind, this music video is visually symbolising how Eminem went from “that place” to get to “this place”. A place from being caged in with drug abuse and depression to being free and in control of himself. “That place” and all its associated evils are no longer with “this place”. In other words, he is no longer a puppet for the higher-ups to control and abuse.
Eminem then says, “All I’m tryna say is get back, click-clack BLAOW, cause I ain’t playin’ around, there’s a game called circle and I don’t know how, I’m way too up to back down”. The words “click-clack BLAOW” are onomatopoeia for a gun cocking a gun and firing it, so this could be indicating how serious he is and what kind of level he is at. The circle game in the music industry is essentially a circular path the Illuminati take with music artists. They build someone up to become very popular and famous for their own use of manipulating and then when that person finishes or dies, they will just get another artist and do the same again. This will keep happening all the time and there are also multiple instances. Eminem is “Way too up to back down” since the higher you get, the harder it becomes to leave the music industry because you are aware of much more than other artists and have much more influence and thus become a threat. This is when the Illuminati may choose to kill the artist, usually as a sacrifice, after keeping them out of the spotlight for a while to reduce their popularity. This process is very gradual and goes almost unnoticed. Eminem has also mentioned this in a few other songs, such as ‘Say Goodbye to Hollywood':
- I never dreamt I’d get to the level that I’m at, this is whack
- This is more than I ever could’ve asked
- If I could go back, I never would’ve rapped
- I sold my soul to the devil, I’ll never get it back
- I just wanna leave this game with level head intact
Continuing on, Eminem also says, “But I think I’m still trying to figure this crap out, thought I had it mapped out but I guess I didn’t”, indicating that he has previously attempted to get off of the higher-ups’ radar, metaphorically referring to them as the “Black cloud” – still tracking him and monitoring his every move.
As Eminem continues walking, he looks into a car window and sees a reflection with a distorted image of his face. He looks confused and a little surprised, but he carries on walking and ends up in a hall of mirrors. He is spooked by the distorted reflection of his face in each one, which looks like a painted face, representing the image which the higher-ups created for him, reminding him of his alter ego, Slim Shady, the puppet he once was. Slim Shady is also associated with “that place”.
Although he doesn’t mention the mirrors in the lyrics to ‘Not Afraid’, he does mention them in another one of his songs from the same album named, ‘I’m going through changes':
I’m hatin’ my reflection, I walk around the house tryin’ to fight mirrors
After that, he says, “But it’s time to exercise these demons, these mother fuckers are doing jumping jacks now”. He is referring to the higher-ups as “demons”. This means that the higher-ups already have or are planning to focus on the demise of his career, hence “jumping jack” also commonly known as star jump, signifying that they are making big moves already.
Eminem finds a way to escape the mirrored room by smashing through it, and whilst doing so the scene switches over to the basement where he simultaneously smashes the brick wall after discovering light bursting through a small hole previously created by throwing a chair at it. This is symbolising that Eminem has found the light, he has broken out of his cage and will no longer be controlled, hence the lyrics which are playing whilst this scene is acted out, “I’m breaking out of this cage”.
We’ll skip the bridge and the last verse since it’s so direct and needs no explaining. Let’s now take a look at the hook.
- I’m not afraid to take a stand
- Everybody come take my hand
- We’ll walk this road together, through the storm
- Whatever weather, cold or warm
- Just lettin’ you know that you’re not alone
- Holla if you feel that you’ve been down the same road
The meaning of the hook is very clear. In the last line Eminem is asking other celebrities, who have “been down the same road”, essentially meaning what he has gone or is going through, to raise their voices and take a stand like him. Hence the line, “Holla if you feel that you’ve been down the same road”. While he sings this, he also puts his hand next to his mouth vertically as if to pass on a message quietly and discretely. This is evident by the bridge lyrics to his song, “Talkin’ 2 Myself”:
So why in the world do I feel so alone
Nobody but me, I’m on my own
Is there anyone out there
Who feels the way I feel
If there is, let me hear just so I know I’m not the only one
The very beginning of the video shows Eminem standing on a rooftop ledge telling us how he got to there from “that place”, which he goes on to show by walking through the streets finding himself in a hall of mirrors, where he’s confronted by distorted images of himself before escaping both the basement and mirrored room only to find himself confronted by a far more dangerous edge. He then jumps off the edge and falls some distance before gaining the ability to fly like Superman and guiding himself back onto the rooftop.
As Eminem said in an interview with Skyrock FM in Paris, the overall concept is “Basically just being in a dark place and trying to get to the light”. The message Eminem is trying to give us is that he isn’t afraid to face his fears, and being in control of himself, making his own choices and decisions, he’s putting his life back together, whatever the circumstances may be.
When one ‘sells his/her soul to the devil’ and stops playing their part for the higher-ups, they are not allowed to keep their fame and live their luxurious lives. However, due to Eminem’s popularity, and the massively increasing awareness people have about what goes on behind the scenes, it’s becoming much harder to keep him out of the spotlight. Keep in mind that the higher-ups kept trying to destroy Michael Jackson’s image for 17 years.