Why Eminem Has Drama With Presidential Hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy

There is a long line of celebrities, politicians, and even relatives that the rapper Eminem has unapologetically, brashly dissed in his music — and Republican presidential candidate hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy seems to be inching his way toward getting on that list. The unexpected beef between the politician and the Grammy Award-winning rapper started with a clip of Ramaswamy rapping Eminem's "Lose Yourself" at the Iowa State Fair. 

Not long after the clip went viral, BMI sent a cease-and-desist letter to Ramaswamy's lawyers stating that it had "received a communication from Marshall B. Mathers III, professionally known as Eminem, objecting to the Vivek Ramaswamy campaign's use of Eminem's musical compositions" and that "BMI will consider any performance of the Eminem works by the Vivek 2024 campaign from this date forward to be a material breach," per a copy of the letter published to the Daily Mail.

And while Ramaswamy has since told MSNBC that he would "respect [Eminem's] wishes," he didn't acquiesce to the rapper without a tongue-in-cheek comment or two.

Ramaswamy responded to the cease-and-desist letter on Twitter

Following Daily Mail's publishing of BMI's letter, former UFC fighter Jake Shields shared a screengrab of the article with the caption, "Eminem has turned into such a dork that he makes Vivek look cool." Vivek Ramaswamy retweeted Shields' post, adding his coy reference to the rapper he also tagged in his tweet: "Will the REAL Slim Shady Please Stand Up? He didn't just say what I think he did, did he?" 

Ramaswamy referenced the same lyric while speaking of the song snafu with MSNBC, referring to Eminem as a musician who used to push back against the "establishment" and oppression of speech. The wealthy, conservative politician pointed out that his ideology likely differs from the rapper, who got his start in working-class Detroit in the late '90s, but that he was optimistic that Eminem would "one day rediscover the renegade that made him great, and I'm rooting for that success in his life." 

While Eminem has not directly addressed the issue, his contemporaries have. Rhymefest, a Chicago rapper, spoke to The New York Times about how Ramaswamy's adoption of hip-hop culture contradicts the politician's stance on the Black history responsible for the genre, such as when Ramaswamy called Juneteenth a "useless" holiday (via YouTube). As the New York Times pointed out, there is more than a little cognitive dissonance in a politician rapping about "going back to this mobile home" when he grew up in an affluent Ohio suburb.

This wasn't Ramaswamy's first foray into the rap world

Despite the difference between Vivek Ramaswamy's background and what "Lose Yourself" by Eminem really means, hip-hop and rap culture have long been a part of Ramaswamy's identity. While studying at Harvard University, Ramaswamy auditioned to open for Busta Rhymes as his rapper alter ego, Da Vek, and landed the gig, per an article published in his alma mater's newspaper, The Crimson, in 2006. The article also proved that Ramaswamy has been a longtime fan of Eminem. 

When asked by The Crimson to choose a personal anthem, Ramaswamy opted for the song he's since been ordered to stop performing: "Lose Yourself." "I think that children should be forced to listen to it," Ramaswamy told The Crimson, "the edited version, of course." Ramaswamy would later tell the New York Times that although he and Eminem had vastly different upbringings, he identified with the rapper's underdog mentality and perseverance to exceed others' expectations. 

Over his decades-long career, Eminem has amassed several feuds with his famous contemporaries, including a feud with Snoop Dogg and one with Mariah Carey that led her to write a diss track about Eminem. Mathers is also not averse to mentioning politicians in his music, most recently calling former President Donald Trump a "kamikaze that'll probably cause a nuclear Holocaust" during the BET Hip Hop Awards via CNN. So, while it's unclear whether Eminem will give Ramaswamy the same treatment, it isn't out of the realm of possibility.