Compared to a year ago at this time, MTV and Eminem are locked in a very reluctant embrace.
MTV has agreed to play a new video by Eminem’s group, D12, but only during the overnight hours and only after several days of negotiations with the rap star’s record label, Shady Records/Interscope Records.
The video for “Purple Hills,” the album’s lead track, had to be cleaned up to minimize overt drug references, MTV spokeswoman Jeannie Kedas said on Tuesday.
“We had a dialogue with the label and they provided us with an acceptable version for our air,” she said.
MTV will begin showing the video next week. The video has already aired several times on BET.
“Purple Hills” is already a cleaned-up (and retitled) version of the more explicit song, “Purple Pills,” that appears on D12’s album. The song’s chorus includes the lines: “I take a couple of uppers, I down a couple of downers. Nothing compares to the blue and yellow purple pills.”
MTV has clearly struggled with how to treat Eminem since the rapper became one of music’s biggest sellers. Eminem was given heavy airtime last year for his hit “The Real Slim Shady,” and the network’s support played a large role in the rapper’s album selling 1.7 million copies the first week of its release.
But its executives second-guessed themselves after Eminem’s violent and anti-homosexual lyrics became controversial. The network has since started a yearlong public service campaign against discrimination.
“You can see them wrestling with their feelings about Eminem and how to deal with him,” said Alan Light, editor in chief of Spin magazine, which has D12 on its current cover. “It isn’t a bad thing. It’s complicated. Wrestling with it is the appropriate thing for all of us to do.”
A partial ban by MTV isn’t necessarily bad for an artist who has cultivated an outlaw stance but gone on to outsell many of the pop stars he once mocked, Light said.
“It’s a tricky thing,” he said. “On the one hand, obviously he wants to sell records and he wants to be heard. I don’t think there’s any resistance to making money and being a star. At the same time, he wants to avoid being seen as too pop.”
The lack of MTV exposure to date doesn’t seem to be hurting much.
D12’s album, “Devil’s Night,” was expected to sell nearly a half-million copies in its first week in stores.
That’s despite Eminem’s picture – or one of any of the group’s six members – not appearing on the compact disc’s cover. A sticker, however, tells listeners that Eminem is the executive producer.