I caught the last 40 minutes of "8 Mile" - which I have had on my list to watch for years. In case you don't know, this movie starred rapper Eminem and was loosely based on Eminem's early life.
Featured in the movie are rap competitions - where rappers battle each other with words. There are several rounds, each challenge the loser is eliminated until the final two face off for the title of "best." These raps are spontaneous because they don't know who they will battle until it is announced - each tries to one-up the other and show how clever and poetic they are (hurling personal insults and such). Although somewhat crude, it takes a lot of talent to compete. A mastery with words, phrases, rhyme, and rhythm.
The winner earns a lot of street cred.
*****SPOILER ALERT***** I am about to discuss the final scene in the movie, if you still have not seen it and intend to, stop reading!
The dramatic ending of the movie is one of these competitions. This is Eminem's shot to show what he's got. He blasts through the early rounds, destroying his opponents with words.
And then he has to battle the champion. The room is tense and the crowd is clearly with the champion. There is a coin toss to determine who will go first - it is usually preferred to go last. The champion wins the toss. Eminem will go first.
He has 90 seconds to give his best rap. How does he approach it? A bit shaky at first but then he starts into a groove and does something fascinating. He disses himself. He admits his flaws, he acknowledges all the bad names people call him, he fesses up to his no-good mama and all the other trash talking that could be hurled his way. Oh, and he gives it to the champion, too, by revealing that he had attended a private school and came from a finer background than most in the crowd know (embarrassing for the champion). He ends his rap by inviting the champion to "tell the crowd something they don't already know."
Whoa - he took the wind right out of the champion's sail! The champion had nothing to say. And he caved. Eminem was victorious.
While I was listening to Eminem's final rap, I could not help but think that Dale Carnegie would be proud. Crazy? Not at all. In How to Win Friends and Influence People (still the best book on human relations IMHO) he recommends that we be the first to be open about our failings. That we own our flaws. That we beat everyone to the punch.
This is not the same thing as being down on ourselves. I am not suggesting this. We are all highly talented and highly flawed. And when we can be open about those flaws, we are able to use our talents fully because we are less hampered by our mental garbage.
And to be clear, even though Eminem dissed himself, he also knew he was the best rapper and very talented. He had dreams he knew he could fulfill if he was at his best.
As he is walking out of the building after becoming the new champion, the theme song to the movie, a song by Eminem called "Lose Yourself" comes on and takes us through the credits. This is the song made more famous by the Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler last year. The lyrics are quite good and motivating. And the last line of the song says it all.
"You can do anything you put your mind to."
So this is not a post about being down on ourselves. It's a post about being cool with you, warts and all.
Even though I ruined the ending for you, if you have not seen it, you might want to check out the movie. But it has a lot of curse words, as we might expect from a gritty movie about rappers. You've been warned!