Red wine and Captain Crunch.
Bagpipes are meant to be a celebration of victory, not a harbinger of death. And yet here we are ten years later, watching as the catastrophic fallout from Eminem’s “Bagpipes From Baghdad” continues to spread. It’s no secret that Relapse has risen into the rafters as a cult classic. But not even the most astute gambler could have predicted “Bagpipes” becoming the album’s most enduring track. So much so that a beef first launched on the playful and accent-laden bout of lyrical acrobatics has gained new life a whole decade down the line.
Consider the context surrounding the release of Relapse, which occurred in May of 2009. Em was coming off a lengthy hiatus, the result of valium addiction and resulting near-death experience. Citing Relapse as his means of re-honing his rusty skillset, there’s a reason many still name it his most technically sound release. Still, the lead single “We Made You” left many longtime fans cautious upon release, as Em appeared to be recycling his playbook’s oldest tricks. Particularly, the one depicting female pop stars and celebrities as vapid bimbos, strictly in the name of shock value. After all, he had little to no interaction with any of the women he namedropped, be it Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, or Britney Spears.
While the single was met with a lackluster response, the Dr. Dre produced Relapse gained new life upon being revealed in its entirety. A serial-killer themed concept album, Em’s zany and macabre adventure found him blurring the line between reality and dark-ass fiction in an immersive fashion. No more was that more evident than on “Bagpipes,” in which his long-established pattern of bashing popstars came stacked with some real-world baggage. Though Stans have long known of Eminem and Mariah Carey’s “romantic” history, not since 2002’s “Superman” had he addressed the singer so openly -- not to mention disrespectfully.
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The entire first verse is a twisted dedication to Mariah, while serving a double-edged purpose as a challenging shot at Nick. Off top, Em attacks Carey through his worldbuilding, imagining her as a wine-addicted and steadfast crash-dieter. Locked in Mariah's wine cellar, all I had for lunch was bread, wine, more bread, wine, and Captain Crunch,” he raps, in the opening lines. “Red wine for breakfast and for brunch.” Proceeding to poke fun at her own failed relationship with Luis Miguel, Em then sets his sights on Nick Cannon, who recently tied the knot with Carey on April 30th, 2008. “Nick Cannon better back the fuck up, I'm not playin', I want her back, you punk,” he warns, before begging for another shot with the fabled Diva.
Himself having once said “a lot of truth is said in jest,” it’s difficult to write this one off as strictly tongue and cheek. The fact that Em gave her the time of day to begin with, which would ultimately inspire Mariah to clap back with the Gucci-Mane assisted “Obsessed” (you know Guwop wanted the Eminem smoke, don’t you?), speaks volumes about the personal nature of their feud. Not to mention that it’s hard to call a woman a “cu*t” and laugh it off as a mere joke. Enter Nick Cannon, who was forced to bear witness to this open backhand on wax. Known for his joviality and quite possibly the furthest thing from a hardened battler, it’s clear Em deemed him little more than the N’ Syncs and New Kids On The Block he used to slam. Not only did Eminem call out his name on wax, but insulted his wife’s honor with an entitled ex-boyfriend’s condescension. All this on what many deemed to be a harmless track.
Of course, many attribute the scathing “The Warning” as the main catalyst for the enduring animosity between Nick Cannon and Eminem, and rightfully so. Yet “Bagpipes” is the originator of the feud, the first song to drag Nick through the mud and all but challenge him to do, well, anything as a response. Looking back on it, the whole thing is darkly comedic -- at least, after a fashion. A song called “Bagpipes From Baghdad” continues to have lasting ramifications heading into 2020, having sparked what we can now call one of hip-hop’s longest feuds since 50 Cent and Ja Rule. Now, we’ve got Nick Cannon dropping posse cuts, Joyner Lucas summoning the lyrical A-team like Ash Ketchum incarnate, and Eminem himself firing off petty Twitter responses in retaliation. If this is how 2019 is to end, what better way than to a chorus of Highland Bagpipes?