If you’re into Eminem, rap music, or hip-hop in common as much as I do, you must’ve heard of this hip-hop semi-biopic movie 8 Mile. The 2002’s move tells a story about a hot and upcoming rapper, B-Rabbit (played by Eminem) who tries to launch a career in rap, a genre that’s been dominated by African American people for ages, in his very own hometown of Detroit.
B-Rabbit is a white poor kid from the D. He chokes, and gets booed in his first rap battle. He, then, makes one hell of successful comeback the week after and this time, he has to challenge the defending champion: Papa Doc from The Free World Leaders.
The Giant Slips
Rabbit manages to win the knockout rounds –now he has to battle Papa Doc. As the winner of coin toss, Papa Doc gets to choose who to spit the rhymes first.
Now, this is when things go wrong. He, cockily, says.
“Let that bitch go first.”
He feels so big. Now, I don’t know much about facial psychology, but here’s my hypothesis. One: he’s either being nervous & trying to cover it up by sounding so big-headed, or two: he’s completely underestimating the underdog, B- Rabbit.
I mean, why would you take Rabbit seriously anyway? If you watch the movie, you’d know that: he works for minimum wage, lives in his mother’s trailer with her soon-to-be former boyfriend who’s only a couple of years above him in high school, gets beaten up by Papa Doc’s crew in front of his own little sister, and his love interest cheats on him. Most importantly, he chokes. He’s a choke artist –and that’s a big no no when you come into a rap battle.
Papa Doc knows every reason to underestimate B-Rabbit.
The turning point
Rabbit didn’t hold back. He goes full offense against him by using his weakness points as his strength. He deliberately states everything that Papa would possibly say against him. He says it before Papa Doc does, and it takes away all the materials Papa has against him.
This guy ain’t no motherfuckin’ MC
I know everything he’s ‘bout to say against me
I am white, I am a fucking bum
I do live in a trailer with my mum
My boy Future is an Uncle Tom
I do got a dumb friend named Cheddar Bob
Who shoots himself in his leg with his own gun
I did get chumped by all six of you chumps
And Wink did fuck my girl
I’m still standing here screaming “Fuck the Free World!”
And not only that, he fires at Papa Doc by shaming him for having a privilege, spoiled, rich life –something that ruins Papa’s gangster Tupac-esque persona and charisma. A fake ass and a wanksta, you might say.
But I know something about you
You went to Cranbrook, that’s a private school
What’s the matter, dawg. You’re embarrassed?
This guy’s a gangsta? His real name’s Clarence
And Clarence lives at home with both parents
And Clarence parents have a real good marriage
Papa Doc chokes. And as he passes the mic back to the emcee, he leaves the Shelter with the rest of his crew. Rabbit wins and overcomes the odds.
Fuck everybody! Fuck y’all if you doubt me!
I’m a piece of fucking white trash, I say it proudly
And fuck this battle, I don’t wanna win, I’m outtie
Here, tell these people something they don’t know about me
What’s ‘Stealing the Thunder’?
But there’s so much more to this story. It’s more than just Rabbit’s slick wordplay strength on the mic or Papa Doc’s cockiness.
Rabbit does admit his weaknesses, and he uses them as his main strength to go all offense against Papa Doc –it’s a term in psychology called stealing thunder.
When someone steals your thunder, it means that they do something to stop you from getting attention or praise often by saying whatever you’ve probably planned to say. They lessen your force and authority over them and take over your spotlight.
And that’s the kind of attitude that he, Eminem, brings throughout his 20 years in the game. According to Eminem Pro, The Real Slim Shady is the 2nd biggest target of his own diss from 1999’s Slim Shady LP to 2018’s Kamikaze. He’s not afraid to call himself a ‘faggot cause he hates pussy‘ (Cold Wind Blows, 2010’s Recovery), ‘has a brain damage‘ (Brain Damage, 1999’s Slim Shady LP), ‘the worst thing since Elvis Presley to do black music and makes himself wealthy‘ (Without Me, 2002’s The Eminem Show), and other numerous 81 disses against his own damn self.
That’s how he disarms his critics, and it works perfectly. To this day, he’s one of the most prolific and demanded rapper on earth.
In this case, Rabbit admits all his weakness –leaving Papa Doc with nothing else to spit against him. Not only stealing Papa Doc’s thunder, he also exposes Papa Doc’s ‘fake gangsta’ persona. Hence, Rabbit wins and strips Papa Doc’s off his confidence entirely.
Stealing Thunder as a Courtroom Tactic
Stealing thunder is often used as a courtroom tactic.
Now, imagine this. You’re a lawyer and you represent a defendant in a criminal trial. Let’s say, your client has been involved in a hit-and-run accident. When you prepare your materials, you come across some information that this client had been drinking alcohol. You can’t just deny the fact that your client did something wrong, but as a lawyer, your job is to make sure that your client gets the best result and minimize the impact.
What would you do?
You can steal the thunder by revealing this information first before your opponent do. Get that early start. If you seem to expose the details openly, it won’t seem as if you’re trying to hide something. It takes the sting out of that negative information, makes it doesn’t look so bad since you’re willing to admit it. It significantly reduces the chance that you will be viewed or seen unfavourably and intensifies your credibility as a source of information.
Further read on this topic: Stealing Thunder as a Courtroom Tactic Revisited: Processes and Boundaries, Law & Human Behaviour.