Lion King Star Billy Eichner Slams Eminem's Oscars Performance, Citing Past Homophobic Lyrics
At the 2020 Academy Awards on Sunday night, the “Lose Yourself” rapper, 47, took to the stage at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles for a surprise performance of the 8 Mile song, which won him an Oscar back in 2002.
The unannounced live performance prompted many reactions from the A-listers in attendance, with just as many perplexed by the random appearance as those bopping to the hit song.
For comedian Eichner, 41, however, Eminem’s showcase did not sit right, mostly because of the artist’s past use of homophobic slurs. Eichner, who voiced Timon in Oscar nominee The Lion King, called out the awards show on Twitter for including Eminem in the night’s lineup.
A rep for Eminem could not immediately be reached by PEOPLE for comment.
Eminem has come under fire for his controversial lyrics in the past, with the rapper — who unveiled a surprise album last month — previously denying that he uses the slurs in a homophobic way.
In 2013, he explained to Rolling Stone that his vocabulary, including words like the one Eichner took offense to, were insults he picked up during his days in the underground rap-battling scene.
“The real me sitting here right now talking to you has no issues with gay, straight, transgender, at all,” he said at the time. “I’m glad we live in a time where it’s really starting to feel like people can live their lives and express themselves.”
One of Eminem’s defenders is Elton John, who took home an Oscar on Sunday night for Best Original Song. The two friends shared a moment backstage at the awards show, which Eminem shared on Instagram, referring to the singer as “Uncle Elton” in the caption.
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The producers of the 2020 Oscars — a broadcast that also saw musical performances from Billie Eilish, Idina Menzel and Cynthia Erivo, among others — said they reached out to Eminem about being featured in the segment about music’s “impact.”
“We’ve been holding onto it for a while,” co-producer Lynette Howell Taylor told PEOPLE. “It was nice that we surprised people — we don’t usually get to surprise anybody in this day and age.”
Eminem skipped the Oscars the year that he won for “Lose Yourself,” with presenter Barbra Streisand instead handing the statuette to co-writer Luis Resto in his absence.
Fast forward 18 years later, Eminem posted a clip of Streisand announcing the song at the 2003 Oscars, taking the opportunity to thank the Academy for having him perform on Sunday.
“Look, if you had another shot, another opportunity… Thanks for having me @theacademy. Sorry it took me 18 years to get here,” he wrote on Instagram.