Back in the day I was a fan of Eminem. It’s true, I really was.
I remember watching the video for “My Name Is” with my best friend. We both approached it very analytically. We critiqued his flow and his rhymes. We gave him credit for his cleverness and unique perspective. And we were both cautious about a white guy with that much talent.
Clearly he was talented. But equally crystalline was that his video was in heavy rotation on MTV and its family of channels. He was getting a push like no other. Plus he was getting played on stations like WHFS, an “alternative” station that didn’t play rap, yet Em made the cut.
Anyway, The Slim Shady LP dropped shortly thereafter and we were slayed. It was an album that sounded unique. Em wasn’t trying to be hard or jiggy. He was trying to entertain. He had a sense of humor. And most importantly, he was sick on the mic.
On his next album, The Marshall Mathers LP, things began to get derailed. He tried to be a serious artist with songs like “Stan”, and he also showed his overly sensitive side by attacking critics on “The Way I Am”. He also got overtly biographical with “Kim”. He could still spit, but he wasn’t nearly as entertaining.
The Eminem Show was the product of an inflated ego. Eminem, somehow thinking himself a talented producer, produced the majority of the tracks on the album. And at 16 songs, it felt overindulgent and bloated. Creatively Eminem wasn’t treading any new ground, and for me, as a fan, it was my first wholehearted disappointment from him as an artist.
I couldn’t even tell you why I picked up Encore. Instinct? Hope for a return to form and a creative renaissance? Who knows. But I do have the album, and looking at it right now, I couldn’t name a single song that I really enjoyed on it. Truth be told, I can’t even remember any of the songs. The album left a bad taste in my mouth, but even that didn’t linger.
I do remember thinking that Em the provocateur seemed rather gutless by releasing the single and video for “Mosh” a mere week before the 2004 presidential election, too late for it to have any true impact. But by that point I don’t think that anyone was really looking at Em as being truly topical.
But that’s why I’m not really that interested in Relapse. My best friend, the same guy who was a fan of Em’s back in the day, has registered nothing but disgust for all of the new Eminem material. He says that Eminem seems even more toothless than before given the speed of the current media cycle. He says that Em is still picking on easy targets only now they’re outdated, irrelevant targets.
I can’t front; I was hoping that the silver lining of Proof’s death would be an Eminem trying to do his friend proud. As sad as I was to hear about Kanye’s mom passing, at least Kanye’s next album was creative and heartfelt, if at the very least misunderstood. I just don’t think that Em’s got it in him to create a masterpiece anymore, especially this late in the game.
As much as I want to believe that I won’t pick up Relapse, I might. I might have some extra money and see it used. I’m genuinely curious of what the hiatus has done to him and if he’s still got it.
Then again, I know I can cure that curiosity by listening to his last two albums. I miss Eminem, but only enough to listen to his first joint, not buy his new one.
Tags: Eminem, Kanye West