Eminem album mixes talent with vulgarity
Scene Music Critic
There seems to be a pretty simple formula to follow nowadays to ensure mammoth success in the infamous and sometimes shady rap world. One should merely be homophobic, vulgar, homicidal (perhaps suicidal), relatively insane, and most importantly — mad at the world. So throw all these admirable traits into a recording studio, give your artist of choice a microphone and voila, and months later you have Eminem’s sophomore release, The Marshall Mathers LP.
“America’s great white hope” is back to defend his title as one of the most obnoxious and misunderstood rappers of recent times. Trailblazers such as NWA, Ice-T, Public Enemy and Tupac Shakur set the standards for disturbing and tainting the virgin minds of young America in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. As one can imagine, songs that urged teens to “kill the police” and “fight the powers that be” didn’t go over well with the general public.
Parents and lawmakers alike were up in arms about the evils of “gangsta rap” and it wasn’t long before the controversial “Parental Advisory” label was born and systematically slapped on the front of every hip-hop album produced in the United States. This governmental control of free expression was a miracle it seemed. Parents knew what their children were listening to, and young America was once again made slaves to the mainstream.
Shortly thereafter, however, America’s youth managed to beat the system again (as always), and were bopping their heads to the prophetic Tupac once again.
Capitalizing on this idea of freedom of expression, Mr. Marshall Mathers decides a few years after the death of Tupac that he wants to be the next in line to terrorize the 50 states. The difference is, he is just a regular guy from a regular city in America. What’s his gimmick? Nothing about his appearance or mannerisms screams originality or flair, so what does he do? He invents the “most meanest MC on this earth.”
Eminem, as he is affectionately called by millions, is undoubtedly insane, and yet, refreshingly entertaining. Under the tutelage of veteran rapper Dr. Dre, Eminem has become the well-oiled machine that he has always wanted to be.
This machine does have a few glitches to be worked out, however. The Marshall Mathers LP, released earlier this summer, is a compilation of some of the most wicked and profane comments and assertions made by any one artist on any one album. There’s murder, mayhem and mystery on Slim Shady’s second release, and he’s not apologizing for any of it. Slim is without question one MC to be reckoned with, as evidenced by tracks like the angry the angry, “I’m Back” and the witty “Kill You.” His rhythmic variety and unexpected comic delivery on “Who Knew” and “Under the Influence” showcase his skills as a seasoned and talented rapper. But his subject matter starts to run dry as nearly every song on the album is about his obligations to mounting success, his strained relationship with his mother, and his tendency to be “Pigeonholed into some poppy sensation.”
A Slim scorned is nothing to play with, though. Few escape Eminem’s dirty mouth as he gives Christina Aguilera, his wife Kim, and pop icons Britney Spears and N’SYNC ridiculously crude verbal lashings on at least three different songs.
Lyrically, Slim reaches his absolute peak on standout tracks like “Stan” and “The Way I Am.” Displaying the rawness of his emotion and skill, these songs get to the very core of what Eminem represents to his alter ego, Marshall Mathers and to the world as a whole. “Stan” is superb in composition. The first three verses are constructed as letters written by an overzealous fan, Stan. He is desperate to have a friend, and confidante in the larger-than-life Eminem, but soon discovers that like most celebrities, Slim does not answer fan mail eagerly. Eminem voices the angry Stan with such chilling emotion that it is almost a relief to hear the real Slim Shady take charge of the last verse, which is the long-awaited reply to Stan’s letters. “The Way I Am” also displays Slim’s emotional handles as he bashes the media for placing labels on him and his fans for admiring him too deeply.
It is ironic that the poor, regular guy from Detroit who wanted nothing more than to make it big in rap now wishes he “could just die or get fired.”
Slim Shady is undoubtedly troubled, but through his struggles come the raw talent and aptitude that have made him the most popular and certifiable rapper of the past two years. And only time will tell how long America’s favorite misanthrope will continue to charm us.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, September 5, 2000