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Eminem Cites JAY-Z’s ‘4:44’ as a “Guide” for ‘Revival’ — But the Results Don’t Match

“I look to Jay for where he's at in life.”
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Both Eminem and JAY-Z, now decades into their respective careers, released self-critical albums in 2017, meant to assert their maturity and get shit off their chest.

In fact, in a recent interview with Complex’s Damien Scott, Em actually cited JAY-Z as a “guide” for the making of his ninth studio album, Revival

“I look to Jay for a lot of shit,” Eminem explained. “I look to Jay for where he's at in life and I look for 4:44, the punchlines. I'm listening to music in a way that most people probably aren't. I'm looking, just like they might be looking for a different thing. They might be looking for a feel, or whatever it is, I'm looking for the sharpness and I'm looking for the punchlines. He's got a lot of funny punchlines on that shit. To me it's like, Jay is a good guy because he's a guide for... It's almost like he can see what's going on in hip-hop.”

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If only the praise matched the execution.

Thus far, Revival has been met with generally negative criticism and rabid fan praise. Had Eminem pulled more from 4:44, most notably in the production and delivery departments, the gap between stan and critic may not have been as large. JAY-Z’s influence, while easy to hear, is difficult to appreciate.  

Take “Bad Husband,” which mirrors 4:44 in form, but largely falls apart in function. Unlike Jay, Eminem continues to play tired language games, jamming too many syllables and banal word associations into a single bar. While these were exciting twenty years ago and can be understandably exciting for a greener rap fan, by the time you discover your second rap album, the trick has lost its magic.

Eminem spends far too much of Revival gnawing at our ears as opposed to taking his good intentions to an exciting creative space. The record demands fresher production, grounded lyrics, and brevity—everything JAY-Z got right.

Should Eminem decided to record a tenth studio album, I hope his JAY-Z influences are worn on the album’s sleeve.

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