I met Eminem during his hiatus from music, after Encore but before Relapse. Not in the physical, but through a song called, “Sing For A Moment.” The Aerosmith sample grabbed me, but in the third verse, when he says, “That's why we sing for these kids, who don't have a thing,” chills crawled across my skin as if a blizzard was summoned by his words. Every line after sunk into me. I wasn’t a child of poverty or misfortune, but I had nights where rap records were the only comfort when high-school melodrama turned my world dismal. He struck that cord, like an angel does a harp. Before this encounter, Eminem was just the white boy on that 50 Cent song ("Patiently Waiting") who the media loathed and parents despised. I began to see what so many saw, uncovering what was beyond the surface, beyond the antics, beyond the beef, a voice of empathy.
Old Em albums are like walking through a museum of George Condo’s paintings. Swirling madness, radiant insanity, a desolate depiction of reality from a madman that never lost his humor; he could transform into an emotional story-teller, and a song later be a witty, punch-line mastermind. It felt like discovering a rapper that escaped Area51, an artist of this caliber must have been created in a laboratory, next to Pharrell and Beyoncé.
When news of Relapse surfaced in 2009, by then I was a full fledge fan. Slim Shady LP, Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show, even the original Bad Meets Evil mixtape were constantly in rotation, and I was ready to be a part of the next phase. It was like Jordan returning to the league after baseball; sadly the result was equally as disappointing. The first single, "Crack A Bottle," isn’t bad, it introduced us to the accent that felt more silly than annoying. It wasn’t until "We Made You" that I knew what real disappointment was. The blizzard returned, chills crawled, with the realization that I was witnessing the death of Superman. To this day, that song makes me cringe in agony. Even though "Beautiful" is a masterpiece, along with praise worthy wordplay and incredible technicality, Relapse is an album drowned in immaturity that could only entertain kids thriving for an odd future.
I understood the plight of hardcore Jay Z fans after Kingdom Come. He wasn’t the rapper they awaited to emerge from retirement, but his redemption came a year later with the release of American Gangster. I had hopes that Marshall would redeem himself once he scraped Relapse 2 and decided to call his next album, Recovery. The accent was replaced by aggressive shouting; Meek Mill is nothing in comparison. I tried to enjoy the album, but it had no lasting-appeal. His progress is two steps forward, one step back, and yet still a commercial success.
My patience ran thin when in 2013 The Marshall Mathers LP2 was announced, thirteen years after the original. The 41-year-old rapper re-dyed his hair blond as a symbol of returning to Slim Shady. Watching the video for first single "Berzerk" is the biggest budget mid-life crisis I’ve ever witnessed. Rick Rubin, the Dumbledore of music, couldn’t save the record. Then comes "Rap God," a six minute display of lyrical prowess that is cool the first time, but who wants to revisit that song when you have an entire catalog that proves his echelon of rhyming? The album came and went. It didn’t stir me to purchase or pirate the project. A month after it first dropped, it was almost as if it didn’t exist.
It's 2014 now, Shady Records has been around for 15 years. To celebrate their fifteenth anniversary, the label will be releasing a double disc album entitled Shady XV; one half greatest hits, the other brand new material from Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf, D12 and Slim Shady himself. I’ve read spam emails from Princes in Africa during the Ebola crisis that left me more interested. There’s no doubt that Eminem still raps circles around a vast majority of his contemporaries, but he lacks substance. He isn’t the voice of empathy that I gravitated toward and the humor has grown stale. We’ve witnessed him slay all his demons - Kim was killed, his mother left with an empty closet, his daughter grown up. The media has found new targets, the drugs have been discarded, he has filled albums with life and lost his livelihood.
There will be statues built of Eminem on 8 Mile, a true hip-hop gladiator, one of the greatest to ever breathe into a microphone, but I’m likely to never find his music interesting again. His success is at its highest ever, an Eminem album will sell in a recession, depression, and alien invasion, but does that equate to good music? I’m okay with the songs that will never expire; "Kim" for the heartache days, "If I Had" for the overdraft nights, "Hailie's Song" for fatherhood, and "Till I Collapse" for the gym. Countless treasures from 1999 to 2004 that will age like Nia Long. Hopefully, Em starts to breed the talent around him - Slaughterhouse, Kendrick Lamar, Yelawolf, are all strong enough to carry the weight. These are the torch bearers that will lead Aftermath and Shady Records into many more years of hip-hop excellence. Not Marshall Mathers.
[By Yoh, AKA 2 Vowelz, AKA @Yoh31]