EMINEM Relapse (Aftermath/Universal)
It’s hard to believe that rapper Eminem aka Marshall Mathers aka Slim Shady has been around for more than ten years now. Since his low-key debut Infinite (1997), Eminem has gone on to sell more than 75 million records and in doing so has cut for himself a controversial path. Like Elvis Presley before him, Eminem has been accused for being yet another white boy who stole the blues. In addition, Eminem’s graphic representations of violence, misogyny and anti-homosexuality in his “music” has courted criticism and has been described as a negative influence on youth. However, there are also those who argue that Eminem is merely a commentator, highlighting (and thus, lampooning) the ills of society and not celebrating the topics of his “songs”.
Personally, I find it hard to listen to rap in general, for the fact that it’s not music (in my humble opinion) but merely words spoken rhythmically over a repetitive score, without musical value. Of course, in the 50s and 60s, I’m sure many shared these views about rock ‘n’ roll. Not to mention, the shock tactics that Eminem employs in communicating attitudes against women and homosexuals. Yet again, the same accusations of misogyny were levelled against the Rolling Stones and KISS in the 70s. So…
Let’s give Eminem the benefit of the doubt then. Having been on hiatus since 2005 amidst persistent rumours that he had retired as a performer, his first album in 4 years is not characterized as a “comeback” but rather humorously described as a “relapse”. The opening track – Dr. West (featuring actor Dominic West) – introduces us to the concept i.e. Eminem is out of rehab but the evil Dr.West tempts Eminem’s alter ego Slim Shady out of the cage and all hell breaks loose. Reading between the lines, is Eminem’s mega-selling rap act, a disease and an addiction? Hurm.
And thus, over the course of this 20-track album, Slim Shady is up to his old tricks. On Bagpipes from Babylon, Slim Shady obsesses over Mariah Carey – “I mean I really want ya bad ya cunt”, on My Mom, he goes all confessional as he gushes – “My mom loved Valium and lots of drugs”, on Insane, he reminisces about his step-father’s abuse – “we going out back-I want my dick sucked in the shed”, on Stay Wide Awake, he expresses his own violent inclinations – “see whore you’re da kinda girl I’d like to assault and rape and figure why not try to make your pussy wider/fuck you with an umbrella then open it up when the shit’s inside you” and… need I go on?
In the final analysis, reading these lyrics can be pretty stark although the impact is mitigated somewhat when you hear the silly music and the cartoony way in which Eminem delivers the words. You may say that Eminem has his finger on the pulse of US society and is merely reflecting reality (perhaps exaggerating for effect) in the same way as popular TV shows, films and video games do. Or you can dismiss him as an exploitative hatemonger. The choice is yours, as always.
Me? I’m sitting firmly on the barb-wire fence. Strictly for hardcore rap fans only.