Sorry, still need to finish listening to Killer Mike’s latest album so here’s a bonus review. Time hasn’t been on my side lately but I promise you that the review for Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music will come later today and the review for Curren$y’s The Stoned Immaculate will come tomorrow. Thank you all for being patient.
The opening track, “White America”, opens the album by reflecting on his success: he has sold more than any black rapper out there, partly because he is white, ironically the same quality that prevented him from having much success earlier. He also relishes in this opportunity to represent the oppressed white Americans who have identified with him and helped him achieve success: “Just look at me like I’m your closest pal/ The poster child/ The motherf**kin’ spokesman now!” He is able to sound mature and immature all within the same line. He has realized that he is a voice for many but doesn’t mind in taking advantage and rallying people up to do insanely offensive acts. At the end, he gives the usual “I’m just kidding. You know I love you” just as a half-convincing apology.
That was Eminem’s main weapon: the ability to be part-joking and part-serious while still relaying a clear message to the listener. His intentions had always been debated. Parents and the government had seen him as a malicious influence on young children while most listeners understood when he was joking and when he wasn’t. The Eminem Show finally settled the distinction between the two sides of Eminem, while also showing Eminem in a more conscious state of mind. It is also his last great album before his music went on an internal tug-of-war between Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers.
He treads similar material in a similar manner while exploring it more in-depth this time around. Compared to “Kill You”, “Cleaning Out My Closet” sounds like a more honest account of his rage against his mother, and maybe even a more threatening one too:
And Hailie’s gettin so big now; you should see her, she’s beautiful/
But you’ll never see her – she won’t even be at your funeral/
See what hurts me the most is you won’t admit you was wrong/
B*tch do your song – keep tellin yourself that you was a mom!/
But how dare you try to take what you didn’t help me to get/
You selfish b*tch; I hope you f*ckin burn in hell for this sh*t/
In “Sing for the Moment”, he chastises parents for not understanding their kids and criticizing rappers because the kids relate to their music. In “Square Dance”, he takes a firm and hilarious assault against the Bush Administration and the Iraq War. And “Drips” is an explicit encounter of a sexual relationship gone wrong. But the man is even able to change his style up without sacrificing character and content, being able to deliver a blistering blitzkrieg in “Soldier” and later croon an amateurish ode to his daughter in “Hailie’s Song”.
But even as the man knows he is pushing 30 and that fame is getting to his nerves, he relishes and enjoys the moment whenever he can. “Business” and “Without Me” are clear statements that hip hop is lesser without him while “Say What U Say” and “Till I Collapse” are vehement rallies against detractors. He doesn’t seem too worried when his daughter finds him sniffing cocaine before he goes on a Slim Shady-esque rage in “My Dad’s Gone Crazy”.
Sad as the truth can be, The Eminem Show was the last great Eminem album before Eminem went on to recycle his formula and reinvent himself for the pop atmosphere of today. Here and there are flashes of his old brilliance but The Eminem Show still stands as the perfect collision of Marshall Mathers and Slim Shady, sacrificing neither honesty nor humor. While it may not be as gripping and inventive as his magnum opus, The Marshall Mathers LP, it is a more honest depiction of his double-sided persona and ultimately another testament to his greatness.
*Note: The one track that kept the album from receiving an 11/10 was “When the Music Stops” simply because I have heard way better D12 collaborations. Still, this album is a top 100 for me.