Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Doo-Dah-Doo Dahm. Doo-Dah-Doo-Dah-Doo-Dah-Dahm*
"Put anthrax on a Tampax and slap you 'til you can't stand"- Eminem, "Superman", The Eminem Show
"Mariah Carey's kinda scary (looking)"- The Notorious B.I.G., "Dreams"
Combat Jack pretty much succinctly detailed the very real TMZ/Perez Hilton nature of this completely embarassing trainwreck of a beef when he maintained that Nick Cannon's in an amazing position right now where he could beat the shit out of Eminem, who, weight loss and sobriety be damned, is a 6-years-past-his-prime zombified husk of a rapper coasting on an indefatigably acute and nimble flow from the Pharoahe Monch/Kool G Rap/AZ school of rapping. As evidenced by Combat Jack and Brandon trying to bring this up in the presence of a surprisingly large number of emotionally invested Eminem stans (in 2009? really) and the ensuing response, a lot of people are either too attached to their childhoods and/or fond nostalgic memories of ye olde Cage-baiting, verse-slaying, laugh-inducing Eminem or are really convcinced that Encore and Relapse aren't boring formulaic retreads lacking any sort of new or interesting content or anything resembling a good beat. Considering how many people are walking around right now in shutter shades, Affliction t-shirts and Ed Hardy jeans, the latter isn't surprising. Shitty taste is usually universal. Aside from that vocal butthurt minority, very few people would really find contention with Nick Cannon (avoiding Wild 'n Out joke) taking CJ's suggestion and knucklefucking Em's dessicated 38-year-old face. Like Wayne Brady on Chapelle's Show, it would do nothing but good for the kid's image, especially in light of the fact that the kid is almost 30 and everyone feels comfortable referring to him as "the kid".
But beyond a potentially hilarious domestic situation and week of gossip blog headlines, what really strikes me about "The Warning" is that its the best thing I've heard from Eminem since I was in 10th grade. Besides being rote as fuck and uninspired, a huge issue I've have with Eminem post-The Eminem Show was the permanent adoption of the grating Triumph the Insult Comic Dog impression he used on "Ass Like That", the depressingly limp and aimless attempt at a club/stripper song from Encore that came out around the time actual club/scrippa rap was completely Southern and completely awesome. To this day I thank Black Christ for creating ringtone rap to give me something shuck to at college parties. Fuck knows I can't get silly or do the Spider-man to Styles P records.
Chubby Checker is rolling in Richie Valens' grave. He should cut that shit out.
But that voice was all over "3a.m.", which a lot of people (sadly including one or two bloggers whose taste I kinda respect) got all hyped over even though not only was the concept stale and the execution annoying, but it seems like he had devolved into the Insane Clown Posse. Its that fucking awful, or as DocZeus put it "...the musical equivalent of 'Saw VI.'"
Part of the problem is aging gracefully. The only people I've seen to it well in rap are prolly Masta Ace and Ghostface. Most other rappers who've aged gracefully, like a KRS-ONE, have only done so by not changing what they've been doing at all. They're enough of an entity where you don't expect to see Rakim hulked out on 'roids and making gun threats while posturing on 50 Cent tracks. You can either mature what you do and stay interesting or have enough belief that the formula is strong and your identity and/or gimmicks are strong enough to remain the same. Jay's tried to do both and has so far had mixed results, but that's the price of being that huge in a pop sense. Kingdom Come suffered because the beats were awful and Jay's notion of adulthood is painfully boring (as rich people, when they're not participating in cabals and blood orgies, tend to be). American Gangster succeeded because though like everything he's done since The Blueprint 2, the actual detail surrounding it were questionable and smelled of bullshit, it actually managed to sound like what Jay has always done but with a current sensibility, which is the key. You never want to look like you're trying too hard to keep up or stay ahead of the curve and eschew what makes you you to keep that Ciroc flowing. But around the time 50 got signed/co-signed to Aftermath, that's exactly what happened.
Parts of The Eminem Show were amazing because he became more overtly political than he was on his previous album. It could be partially chalked up to shock value, but there's a ton of reckless shit said on that album considering it was released in early 2002, years before it was safely remark against the Bush administration. Making fun of the VP's heart condition in your first single just a few months after 9/11 is admirable. But then the motherfucker turned 32, hooked up with a goon (who himself would fall the fuck off within the year) and lost the plot. Fart jokes. The word "pee-pee". Making fun of Michael Jackson in 2004. Now considering the vast swath of artists who have/are troubled and made great music despite or because of it, Em's painstakingly reiterated and documented issues are hardly an excused for his terrible output. With his, it seems its a lack of issue, really. His first album was informed by years of abuse, whether real or exaggerated, and I guess what you could call with a straight-face "suffering". It made him funny, it made him "horror-core", it made him shit on Cage, giving him the best pre-Shia Labeouf/Def Jux exposure he ever had. The second LP was defensive and railed against his critics, mother, and his pseudo-wife/ex. The third album was railing against the Bush administration, other rappers (for a change after taking an album off to pick off pop stars), and seemingly women in general.
But I remember listening to that album for the first time 7 years ago, getting to the end and thinking "I guess this must be the end". Can't possibly see where he'd go after The Eminem Show. And clearly, neither did he. Without anything to complain about or defend himself against, and with his subject matter both cliche and being mined by Slug, Cage, and EL-P to the delight of white-ass undie fans worldwide, there wasn't much motivation. Some people have formulas because it comes out naturally, but some people have formulas because its all they can do. Threats of retirement, Andre 3000/Jay-Z-esque claims of being bored with rap and a pathetic tear-filled TRL appearance when he released the video for "Mockingbird" (in which he said he cried because it was so personal and didn't think he should've even made it despite no one asking him to write a song about his real-life daughters in the first place) were all signs of someone seemingly becoming aware of their own obsolescence. Even now, every TV appearance he does is sad and it seems like he's lost whatever sense of humor and charisma he had had in reserve.
Eminem is a pop star that constantly appears to be hurting. He looks dead-eyed and being pushed out his wheelchair in full wigger gear by Interscope isn't helping. That hurt is what made the random and completely untimely Mariah dis on Relapse that prompted a pretty biting response from Mariah Carey (and a pretty lame and seemingly partially-ignorant one from Nick Cannon) in the form of "Obsessed" which she had the balls to make her first single and make a pretty obvious video for. The woman's music has kind of always been terrible and her cliche Ebony-by-way-of-Oprah-magazine "Diva-honey-sista-girl" attitude has never been endearing, nor is Wild n' Out (except when they do Wildstyle. that's my shit), but that was impeccably executed in terms of beefing.
Executed enough that Eminem found his special purpose. I downloaded "The Warning" as a curiosity but fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. The track is the definition of "reckless". And bonus points for losing the Triumph voice. No hyperbole, this is of "Hit 'Em Up"/"Superugly" stature and maybe this is just what we need from him at this point. Immaterial tabloid bullshit as it all is, clearly what needs to be done is to have Em's handlers and inner circle feed him every sideways comment or remark made by whoever's been all over Perez Hilton the last year and half and lock him up with Dre to make Relapse 2 an album of reckless shittalking and personal insults on a bunch of pop stars and actors who can't defend themselves through rapping.
Its either that, or learn to not be self-absorbed.
*"...Cuz you'll always be my baby".