I am always at least partially at a loss with reviewing hip hop records but it’s so much more true with lyrics like this. Fortunately, Eminem is a white guy (like me), so I feel a little less like a jerk writing about what he has to say. My experience is still very far removed from his, but it’s a little closer than with black rappers.
The lyrics are both the appeal of the record and the main drawback of it. As my friend said, Eminem has a way with the English language. There’s no denying it. He is an extremely talented writer. Of course, he also lives to offend. When I was 18, I thought that was really cool whether in comedy, horror or song lyrics. 20 years later I’m definitely over it. And whatever appeal shock for shock’s sake once had for me is mostly gone. (Mostly. I still like Gwar and Angry Samoans and that kind of stuff…) I believe Eminem has the right to write this and I think it’s art, it’s just not my kind of art any more. (And I’m not sure I would have been into this even when I was 18, not just because it’s hip hop but because it’s so unbelievably misogynist.)
I generally don’t love the Dr. Dre school of production. And I find it lacking here, too. But it’s less of a problem for me than on his earlier album and I don’t know why that it is. I guess this whole thing feels a little more cinematic and the production works as background music to a story in a way that it doesn’t when it’s a just some rap and a hook and some minimalist beats.
When I first actively listened to Eminem, I wasn’t willing to say whether or not he was a great rapper, only because I hadn’t listened to enough rap. Well, I’ve listened to a fair amount in the interim and the more I listen to the more I realize how great a performer Eminem is. He’s not quite as sui generis as the mythology around him suggests – I have heard earlier rappers with similar flow, at least occasionally – but he’s still pretty damn unique and very good at what he does. His guests are also very good at what they do, for the most part.
Whatever conclusion I’ve reached it based more on how Slim Shady II this feels like, how unrelentingly long it is and the presence of the skits. (The skits are awful, as you probably know.) It’s the kind of record that makes me wonder what Eminem could do if his anger was directed at society at large rather than his wife, his critics and gay people. A man this talented could make some really incredible protest music if he could just see the forest.
Instead, he insults a lot of people and once again pretends to kill his wife – well, it’s a prequel or something – and pretends to rob a bank.