tl;dr: (Score 6/10) This album is an interesting mixed bag with an identity crisis where you have multiple variants of Eminem where each one never gets the time they deserve. The era of Eminem you grew up in will determine which tracks you enjoy the most. It’s a cluttered mess at times that once again proves that Eminem’s only competition is himself.
Eminem is a rapper you really don’t see in the spotlight much until he decides to put out new musicIt is then that he awakes from a slumber that can range from 2-4 years to prove to the rest of hip hop he’s still got it; but does he really still have it? Does he still have the caliber to match a body of work that lives on in hip hop lore?
At the age of 45, Eminem is an example of a rapper so far past his prime. Many rappers have come and gone, but Eminem continues to bless us with an album every few years in a genre that has become crowded with some hot up and comers, a couple of OGs, and some really crappy rappers who bastardize a genre whose purpose was to be a poetic expression of the black experience. Eminem’s love for the genre is evident by his urge to continue to write music at a time he could’ve bowed out.
Eminem has been rapping since his early 20s. He dropped his first album Infinite in 95 and, his second album (major label debut) The Slim Shady LP in 99. Between then, he spent much of his time in climbing to the top in the Rap Battle Circuit where he was discovered by an Interscope intern. A tape eventually made its way to Dr. Dre who took Eminem under his wing, and the rest is history. Eminem would hit the ground running with his Slim Shady LP followed by the critically acclaimed Diamond Certified Marshall Mathers LP.
This would be followed by the now Diamond Certified The Eminem Show. Eminem, much like Drake in his prime, would be the number one featured artist on several songs. Music would sell solely on the fact the Eminem was featured on a track. Emimem even stared in his own movie 8 Mile, which was loosely based off of his life. Two years later, Eminem would drop Encore to mixed reviews. After a slew of tours and a few new projects, Eminem would disappear from the game for a bit. He would come back with Relapse, where we find out he was battling a drug addiction
Relpase would release to mixed reviews. Despite the album being produced entirely by Dr. Dre, you could tell Eminem was a bit rusty, as he would have to re teach himself to rap without being under the influence of drugs. Eminem would stun the world a year later with the critically acclaimed Recovery, where he would have to prove to the world that he could still keep up with his biggest competitor of all, himself. He would eventually drop The Marshall Mathers LP 2 in an attempt to top a classic we can all agree will never be topped for reasons I could devote an entire post to. In 2016, Eminem dropped an anti-Trump freestyle and let the whole world know he was working on a new album.
Months would go by without a word from the artist who tends to keep his projects pretty close to the chest. Like with many album releases, you would start to hear the various rumors like who would be featured on what track. In November we were graced with the first single from his new project, “Walk on Water,” which like many songs on this project would be released to mixed reviews.
He would then drop “Untouchable,” which would alienate a good amount of his white fan base who wasn’t very fond of someone who looked like them calling them out on the systematic racism they benefited from. The album, like the two singles, would eventually drop to mixed reviews. Some loved it, and others absolutely hated it. So where does this album rank amongst a body of classics? Let’s find out.
The album opens up with the Beyonce-fueled ballad “Walk on Water;” the track then leads in to “Believe” which is followed by “Chloraseptic” featuring PHRESHER. These two tracks are interesting because they both involve Eminem experimenting with the “triplet flow” popularized by The Migos and a few mumble rappers. These tracks are a mix of Eminem being hip while showing that he has the chops to tackle any style of beat or flow with his famed Eminem precision. They’re a solid effort that also serves as a commentary/jab at the current state of hip hop. P
HRESHER does a good job with delivering a chorus that complements this style of music. Eminem then follows these tracks up with “Untouchable,” which tackles the subject of systematic racism both from the perspective of a cop and a person of color. He eventually follows up with “River,” where Ed Sheeran offers his vocals in another ballad that focuses on love, infidelity, and heartbreak. “Remind Me” delivers the Rap/Rock production known in some classic Eminem tracks like “Sing For The Moment”, “White America”, and “Won’t Back Down.” The flow was pretty solid on a track that brought us his vintage woman-bashing with a slew of punchlines.
The next song “Feels Like Home” features Alicia Keys and delivers an uplifting anti-Trump anthem that preaches togetherness and is sure to be the subject of controversy. The next track “Bad Husband” is an apology to his ex-wife Kim for years of abuse at the hands of his music and his behavior. This song reminded me of “Headlights” off of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 where he apologizes to his mother. “Tragic Endings” features Skylar Grey and touches on similar themes expressed in the prior song, but in a more lighthearted form. I enjoyed both the beat and the flow used on this track. The next track “Framed” is Slim Shady at his finest with lines like:
Donald Duck’s on as the Tonka Truck in the yard
But dog, how the fuck is Ivanka Trump in the trunk of my car?
Gotta get to the bottom of it to try to solve it
Must go above and beyond, ’cause it’s incumbent upon
Me, ’cause I feel somewhat responsible for the dumb little blonde
But when murdering females
Better pay attention to these details or you could be derailed
Better wear at least three layers of clothing or be in jail
If you get scratched because your DNA’ll
Be all up under her fingernails
I really enjoyed this song because it reminds me of his Slim Shady persona from Relapse except it lacks the really annoying accents that ruined the experience.
“Nowhere Fast” features Kehlani and felt too poppy for me like a few tracks on this album. “Heat” is another Rick Rubin produced Rap/Rock anthem that is solid and is in step with “Remind Me.” “Offended” is a pretty solid track produced by Illa Da Producer where Eminem delivers a bevy of flows against a jazz/swing inspired beat. “Need Me” featuring Pink is another poppy out of place track that just didn’t feel like an Em track.
The last three tracks however would be a grand finale to a musically inconsistent album. “In Your Head”, “Castle” and, “Arose” are an introspective on Eminem’s past as well as him revisiting his near fatal overdose addressed in various songs in the Relapse/Recovery/Revival trilogy. These tracks are probably the strongest tracks on the album as the feature a return to a vintage Eminem that can ride a beat with strong rhyme structures and well-crafted story telling.
“Castle” outshines this entire album as it features a DJ Khalil produced track that is rap/rock enough to fit in musically with the rest of the album but sparse enough that it compliments Eminem’s flow and allows his vocals to shine, unlike the louder and cluttered beats provided by Rubin and, Alex Da Kid. It’s a shame there weren’t more tracks from DJ Khalil because I felt like they would’ve worked substantially better than some of the other beats used on this album.
This album is an interesting mixed bag with an identity crisis where you have multiple different variants of Eminem where each one never gets the time they deserve. The era of Eminem you grew up in will determine which tracks you’ll enjoy the most. It can be a cluttered mess at times. This album is one that starts solid, gets a little too poppy in the middle and finishes strong with some of the best tracks he’s ever written.
I found the album to be far too crowded with pop features and, a lot of the songs sound like they want to flood the radio with Eminem songs. For an Eminem album, there are far too many radio friendly singles and not enough of the darker tracks that Eminem albums are notorious for. I wish we got more tracks like Castle; I also wish we got more tracks like “Chlorasepctic” because I really do enjoy Eminem tackling different kinds of flows as well as providing his own take on the beat with musical touches that allow them to fit in an Eminem album.
Overall, this is a solid effort in a genre that has become increasingly crowded. Some tracks may appeal to some while falling flat to others. It really depends on your taste in hip hop and, music in general. It’s an okay album that falls short of being a truly caliber hip hop classic. It definitely won’t hold a torch to some of the classics in his body of work. Eminem is his own worst enemy and this theme comes out in this album for better or worse.
Flemmings Beaubrun is an avid gamer and lover of music. When not working, Flemmings likes to spend his time whipping up dank beats for the masses. He also spends his weekends thrift shopping for rare video games and obscure electronics. Other times he’s in front of a TV with a giant bowl of cereal enjoying shows from the 90s.
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