August 2, 2009

Eminem - Encore (November 12, 2004)


In 2003, a gaggle of newly recorded Marshall Mathers tracks hit the Interweb under the catchy title Straight From The Lab. This seven-track EP (labeled as such because, even though this was a bootleg release, Universal actually made things official in the European market) was notable only because Eminem attacks the rapper Canibus (on "Can-I-Bitch", a goof on Slick Rick's "Children's Story") and threatens to harm (now former) George W. Bush (on "We As Americans"). Marshall made the wrong kind of headlines when it was revealed that he was investigated by the Secret Service for the latter song. But ultimately, none of this mattered, as all seven tracks that leaked were scrapped from the tracklisting for his fifth album, Encore, although a couple of them would find themselves on a bonus disc packaged with deluxe versions of the project.

Encore was envisioned as a companion piece to the critically praised The Eminem Show (hence the title). It was also supposed to be Eminem's final album: he was allegedly retiring from the hip hop game because he wasn't feeling inspired anymore. And, truth be told, that lack of commitment comes out in full force on Encore. This album features a Marshall Mathers who thinks nothing of throwing the middle finger at critics and fans alike, attacking sitting ducks such as George W. Bush (again), Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, and the late Michael Jackson (to be fair, Em didn't attack the man's music, just his ridiculous personal life), who took such offense at Em's Interscope-approved first single "Just Lose It" that he eventually entered into a deal with Sony to purchase a music publishing company that just so happened to own the rights to some of Em's recordings. This would mean that Eminem is in the same company as The Beatles when it comes to financial decisions coming from the Moonwalker.

Massive sales notwithstanding (it sold more than one million copies in its first two weeks of release), Encore is generally considered as Eminem's worstest album ever. The tone of the project is inconsistent, ranging from violent to revolutionary to corny as fuck, and then right back to corny as fuck. Production duties are split evenly between the good Dr. Dre and Eminem himself, and it would seem that neither man paid much attention to the other's contributions, as Marshall proceeds to piss all over Dr. Dre's instrumentals while underground emcees wail with disbelief. Em himself later revealed that he isn't really a fan of Encore and attributes its uneven feel to the fact that he just discovered the harmless invention known as prescription drugs, and was experimenting with his dosage amounts during the recording process.

Eminem's follow-up to Encore, Relapse, was only released this year, making this his last full-length project before a five-year hiatus. Since he was considering retiring anyway, Encore was essentially the last words from a man who wanted to disappear from the spotlight. And this is what he decided to leave his stans with?

Alright, let's get this over with.

1. CURTAINS UP
Well, at least this intro is short.

2. EVIL DEEDS
My fucking God, this song is annoying as shit. Marshall sounds as if he really doesn't care about rhyming anymore and is spitting on autopilot. Maybe he should replace the rest of the Dirty Dozen with people that will occasionally tell him that his ideas are ridiculous. The first verse, especially, will make you want to take all of your Eminem albums and set them on fire, it's so fucking horrible. What a waste of a Dr. Dre beat.

3. NEVER ENOUGH (FEAT 50 CENT & NATE DOGG)
You know a song is bad when Curtis Jackson murders Marshall on his own shit. While that doesn't actually happen, “Never Enough” isn't very memorable: in fact, it's quite boring. Thankfully, this only lasts long enough to hear one verse from each rapper. At least Nate Dogg's hook sounds okay, but truth be told, his contribution isn't quite up to par, either.

4. YELLOW BRICK ROAD
Lyrically, Marshall's explanation of how he first started rapping, his influences in the culture, and, yes, how the demo tape where he uses the “n-word” came to exist, is interesting, articulate, and apologetic. It doesn't excuse the man's actions, but at least he owns up to his mistakes. Music-wise, this shit is lame as hell, though, so who knows if you'll be awake long enough to hear the man say that he's sorry.

5. LIKE TOY SOLDIERS
Martika? Really? What the hell? Title, sample usage, and useless drums aside, Marshall's lyrics are really good. (You see, when Em actually has something to say, he does so like a pro.) Interesting that the name “Suge” is censored during the man's first verse. Em's rundown of the various rap beefs he's participated in that caused him to lose his focus is entertaining to hear, even though it makes you wish that he would verbally attack someone who could fight back. (Ja Rule? The Source? Whatever happened to the beef with Cage?) But Martika? Really?

6. MOSH
Not bad, but interesting in that Em's lyrics turn from an average battle cry to vehemently anti-Bush on a dime: “Strap him with an AK-47, let him go/fight his own war/let him impress Daddy that way”. Sadly, the Dre beat is pretty bland, leaving Em's most rebel-rousing track ever recorded stranded at the starting line.

7. PUKE
Starts off really fucking gross, and then Marshall's diatribe against his on-again, off-again ex-wife turns even worse somehow. Sigh.

8. MY 1ST SINGLE
I will admit that it's kind of hilarious that Marshall takes the “his first single from any Interscope project has to be a radio-friendly piffle” idea and turns it on his ear with a highly meta track that is more self-aware than it has any right to be. That said, this song is nineteen levels of awful, and should have been left on the cutting room floor. And yet, I'm sure someone will comment about how this is their favorite Eminem song. If that last statement describes you, then you clearly have some further research to conduct.

9. PAUL (SKIT)
Okay, Marshall, these skits are beyond tired.

10. RAIN MAN
This is probably the dumbest Eminem song I've ever heard, and I haven't even gotten to “Ass Like That” yet. Lyrically, this is half brilliant and half aggravating, and Em leans toward the latter more often than not. At least he admits at the end that he really wasn't saying anything on here, but it's hard to accept that fact after investing over five minutes of your life into the song.

11. BIG WEENIE
Eminem seems to be on the defensive here, even though, once again, he isn't saying shit on here. Some of his lines are mildly amusing (specifically, at one point he spits gibberish and then says that he just wanted to make sure we were still listening), but for the most part, this song blows. Considering the title, I'm not sure if a pun was intended there: take it as you will.

12. EM CALLS PAUL (SKIT)
Marshall actually manages to make the “Paul” skit seem like one of Shakespeare's tragedies with this complete waste of your fucking valuable time.

13. JUST LOSE IT
The Interscope-required radio-friendly first single almost sounds like Marshall is parodying his own catalog by creating a musical work that forces the listener to question what the phrase “radio-friendly” even means. Or, at least that is what I would say if I believed Eminem were capable of being that subversive. Nope, this is just a really shitty song. Skip!

14. ASS LIKE THAT
True confession time: while this song is unquestionably moronic, I don't completely hate it. (I think Dre's beat plays a big role in the forming of my opinion, even though Eminem, once again, doesn't seem to appreciate what he's been given.) This is one of the earliest examples of Marshall Mathers rhyming in a stupid voice for the duration of an entire track: here, he comes of as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's lesser-known cousin (which is actually the point of the song, I know: do you think Robert Smigel is honored to be inspiration for Eminem?); maybe on Relapse 2 he'll perform a song as Bruno. I remember Will Ferrell using this song as intermission music for his Broadway show earlier this year, for those of you who give a fuck.

15. SPEND SOME TIME (FEAT OBIE TRICE, STAT QUO, & 50 CENT)
Obie's graphic second bar pretty much sets up zero expectations for this ode-slash-rant to the random groupie whore. I can't lie: I actually thought Em's singing on the chorus actually fit the mood this time around, but the same can't be said about his verse. Stat Quo, in what I believe was his officially Shady/Aftermath debut, sounds like an average crappy rapper and most certainly not like a guy who the Interweb was going nuts over at the time (I think the guy was soon dropped from the label anyway), and Curtis Jackson comes off so sleazy that he deserves to be sued for sexual harassment by every female on the planet.

16. MOCKINGBIRD
On The Eminem Show, Marshall sang an ode to his daughter, and on Encore, he presents round two of the softer side of Em. This isn't completely horrid, but “Hailie's Song” was sweeter and sounded more organic.

17. CRAZY IN LOVE
I like Heart, but their “Crazy On You” is fucked up beyond all recognition for this song. That is the only thing worth mentioning about this crap.

18. ONE SHOT 2 SHOT (FEAT D-12)
Eminem is nice enough to include his crew on Encore, and they all attempt to adhere to the shootout theme, but Marshall, as per usual, decimates his sparring partners, proving that he is still a capable artist when paired up with inferior artists: he just doesn't care anymore. Where the hell is Proof?

19. FINAL THOUGHT (SKIT)
Useless.

20. ENCORE (FEAT DR. DRE & 50 CENT) / CURTAINS DOWN
Aftermath/Interscope's three-headed hydra do their thing over an unusual Dre beat. Marshall and Andre sound pretty good (except for Em's singing on the hook: he insists on doing this why?), but the surprise here is Curtis, who actually manages to fuck everything up as usual, even though he barely appears at all. (Think about it. That is quite an accomplishment.) I like how Em promises that Dr. Dre's album Detox will actually come out, and here we are, five years later, with no Detox (although, to be fair, it's supposed to drop later this year, which still doesn't mean jack shit). The outro is unnecessary, but it ties up the theme Em was framing Encore around, so there you go.

Deluxe editions of Encore came with a bonus CD with three additional songs that, apparently, weren't good enough to make the project.

1. WE AS AMERICANS
As noted above, this first appeared on the bootleg Straight From The Lab EP, albeit in a much more raw form. On my version, the threat to kill the ex-Leader Of The Free World is edited out, which means that Interscope (and its parent company Universal) were shaking in their boots. The music on here is boring as shit, but lyrically, Marshall at least sounds like he's trying. This track runs for much too long, so it wears out its welcome rather quickly. A lot of Em's stans feel this should have remained on Encore, but I'm going to play devil's advocate and complain that it wouldn't fit the project's Pee Wee's Playhouse mood.

2. LOVE YOU MORE
This track also appeared on the bootleg Interweb leak. An overly violent take on an abusive relationship, played for shock value but instead receptive to yawns, it makes you wish that Marshall and Kim, those crazy kids, would just work it out already. Think of the children!

3. RICKY TICKY TOC
This was the lone new track on the bonus disc, and it sounds as if it was never intended for an actual release. Marshall spits one long verse, name-dropping as bad as The Game and bragging about how much money he and Dre made when they signed Curtis Jackson to Shady/Aftermath. This annoyed the fuck out of me, but then again, I hate Encore in general, so why is this surprising?

FINAL THOUGHTS: Encore is considered the worst album in Eminem's catalog (unless you've followed him since Infinite) for a very good reason: it's godawful. There are a handful of tracks which feature Marshall speaking from the heart, but the majority of this is fucking gibberish. Encore ends up being a blatant waste of Dr. Dre beats, wax, plastic, space, and your valuable time. The less said about this garbage, the better. As I noted above, the man doesn't even sound like he was fucking trying.

BUY OR BURN? You don't have to do either one. Leave this on the shelf and give your money to that homeless guy at the intersection who will use it to fund his alcoholism hobby. Yes, that is a better use of your money.

BEST TRACKS: None. Run far away, kids.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
More Marshall Mathers.

15 comments:

  1. U are so wrong.

    Encore may not be as good as SS LP but it still has some good songs.

    Encore, Like Toy Soldiers, Mosh and Yellow Brick Road are worth a listen.

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  2. The review is on point... the disc was utter garbage.

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  3. I got this a few months after it came out. I hadn't heard any of the songs other than Just Lose It (obligatory corny first single) before then. What a big mistake that was. And I was a huge Em stan back then.
    This shit is the reason I haven't even listened to, let alone bought, Relapse yet. It was just pitiful. The only song I can probably still play today is Never Enough, because it's the only song IMO in which Slim sounds like his old self from previous albums, and also because he actually has an awesome singer in Nate Dogg on the hook, rather than attempting to do the honours himself. I could just about bear 50 on it, so it's passable.
    Shady must've been truly uninspired to release this dross to his legions of fans. Poor way to bow out (or so we thought).

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  4. I agree that the album sucked, but I thought you should have at least listed Like Toy Soldiers as one of the best tracks. You even said the lyrics were good and the beat wasn't that bad. That song's worth listening to

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  5. eminem is a fucking crap.. and that's eminem's biggest crap

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  6. Eminem's shit, I don't know why you seem so surprised when he comes out with another garbage album.

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  7. Im suprised this isnt a drink coaster

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  8. Encore and Relapse are horrible! I would rather hear my dad take a shit than listen to either of those albums! R.I.P. Eminem's career.

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  9. This album is thrash but I'm suprised you didn't like the beat for Like Toy Soliders since its normally considered to be one of the few great beats Eminem has made.

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  10. Relapse is a great album you dont know rap if you say it isnt. Yes encore sucked but whats the piont in reviewing it 5 years later?

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  11. "What's the point of reviewing it 5 years later"?

    You're new here, aren't you?

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  12. I'm embarassed by it, but I kinda like 'Rain Man'. It's just hilariously stupid (as opposed to 'Role Model', which is hilariously brilliant - btw, I've been underrating that track for years; after reading your TSSLP review, I spun the disc on extra bass. 'Brain Damage' used to be my favourite, but now my mind's changed. Another life you've touched, Max).

    Weak album on the whole. Brought my Em' stannery to a fucking crash. Hard to believe 5 years ago.

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  13. Of all the "Encore" reviews for which I have scoured the Internet over the past five years, yours is definitely the best. You are a funny writer and I agree with your general assessment of the album. That said, I think you missed the mark in regard to a few songs. The lyrics on "Like Toy Soldiers" were just as bad as those on the other songs, the beat on "Mosh" is one of the highlights of the album, and "Rain Man" was actually catchy (unlike literally every other song). Regardless, we can all agree the album sucked and that's all that counts. : )

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  14. We As Americans, Mosh, Mockingbird, Like Toy Soldiers, and Yellow Brick Road were pretty good songs. None of them close to Em's best however..

    I thought Rain Man was hilarious. He puts out shit that you try to understand, and at the end, he says he didn't say shit and the reaction is either to be pissed or laugh your ass off. I did the latter :P

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  15. my 1st single isn't my favorite eminem song, but i used to know someone who would say those exact words. this dude liked the song FACK for christ sake. good thing i haven't talked to him in 2 years.

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