February 28, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Eminem - Revival (December 15, 2017)



If you’re reading this post, that means I made it: one new post a day for the entire month of February. Obviously, this will be followed up by another break on my part, but not of the “lengthy hiatus” variety: I just need to recharge my batteries and plot my next move. I also have a bunch of emails to respond to regarding Reader Reviews and whatnot, so if you’ve sent me something during the past few months, I will respond to you, and I apologize for the delay: I just kept putting off reading the messages in order to focus on this project. While you wait for some more new content, I suggest you catch up on the rest of the month of February, listen to some of the projects discussed, and leave some goddamn motherfucking comments, as this blog lives and dies based on audience participation, and I assume you two want me to keep writing, correct?

So for the final write-up of the month, let’s discuss the career of Marshall Mathers.


Eminem is an artist that I definitely remember liking. Like many others, I first paid attention to him right after he signed his record deal with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label, and I found his goofy rhymes and his dark humor appealing in an age when every other rapper not named Redman had lost their sense of fun. Rapping is not a real job. There is no real world application for these skills. It’s all ridiculous. So to hear Marshall not taking himself seriously on his songs, all while honoring the craft and the artists that came before him, was refreshing. I found myself moving backward through his catalog, digging up The Slim Shady EP and then his debut, Infinite, swallowing up every Eminem cameo and rare track I could find. I have multiple burned CD-Rs somewhere in my office filled with Marshall Mathers songs, remixes, guest appearances, unreleased songs, leaks, and whatever else I could find to quench my thirst. I even have a disc somewhere that has all of the battle raps from his film debut, 8 Mile, compiled, including the ones from the DVD bonus features that didn’t make the final cut. Eminem was one of my favorite artists, rivaled only by Jay-Z and the Wu-Tang Clan.

And then, that all just… stopped.

Almost overnight, I found myself not giving a shit about the man’s output. I found his antics juvenile at best, and his songs followed suit. Once able to overlook his incessant need to attack figures in pop culture, I found Eminem insufferable. I can’t even listen to The Slim Shady LP anymore without cringing, and that includes my favorite track off of that project, “Role Model”. A couple of weeks ago while sitting in the drive-thru at a Wendy’s, Em’s SHADE 45 satellite radio channel played “I’m Shady”, and I had to resist the urge to crash my car into the fucking building just so I could get away from it. (Changing the channel is never an option in these situations, folks.) Suddenly, I was ashamed that I had ever liked Eminem in the first place; even what many consider to be his magnum opus, The Marshall Mathers LP, currently collects dust in my collection, and I debate every purge whether this is when I finally ditch all of the Eminem and D-12 stuff. And the thing is, Marshall never changed. His music was still exactly the same, for the most part: yes, after sobriety took over his lyrical content naturally found itself exploring new territory, and he does a lot more stuff where he whines during the chorus now, but musically, Eminem was exactly the same.

However, I wasn’t exactly the same. I had matured well beyond the silliness early Eminem records displayed, and I imagine a lot of readers that grew up in the same era as me feel the same way. I once read an article written by Jesse Hassenger for The AV Club where the author explained why the Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez films of his youth didn’t have the same effect on him as an adult: he simply grew up, while Smith and Rodriguez seemingly stayed the same age. I believe Marshall Mathers falls into this category as well. No amount of Trump-bashing on BET will ever make you forget that he’s still the same motherfucker that recorded, and then convinced his label to release, songs with titles such as “The Real Slim Shady”; “Puke”; “FACK”; “I’m Shady”; “My Dick Is Tiny”; “Cum On Everybody”; “Ass Like That”; and “Bagpipes from Baghdad”. (Okay, three of those are titles I made up.) He’s obviously grown along with me: hell, his daughter, practically an infant on his earlier work, currently attends college. But he still resorts to the same terrible tropes than turned me off in the first place: the silly voices, rampant misogyny and homophobia (call it what you want, but if Eminem truly doesn’t have an issue with the LGBTQ audience, he’d find another way to get his thoughts across), and his most recent go-to, his “woe is me” attempts at pop radio, all with Imagine Dragons-style musical backing for some fucking reason (see: “Not Afraid”; “Love The Way You Lie”; “Won’t Back Down”; “Survival”; “Guts Over Fear”), which makes sense when you discover that frequent Em collaborator Alex da Kid also produces many Imagine Dragons tracks. Unsurprisingly, the new round of motivational speaker-esque songs have won him a ton of younger fans, folks that have no idea that Slim Shady ever existed, except for when Eminem offhandedly references the character on his newer work, but at the cost of the heads that, like me, hear word of a new Marshall Mathers project and roll their eyes.

Should this detract from the man’s artistic many artistic achievements, such as “Lose Yourself” (the Academy Award-winning song from 8 Mile that is, legitimately, a terrific song), or more abstract concepts such as opening the floodgates for white kids to feel more comfortable within our chosen genre (for better and for worse)? It’s hard to say, but I’d love to discuss this further in the comments.

Revival is Eminem’s ninth full-length album, coming after a four-year break that saw the world change into the orange-tinted hellhole we currently occupy. It was originally rumored to be an album-length response to the Trump administration: aside from a viral freestyle and a couple of the tracks presented, Revival takes no such political path. As the man had created his own lane within this rap shit quite a long time ago, Revival follows a similar blueprint as all of his other stuff from Relapse forward: lots of pop radio-friendly tracks (and beats, especially), and collaborations with folks outside of hip hop that could potentially help him spread his message to the widest possible audience. You know, the kind of shit that we all complain about when it comes to Eminem: he even tried to impose his blueprint on that Bad Meets Evil EP (remember that song with Bruno Mars?) and the Slaughterhouse project Welcome To: Our House, which was so ill-received that Shady/Aftermath hasn’t bothered even trying to promote the crew’s follow-up, which is completed and sitting in a vault. (Yes, I’m aware Joe Budden has retired from rap, but he’s also made it clear that he would break said retirement for Slaughterhouse only, so it’s not like they couldn’t get the man to pop up in some videos.)

Eminem should have seen trouble brewing the moment the Revival tracklisting hit the Interweb. For one, the numerous pop stars that filled the guest ranks (P!nk! Alicia Keys! Ed Sheeran?!) angered hip hop heads, not because they were included in the first place (well, maybe the Sheeran stuff pissed people off for more than one reason), but because of who was missing: there were no guest rappers invited to this Revival, save for the relatively unknown Phresher, who we would later learn only spit a hook. Eminem’s the head of his own label, and he has a bunch of rappers signed to said label that would kill for the level of exposure that even a lesser Eminem project would receive, but he chose to make it all about himself. That means no Slaughterhouse, no Yelawolf, and, most egregiously according to the heads on social media, no Westside Gunn or Conway the Machine, the two newest signees to the brand that will never see their shit released with the Shady logo on the back cover, mark these words.  

The first single, “Walk On Water”, also generated concern about the album’s production: listeners were afraid that Revival would be an album-length collaboration between Eminem and producer Rick Rubin. While that didn’t turn out to be the case, there are two names missing from the credits that brought the entirety of the recording process under fire: Dr. Dre, Eminem’s boss and the dude who discovered him and put him in front of a mainstream audience, barely registers (I mean, he's technically the executive producer, but that means nothing), and Eminem’s own tour deejay, the well-liked producer The Alchemist, wasn’t even invited. Instead, their spots are taken by the likes of Rubin and Alex da Kid, because of that whole “lots of pop radio-friendly tracks” requirement. So Marshall started the Revival promotional jag with two strikes against him.

You’ve read enough, right?

1. WALK ON WATER (FEAT. BEYONCÉ)
Marshall helpfully made Revival’s first single the very first song on the actual album, so the listener is able to skip past it immediately, which was surprisingly generous of him. Only the most fanatical Eminem stans took to it, those being the folks that started listening to Marshall when “Love The Way You Lie” hit the charts and think that’s all there is to their favorite old-man pop-rapper. (Their heads would fucking explode if they ever listened to, say, “Role Model” or “Just The Two Of Us” sorry, “’97 Bonnie & Clyde”.) “Walk On Water” was met with critical indifference, which is great, because the song is about how Marshall responded to past critical indifference, realizing that he’s only as good as his last hit and asking for forgiveness if he happens to put out mediocre product. The thing is, that hit happened a very fucking long time ago. “Walk On Water” opens with Beyoncé singing a Skylar Grey-penned hook that is almost literally the least she could possibly do, while our host raps about maybe not setting your expectations quite so high when it comes to his current output. Who the fuck raps about how much they suck, but then gets mad when you point out that their music is awful now? And has possibly always been awful, but nostalgia won’t allow older heads to admit that they may have been wrong about this guy? That doesn’t excuse the fact that “Walk On Water”, with its drumless Rick Rubin beat and its background sounds of paper being scribbled on and crumpled up (which is supposed to symbolize Em’s creative process), is fucking weak. But you two already knew that: you gave up on this one well before I started the second sentence of this paragraph. As far as lead singles go, Eminem’s are uniformly terrible, but that’s usually because they’re purposefully comedic one-offs that are intended more to shift the spotlight back in his direction than they are to dictate the direction of what’s to come (see: “My Name Is”; “Without Me”; “The Real Slim Shady”; “Just Lose It”) and not an accurate representation of the hellscape you’re about to wander into (see: “Walk On Water”, “Berzerk”; “Not Afraid”).

2. BELIEVE
The last line on “Walk On Water”, “Bitch, I wrote ‘Stan’”, leads directly into “Believe”, a self-produced snoozefest where Marshall rappity-rap-raps again, trying to fit as many words into a rhyme scheme as possible instead of writing something that actually sounds good. A lot of his lines are a long walk toward a terrible payoff (“So I walk into this bitch with loose change / ‘Cause all my dues paid, but this [recording] booth’s takin’ its toll” is one particularly egregious example), while the chorus feature sour host asking if the listener still believes in him. (SPOILER ALERT: No.) You don’t get to capitalize on bad product by admitting its bad on purpose. That shit ain’t gonna work, Em. Everyone is anxious all the time. You’re not special. And what’s with using the word “retard” so often? This isn’t The Marshall Mathers LP, bro, and it wasn’t okay back in 2000, either.

3. CHLORASEPTIC (FEAT. PHRESHER)
“Chloraseptic” is famously the only song on Revival that features another rapper on as a guest, but not the one people apparently wanted to hear: Tity Boi 2 Chainz recorded a verse over this Mr. Porter “instrumental” (it’s barely a beat, and for some reason he made the choice to make it sound like another, entirely unrelated song is going to interrupt the proceedings at any moment) but was removed from the album proper. “Chloraseptic” plays like a parody of an Eminem song even though it’s supposed to be our host’s attack on mumble rap (although he never calls out anyone specific, as he doesn’t do that anymore unless you’re Donald Trump). He adopts what ends up being a very unnatural-sounding flow (for him) and turns in a performance that can’t be considered as entertaining to anybody. The fuck was this shit? When rookie guest Phresher’s career fucking tanks, he can look to his hook being unfortunately included on Revival as ground zero. Ugh.

4. UNTOUCHABLE
A promotional single that dropped shortly after “Walk On Water”, “Untouchable” is notable for containing Eminem’s views on being a white man observing how difficult black people still have it in the United States: if this were a Macklemore album, this could have been called “White Privilege 3”. Marshall doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about himself, though: he has an opinion, however scattered it may be, and tries to deliver it in the most coherent way possible, and it comes across as a more concise version of his infamous anti-Trump freestyle, except never mentioning the orange fucker’s name. The music underneath isn’t good, but the writing was okay. In order to get to that verse, though, one has to sit through two entire stanzas where Marshall plays the role of a racist police officer who targets black people for absolutely no reason. In what may end up being the smartest move of the man’s career, he does not use this as an opportunity to brazenly drop the “n-bomb”: however, he does reference one of his favorite emcees, Masta Ace, channeling the cop character from “Born To Roll” (or “Jeep Ass N---h”, technically), something you kids just wouldn’t understand. This… this was strange.

5. RIVER (FEAT. ED SHEERAN)
Marshall has never shied away from collaborations with pop stars, at least not during this third phase in his career (following his time spent in the Detroit underground and his high-out-of-his-mind Slim Shady movement), and yet when the tracklisting for Revival was revealed, “River” drew the most ire from stans thanks to the participation of the ginger crooner your mom crushes on, Ed Sheeran. The guy sells a lot of records, so I get why “River” became the second single of the project: what I don’t understand is why it was created in the first place. “River” details a fucked-up relationship where a woman gets back at her cheating boyfriend by hooking up with Marshall, but then finds out she’s pregnant after Em drops her, so our host convinces her to get an abortion. I guess most pop songs don’t end like that, so maybe it deserves a place in the songwriting canon just because of its originality. But that’s an awful lot of story for such a shitty song, folks. Marshall needs someone around him in the studio to tell him when his shit is wack. I’d volunteer as tribute, but that means I would have to voluntarily listen to Eminem music, so.

6. REMIND ME (INTRO)
The lone Dr. Dre production credit on Revival appears on this twenty-six second interlude, one that sets up the following track, which it sounds absolutely nothing like. Eminem is just trolling us now, guys.

7. REMIND ME
Horrible. Just fucking horrible. Eminem and producer Rick Rubin chop the shit out of Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll” and scatter the pieces throughout “Remind Me”, as our host uses the guitar riffs and Jett vocal samples to help him relay a tale about trying to hook up with a girl with huge fake breasts (because that detail was important) because she reminds him of himself. Marshall isn’t being serious on “Remind Me” in the least, but his performance is awful: it’s as though he has no idea why anyone ever liked his music in the first place, and he’s actively chasing his fans away at this point. This is somehow even worse than the Rubin-handled “Berzerk” off of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (to which “Remind Me” is a spiritual sequel, at least sonically), which leads me to my hot take: with very few exceptions, Rick Rubin is not good for hip hop, and he definitely was no good for Eminem. Discuss.

8. REVIVAL (INTERLUDE)
Included because of the vocals from Alice and the Glass Lake, a singer who passed away three years ago from leukemia. I understand the album title was used in memory of her, so there will be no snark here.

9. LIKE HOME (FEAT. ALICIA KEYS)
In which our host directly attacks Trump without ever saying his name, because maybe he was treating him like Voldemort or something? This means he’ll never get an actual response from the orange dumpster fire, though, since he’ll never think this Joni Mitchell song is about him. And also because he’s a fucking racist: he’d never go after a white rapper. Over a very uncharacteristic Just Blaze instrumental that’s so calm it may as well be Catherine Keener in Get Out, Marshall calls out very specific events, such as the Las Vegas shooting, Charlottesville and the murder (yeah, I fucking said it, and I know you agree with me) of Heather Heyer, and even his own MTV promotional stunt, the Shady National Convention, where Em actually had Trump attend as a way to somehow sell whatever fucking album he was pimping at the time (was it Encore?), but also uses “Like Home” to reaffirm his patriotism and love for his country. This is not a good song, and I’d rather listen to the also-not-very-good BET freestyle, but Eminem hates everything Trump stands for, and I back him wholeheartedly for trying to weaponized his white privilege for the Resistance. It’s too bad the overall message is so poor as a song. Alicia Keys sings a generic patriotic chorus that really didn’t require her input specifically: it’s clear she’s here just because of the gravitas her participation implies.

10. BAD HUSBAND (FEAT. X AMBASSADORS)
Hey, how about that, an Alex da Kid production that Skylar Grey isn’t also attached to. (I’m just fucking around here: I realize Alex has a life outside of Skylar. But still.) “Bad Husband” sounds like the soundtrack to a Jeep commercial, which it likely will become at some point in the future, since the instrumental doesn’t have the conventional “hip hop” sound, so it’ll be considered “safe”. Why does Marshall write songs like this now? And before you answer, “artistic growth”, I’m talking specifically about cheesy bad songs.

11. TRAGIC ENDINGS (FEAT. SKYLAR GREY)
Wherever Alex da Kid happens to be, Skylar Grey isn’t far behind, so here she is for “Tragic Endings”, a song about an abusive relationship, one where the woman destroys the man’s sense of self-worth, and no, there isn’t a happy ending, why do you ask? Eminem has explored this theme in his music before, so it obviously fascinates him, whether the songs created from this source are wholly fictional or not, but there isn’t much added to the public discourse on this boring-as-shit Alex da Kid beat that ends with a car crash (another theme Marshall goes back to a lot – see: The Marshall Mathers LP’s “Stan”). Sigh.

12. FRAMED
Apropos of absolutely nothing, “Framed” finds our host allegedly, um, framed for a murder he claims to have not committed, a case built against him solely with his own lyrics. He purposely keeps the details blurry, dropping hints that imply there may be more to this tale, since our host makes it a point to mention his three distinct personalities (Eminem, Slim Shady, and Marshall Mathers, in case you had forgotten and/or stopped giving a shit years ago) and spits using different flows throughout this haunted carousel ride of a Fredwreck instrumental. This is Marshall trying to appeal to the base that came in during the Slim Shady era, a side of him that we haven’t seen in quite a while, but the track itself is pretty annoying to actually listening, from the higher notes in the music to Em’s whiny hook. Nice try, though: I will admit this is the closest Marshall has come to getting the older heads to nearly pay attention, even though this shit sucked overall.

13. NOWHERE FAST (FEAT. KEHLANI)
Fucking hell, how long is this album? An attempt at proving his continued dominance behind the microphone, “Nowhere Fast” doesn’t go anywhere, but that doesn’t make this Rock Mafia/Hit-Boy production a success, given the song title. No, Marshall’s spinning his wheels here, claiming that he’s better than he’s ever been (by whose metrics?) while singing about living your life because who knows when the next terrorist attack could happen. Or something: mixed messages are in full swing on Revival. Guest crooner Kehlani is wasted on a hook that is as contradictory to the track’s message as Marshall is on every fucking song on this project. Groan.

14. HEAT
Again, Rick Rubin is detrimental to hip hop, especially if his beat for “Heat” is used as Exhibit A. But the failure of this horseshit is all on our host, who makes it very difficult to empathize with his Trump bashing when he admits that he agrees with the racist-in-chief’s stance on grabbing women by the pussy. He’s saying this to be shocking, sure, but seriously: there was absolutely nobody around to tell him this shit wasn’t a good idea, especially in the current day and age? Man, Eminem is a fucking idiot sometimes. This shit blows.

15. OFFENDED (FEAT. KENT JONES)
Revival’s answer to The Marshall Mathers LP 2’s “Rap God”, with an added focus on trying to offend as many listeners as possible, mostly by reverting back to his rappity-rap-rap flow and somehow saying less than he would have had this just been an instrumental track. How can this be considered entertaining for anyone? I will grant him a modicum of credit for the multiple flow switch-ups, since I’m trying very hard to find some positive aspects to point out here, but Marshall is making that almost impossible.

16. NEED ME (FEAT. P!NK)
Frequent collaborator P!nk pops up on “Need Me” to help Eminem sing about… yet another unhealthy relationship? Is our host trying to tell us something here? This sounds more like P!nk featuring Eminem than the other way around, until his lengthy verse toward the end of the track, which, to be fair, sticks with the theme of codependency and is pretty well-written: I’ve never said Eminem was a poor writer. But “Need Me” is another weak entry into the man’s overall catalog, although at least this sounded better than most of Revival, thanks to the partnership of P!nk and Em, which sounds like a young women’s clothing store or a place to buy specialty bath balms. I’m also more certain than ever now that these two will release a joint EP fairly soon, just watch.

17. IN YOUR HEAD
In an unfortunate coincidence, producer Scram Jones sampled The Cranberries’ “Zombie” for “In Your Head”, a track released just a few weeks before lead singer Dolores O’Riordan passed away. “In Your Head” features a Marshall Mathers regretting some of the content he’s rapped about in the past, mostly stuff regarding his daughter and his ex-wife, but showing what amounts to actual remorse over an interesting, if not great, instrumental. The (sampled) vocals from O’Riordan just made me feel sad, since I like The Cranberries, so I wasn’t too bummed when the track ended suddenly and led straight into…

18. CASTLE (FEAT. LIZ RODRIGUES)
After just saying he was sorry to his daughter for using her as fodder for so many of his songs, Eminem gives us “Castle”, an ode to his daughter with so many details thrown in that it’s a show of restraint when he stops just shy of giving listeners her social security number. But Marshall the doting dad means well, and I don’t think anyone’s ever questioned his love for his kid. “Castle” is definitely cheesy, but the type that our host doesn’t run away from when the occasion calls for it. At least until the final verse, which turns pretty bleak and features our host taking some pills and then passing out.

19. AROSE
The ending of “Castle” is intended as a recreation of our host’s actual accidental overdose of methadone back in 2007, an event that eventually led to his sobriety. Producer Rick Rubin samples Bette Midler’s “The Rose” (now that’s a sentence I never thought I would write) for our host’s song-length wish to rewind time and make better decisions. He has conversations with friends and family, both living and deceased, during this fever dream that takes place in a hospital bed. Our host’s bars are genuine and fearful, so good for him, performance-wise: turning “Castle” and “Arose” into a two-part suite for Revival’s finale could have bombed so fucking hard, even though I still wouldn’t recommend anyone listen to this in your car, or anywhere, or ever. The ending of the project finds us revisiting the last verse of “Castle”, where our host succeeds in changing his ending by altering the lyrics and flushing his pills. So… can I do that with Revival now? Am I finished?

Apparently not: the following track was released shortly after Revival hit store shelves.

CHLORASEPTIC (REMIX) (FEAT. 2 CHAINZ & PHRESHER)
Eminem unlocked 2 Chainz’s verse originally recorded for “Chloraseptic” for this official remix, which wasn’t even released in the United States originally (although you can easily hear it now), with a slightly altered instrumental (I think: I’ll never listen to the original again so I’m not going to compare and contrast) and one all-new Marshall verse, one where he is incredibly pissed off at the reception he received for Revival, which is a weird thing to complain about since he still dominated the charts upon its release, so he still wins, right? Way to stay relatable, Marshall. Phresher returns for the hook, but also lends an actual verse this time around. He’s meh, and Tity Boi is also okay, but the real story here is that of Mr. Mathers, who shows more passion and fire on this remix than he did on the entire goddamn album. Where was this motherfucker, Em? I’m not saying his verse is good: it’s the type of stanza you would rather read and be slightly impressed with than actually listen to, as it is truly more rappity-rap-rap nonsense, but he sounds like he truly cared about how much we all hated “Walk On Water” and was very offended when we all judged the guest features on Revival once the tracklisting leaked, so maybe we need to piss him off further by telling him that his music sucks all the time now, in order to inspire his finest work.

THE LAST WORD: Revival is awful. This is the worst album from a man who ran out of things to say several years ago, but refuses to admit to himself that retirement is a valid option. This was a fucking slog to work through, since Marshall has never heard of the concept of a “short” song. Musically, this is all fucking garbage, even bringing down typically respectable names such as Just Blaze (whose contribution blows), Hit-Boy (same), and Scram Jones (who does okay): the Eminem who selected these beats to spit over is a man who hates hip hop and wants to do everything he can to destroy it: a fun rumor to spread is that Marshall Mathers is a sleeper agent activated by a shadowy billionaire who wishes to take down hip hop. I mean, that scenario isn’t as farfetched as what the reality is: Eminem just isn’t that good anymore, and he may never have been in the first place. He has no ear for beats anymore, and he raps merely to hear the sound of his own voice. As a writer, he has improved, and when presented with a topic of substance, he is capable of finding a unique take and sharing it in a way that would invoke feelings in any listener. However, this is not default Shady: default Shady is the asshole who dominates the vast majority of Revival with tales of failed relationships and “comical” depictions of violence, misogyny, homophobia, and “oh, I’m so sad that my new stuff isn’t getting the warm reception I’m used to.” I have a feeling that the comments will be filled with people that will tell me that I’m being too harsh on Revival and that there are some good songs on here, but I honestly haven’t heard a single one, and I bet we all agree on the whole “Revival is fucking terrible” thing. And with that, February is complete. Bye for now!

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Yeah, I’ve sat through every Eminem album. Here’s proof.



66 comments:

  1. I have no shame in admitting I like Untouchable. Thing is, the beats for this album are the ultimate cause for its downfall as well as that if Em’s writing. Even when he was choosing subjects that are perfect for a grown Em to rap about, such as his hatred of the bald toupe-wearing bag of barf, remorse at his past mistakes and the like. I still find Em to be redeemable, though. I know you’ll never agree with me, Max, but I’m simply stating my opinion.

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    1. Thing is…this wasn't a project Eminem released on his standard schedule. Revival was four years in the making – and while that extra time is mostly reflected in the subject matter, it doesn't show through nearly as much in the flow, the lyrics, or the mixing.

      Honestly, our best hope from Eminem is a Bad Meets Evil follow-up EP.

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    2. I disagree with that. Em’s redemption/funeral can come solo or otherwise. His problem has always been his relationship with his beats.

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  2. I actually listened to this album the day it leaked (just before its official release) and my immediate impression was that it was on balance better than MMLP2, if still meh, but the next week I decided to listen to the latter album just to make sure...and wow, Revival REALLY doesn't hold up AT ALL: The flow's significantly deteriorated, the punchlines don't connect nearly as well or often, and the dad-rock is in full force for most of the album. Its sole advantage is that here the production low points aren't as bad/inexcusably out-of-place as on his previous material (e.g., "Lighters," "Stronger Than I Was," "No Love.") [Incidentally, why I feel this is only his second-worst project: The lyrical and musical lowpoints on ENCORE are much more numerous.]

    Though honestly: Eminem's taste in beats has ALWAYS been trash, and I'd argue he's the worst-produced big-named rapper of all time. Easily. Nas' instrumentals from 1999-2010 aren't great, but as a whole they're about average to slightly-below-average and predominantly due to procrastination (as proved by, among others, Life Is Good & Distant Relatives; when he actually gives a shit his music is consistently entertaining). Ras Kass' sophomore album was at least on par musically with any other contemporary West Coast release, and ever since his production has been consistently in the 6/10-8/10 range*. Canibus? Getting better beats is pretty much the ONLY lesson he's learned throughout his career.

    Eminem, though...look, I consider the beats on Infinite & his Slim Shady projects at least passable, and in fact Mr. Porter and the Bass Brothers are probably the only producers who consistently sound good with him. But Dr. Dre? That partnership's proved all but a total bust; the majority of the good beatwork between the two was on Relapse. Em's almost never given the Alchemist anything to do. His songs with Havoc and the Beatminerz were really great, but he hasn't returned to any of those. And GOAT producers you'd THINK Eminem would've gotten dibs on (Buckwild, Muggs, DJ PREMIER) have already worked with his affiliates Obie Trice and Proof before ever handing Em a track. Seriously, WTF?

    *I.e., average to pretty-good.

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  3. oooh. regarding rick rubin, I would only agree to say *anymore*, a qualifier you didn't add. was this intentional or not? because licensed to ill (and more specifically the geto boys) still bang, even if a little dated. hell, 99 problems?!

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    1. I think said qualifier was assumed rather than forgotten. (Rubin seems to have a sizable hatedom among rock aficionados, though, for always maxing out loudness to the point of clipping -- his go-to mastering engineer, Vlado Meller, is at least as hated for the same reasons).

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    2. I did say "with very few exceptions" and stand by that. All of his production work smacks of "let's pretend this is a rock song instead". I'll have to dip back into this well for a proper discussion later, but for now let's just say that every collaboration with Eminem has been uniformly terrible.

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    3. @Max: I thought the aesthetic Rubin went for on MMLP2 gave decent results, all things considered. But yes.

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  4. the album cover is my face at this album

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  5. Eminem was never great, and hasn't been good for almost 15 years. Didn't even bother listening to his last two projects, and I won' listen to him again unless he puts out something that legitimately gets good reviews from people I trust. His career needs to end

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  6. You get no argument from me about this album. I agree 100%. His worst album to date and one of the worst ones to drop in 2017. How the fuck is the best song a remix that's not even on the album? He really needs a "no man" in the lab to tell him when his shit sucks and to please tell him to stop singing.

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  7. Sorry but count me in the "Eminem was never good" group. His career started, and ended with Stan.

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  8. I have not listened to this album or any of his last albums and do not intend to, but even so I must say that Eminem's descent is tragic. Max, you seem to wonder if maybe Eminem has never been good at all but you must know that is not the case; on a technical level I'd say Eminem in his prime is one of the best to do it. The tragedy lies in that this level of skill is present in a man otherwise so jeopardised as a rapper by his failures. A man who lacked sophistication no matter how large his vocabulary got, who has no ear for good beats, who has an unpleasant voice which he opts to contort into even more unpleasant sounds and who apparently excels in being an self-destructive troll or at least a doubling-down contrarian. That he works in a genre that's got an unhealthy obsession with self-promotion, egotism and imperviousness to criticism does not do him any favours and has probably exacerbated some of his worst qualities. His genius level qualities are cocooned in and smothered by the man-child most of him is. I'd say Eminem is hiphop's best example of enormous potential brought to naught by intentional stupidity and overwhelming flaws, making him hiphop's Morgoth or Sauron in fantasy terms if you will.
    I doubt that potential is gone but he seems long past the turning point for living up to it.
    Regarding this album's guest list, I think we only have to mention the trope 'We're still relevant, dammit!' It's a pity, as you mention, that he chose to do it without inviting any people hip hop fans would actually like him to share the booth with, or at least his friends or co-workers as well.

    Given their shared status as Dr. Dre's most succesful protegés (and I think Dre and Eminem have worked well together in the past), I tend to find myself comparing Eminem to Snoop despite them being so different. In doing so, I have to prefer Snoop by far. Clearly Snoop is also long past his prime, rarely pushes himself to write good lyrics and has plenty of horrible tracks in his catalog (especially where guest features are concerned) but he's got the better voice and flow and what's more, he usually seems to have fun on the mic. In his case, I think it is pretty clear that he greatly enjoys what he's doing while Eminem sounds like only the contrarian in him keeps him from retiring.

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  9. On a more general note I'd also like to add that I greatly enjoyed this month's album reviews, even if few of what I was hoping for appeared. I had to go without Xzibit's 'Napalm', a DJ Quik review, a Snoop album or Cube's 'I Am The West' getting dissected (you can tell where my preferences lie) but I still found it a great ride and greatly hope you'll find the means and energy to go forward.

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  10. We never needed an Eminem to push the "boundaries" of hip-hop when the likes of El-P, Aesop Rock, RA, and Eyedea (RIP) were always far more talented and passionate than Eminem could ever hope to be. Rappers like them deserve heaps of praise but leave it to Dre to be impressed by the most mediocre.

    Also, Rick Rubin's most important contributions to music were done in the 80s...beyond that...well...

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  11. "…the same motherfucker that recorded, and then convinced his label to release, songs with titles such as “The Real Slim Shady”; “Puke”; “FACK”; “I’m Shady”; “My Dick Is Tiny”; “Cum On Everybody”; “Ass Like That”; and “Bagpipes from Baghdad”. (Okay, three of those are titles I made up.)"

    I see what you did there, and I heartily approve.

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  12. Lets be honest here Eminem has't been relevant in Hip Hop since he dropped "The Eminem Show" back in 02' the album that followed "Encore" was the last 1 that I bothered to listen to right the way through (true I did buy it! My mistake I know!!!) and that was a piece of crap.

    The way he raps nowadays is cringe worthy, embarrassing and quite sad Tbh, yet he is still held in high regard by most of his peers?? This album should really be his last as he doesn't connect with his supposed rap audience anymore and with regards to all the Trump bashing, it just comes off as desperate - like you said the Orange one will respond so.. whats the point??! I'll tell you for free, he's just trying to stay down with the kids and the fact that he feels he has to is an epic fail in my book because nothing he says really resonates also, that BET freestyle he did which had a lot of folks gushing was average/awkward at best!

    When I listen back to the SSLP and the MMLP I find that the shock value of these albums just seems very redundant and I can't believe I once rated them quite highly (a lack of maturity on my part perhaps?).

    Anyway to conclude, I think Marshall needs to give this Rap lark a rest and just focus on promoting the few artists he has remaining on his fledgling label (fat chance, the guys ego will always be his downfall).

    Lastly, I just wanna say that I have NEVER rated Rick Rubin as a Hip Hop producer maybe he was half decent? way back when (the 80's...) however, the tracks he supply's for this album are just straight Pop trash not to mention more boring then listening to a guy repeat Gucci Gang for 3 mins on a track (eyes roll) - its a wonder the guy still gets work IMO.

    Stay blessed!

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  13. the trouble for Em is he's ascended past the point where he now has to have pop obligations, if you will. guy's practically more of a popstar than a rapper now anyway, and has been for about 10 years. we won't ever see Em rap like he can again, I think Stan and lose yourself are such flash in the fucking pans over a 20+ year career that will largely be remembered for being trash. it's sad, man

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    1. Both "Stan" and "Lose Yourself", while extremely well-written and performed, are both now considered pop music anyway, but not because Em labeled them as such: they just crossed over. So it's nothing new: he's just a lot more obvious with his intent now.

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    2. are you disappointed with this transparency then? or is it em's way of natural progression as an artist?

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    3. I don't agree with the idea that the only road to career longevity is to cater to pop audiences. In an ideal world, he would just make what he wants and the pop world would come to him. But we don't live in an ideal world.

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  14. Em's always been better for features anyway, when he's not in control of the beat or the theme and someone's telling him what to do

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    1. I disagree with part of that - Em's features tend to err on the side of boring a lot of the time, with few exceptions outside of his immediate family. But I would love to hear him on a collaborative project with another producer (sort of like a DJ Muggs vs. situation, maybe with The Alchemist, or Muggs, or the like) that would reign in his poppier impulses.

      When was the last time he made a guest feature that was fire? Honest question.

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    2. Muggs is actually my first choice for an album-length collaboration with Eminem. Buckwild is also fairly high on my wishlist – both for his straight hip-hop production and because he consistently makes radiogenic beats that don't sound like pop piffle. Large Professor, Da Beatminerz and Diamond D all fit with the Em-Rubin musical aesthetic (only much better); Stoupe would do the same with Revival's general aesthetic while more actively pushing Em out his comfort zone. (Apollo Brown would push him entirely out of his comfort zone, so he'd move to near the top of the list).

      Havoc & the Alchemist are the producers I'm most worried about. But it has less to do with their current production acumen – I found 13 Reloaded a return to form and LOVE The Silent Partner – than the possibility of their work turning into Slim Shady/Oughties atavisms, something I resolutely DO NOT want to go back to on either front. (I still stand by my earlier statement, "Eminem is the worst-produced lyricist of his caliber, and it isn't even close.")

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    3. renegade lol

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    4. Doesn't count. I should have added qualifiers, but nope, doesn't count since it was produced by Eminem (so he absolutely had control over the final outcome) and was originally a Bad Meets Evil song or a Royce song featuring Em, can't remember which. I do know that Em's verse is the same on both versions, so again, nah.

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    5. @Brandon I cannot agree more on your choices of Apollo Brown, DJ Muggs, Large Professor, Buckwild & Da Beatminerz. Diamond D, Alchemist & Havoc should NEVER collaborate with him.

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    6. @shoe-in: What, specifically, would be the problem with a Diamond-Eminem collaboration? Diamond's leaned into shtick a bit much recently, but I don't see any obvious problems – The Diam Piece and The Sum of a Man were both at least solid musically.

      For what it's worth Al's worked with Em at least once, and Hav twice; both of Havoc's songs ended up solid. Do you have the same "a collabo will cause at least one party to revert to shtick" concerns as I do?

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    7. @Brandon Yes, I certainly share your concerns. I’d also like to clarify some of my objections: I absolutely cherish what Diamond D & Havoc have brought to the game in their respective primes. That being said, both are nowhere near the producers they were imho. And at this stage, Em is gonna need all the crack he can get behind them boards.

      In other matters, the Alchemist has VERY RARELY impressed me aside from his work with Prodigy RIP.

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    8. ALC is inconsistent (as Max loves to point out) but he can bring heat for sure. in recent times Break The Bank, Step Brothers and the silent partner were all dope

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    9. To each his own. I just stated my opinion of his overall career, which includes the examples you’ve mentioned.

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    10. @shoe-in: I actually think Alchemist is at his best when he's not trying to sound like typical-Alchemist (excepting Prodigy, where both work equally well) – which is why enjoy his work with up-and-comers, and Hav's album for that matter.

      I am interested in what Max has to say about "producers Em should work with next."

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  15. indeed he is now a pop star

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  16. the sad thing is, this review won't leave too much open for discussion because it's hard to see anyone defending this gahbaj. I think we can collectively sigh and shrug at Em now, and dismiss him completely in search of something, anything different and better

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    1. Eh, never say never. Someone has to love Revival, and maybe that one crazy person reads the blog and likes to argue over the Interweb.

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    2. I don't even think Eminem loves revival

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    3. I've heard some people theorize that Em made Revival suck on purpose in order to provoke precisley this kind of reaction from everyone, the plan being that this would remotivate him and set the stage for him to make a great album next time round (or something). Check the way he declares he will return on the Chloraseptic remix.

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    4. People also thought Kendrick would drop another album immediately after DAMN. called GOD. because of some of his bars. These theories are fun to read up on (sometimes) but never translate to much.

      For what it's worth, I don't believe this theory, as (a) I don't believe Em has this much foresight, as he has zero control over how anyone else receives his work, and (b) the idea of tanking on purpose is incredibly insulting to his collaborators, his producers, his label, and the consumer. If anything, his declaration on the "Chloraseptic" remix was HIS response to everyone telling him that he sucks now, vowing to prove us all wrong somehow.

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  17. Congrats on completing the february marathon and thanks for all the reviews!

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  18. Revival is trash. I know someone who paid for the album and it was $20 dollars. Obviously, upon listening to it he regrets his purchase. Great review as always, glad to see you back to writing.
    Now, I'm just curious, but what are your official top 10 favourite rap albums?

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  19. Revival is the greatest rap album of all time. End of.

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    1. My favorite part is how you offer no examples and make zero attempt to convince anyone of this opinion.

      Thanks for reading!

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    2. In fairness, that's what makes me think Tobias is almost certainly just trolling: Otherwise he would have at least complained about haters or called you a mean name.

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    3. Well what examples would I give? And what could I say to convince anyone of that? Lol

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    4. You could at least try.

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    5. And while I'm at it why don't I tell you about how great the Star Wars prequels were as well?

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    6. This world be the only hip hop blog where you could do just that, so if you insist.

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    7. You know, I watched every Star Wars movie so far, and I truly fail to see the problem with the prequels. Aside from a certain someone’s wooden delivery in every scene he was in.

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    8. What about Jar Jar Binks?

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  20. Damn, haven't listened to it and won't bother.

    Slim should be releasing classic material now but for whatever reason he doesn't. Was he ever good? Go back to 99 and re-assess as he was and was still releasing classics until '02. Ignore the pop shit, the man has classics and could out flow (and rap) most of your favourites in his day.

    Why he never did more with Redman is beyond me.

    Max - any plans to review the new Nipsey Hussle?

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    1. Likely no - never been that big on Nipsey and I haven't listened to the new album anyway. I would run a Reader Review, though...

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    2. You may well be surprised, I was.

      I'd offer a reader review but no one would want to read my ramblings!

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  21. hats off to an excellent, thoroughly entertaining month. what's next? no demands nor pressure, just always excited for more!

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  22. I can't believe some of the comments I'm seeing about a man with such a widely, and justifiably revered, production credit catalogue. Licensed to Ill, King of Rock, Raising Hell, Tougher than Leather, Geto Boys, LL's Radio and tonnes of classic individual songs for him (Jack the Ripper, Going Back to Cali), T La rock Its Yours. Basically being one of the people most responsible for the beloved, iconic Def Jam production sound. Not to mention working on the best albums by several non hip-hop artists - Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Slayer, late-career Johnny Cash to name a small few. Despite making several admittedly shit songs with Eminem, can everyone please wake up and recognise that Rick Rubin is a hip-hop legend.

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  23. Max before I recall you expressing interest in hearing 2 Chainz over Preemo beats. now flirt's dropped, what say you?

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    1. Um... that's going to have to wait until later.

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  24. RIP Craig Mack. Incidentally, here's a quote from your review of his debut LP when talking about Flava In Ya Ear: "This is Craig Mack's signature anthem. When the man dies, this shit will be played on a loop at his wake."

    I'd put dollars to donuts that that's exactly what will happen (or already happened).

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    1. Agreed. Fuck every goddamn poser who’s currently trying to get on the train of paying respects to him when their bitchasses were belittling his accomplishments every bloody chance they got. And trust me, those whores aren’t just a limited few people.

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  25. honest question - does Em's past few albums detract from his claim to be top 5 or top 10?

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    1. On one hand, I don't like pitting rappers up against one another, as every artists brings a different perspective to the table. On the other hand, absolutely, yes.

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    2. So if Em had never returned from his near death experience and hence never given us Relapse, Recovery etc... where would he rank? Top 5?

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  26. AnonymousMay 04, 2018

    does caterpillar, following the chloraseptic remix, make this even worse then?

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    1. Your question assumes that Em's guest verse on "Caterpillar" is objectively "good", though.

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  27. Well it was pretty good wasn't it? Apart from that extnded poop joke at the end.

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    1. As per usual, he was just rip-rip-rappity-rapping and a lot of it was meh. At least he sounded engaged, though.

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  28. AnonymousMay 08, 2018

    I've been an Eminem fan since I heard The Eminem Show for the first time. Revival was the second time I was disappointed by his output (Encore was the first). Great review as always, Max. I've been reading your reviews for probably 11 years at this point. Keep it up.

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