Review Summary: An EP containing some of Eminem's best tracks both lyrically and structurally, if only it were longer...
Eminem is one of the few artists of all time who is almost either universally liked or respected by almost every kind of music fan. I haven’t met too many who haven’t given him the respect he deserves as one of the greatest lyrical geniuses of all time. And still, even those who dislike Eminem’s music at least talk about him, so love him or hate him; Marshall Mathers is not one to go unnoticed. So you wouldn’t expect that someone of such social stature of Eminem to have their best work come from a six song EP, that never saw a national release, would you? Well, it’s completely true, and while Eminem’s most recent LPs have been lacking his past quality in some people’s minds, “Straight From The Lab”, is an EP that delivers Eminem’s music how it should be heard.
If we wanted to give a short, concise explanation of this album, we could easily say that this EP contains six of the greatest tracks Eminem has ever released. However, that doesn’t completely sum up this effort at all. For one thing, this release probably does the best job of combining Eminem’s wacky, bouncy, comedic style, with his dark, deeply lyrical, and somber styles. But with all this experimentation that molds the best of Eminem together, it sounds like Eminem had been doing this for years. The flow itself of the album is absolutely tight, and rhythmically possessive. The opening track “Monkey See, Monkey Do” is quite simply one of the fiercest songs Eminem has ever written. He sounds, for the lack of a better term, pissed off in this song. Despite that, he never misses a beat, and his lyrics suit the song perfectly. One of my personal favorites on this EP.
The mixing of the two main styles Eminem uses, mentioned above, is evident on tracks such as “Can I Bitch”, “Bully”, and “We As Americans”. The first thing you will most likely notice about these tracks is that the lyrics are for the most part, seriously written, but most of the beats are incredibly bouncy, and reminiscent of Eminem’s older material. Not that it matters, because those two elements blend amazingly well together. Another aspect of these songs that is easy to discover is that Eminem sounds considerably more comfortable on these songs, and really this entire EP, than he has on his most recent LPs. Perhaps a less commercial release, such as this one, or a “return to the underground” so to speak, has sparked his creative interest again. The way Mathers twists his vocal phrasing around in “We As Americans”, or his unusual but compelling flow on “Can I Bitch”, would validate the previous statement very well. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard from Eminem, but at the same time, it seems that he has been rapping in this combined style for his entire life.
There are darker tracks on this release, besides “Monkey See, Monkey Do”. The last two tracks on the EP, “Come On In”, and “Doe Ray Me”, reinforce the somber side of Eminem, and sound more like more contemporary Eminem songs. “Come On In”, has a brooding, dark melody and aggressive drum beat, and is probably the most comparable track to “Monkey See, Monkey Do”. It can easily be considered a highlight of the album. “Doe Ray Me”, features guest raps from Ja Rule, which may turn some people off from the tracks, but it surprisingly didn’t turn out as bad as many of you think it would. The beats are fairly passive for Ja Rule’s aggressive sounding raps, and the two honestly don’t mix very well. Despite this, Ja Rule turns in a decent lyrical performance, along with Eminem rapping and singing during the chorus. While this track is most definitely the weakest point of the album, it isn’t completely devoid of value, as some may want to hear how Ja Rule works with Eminem, combining their respective styles.
And there it is, Eminem’s best work you’ve never heard. Unfortunately, the most glaring problem with this has nothing to do with the actual music, is the length of this release. Being an EP you can’t expect that much time on it, but to be honest, that is what stopped this from getting a higher score. Of course, the flip side of that fact is that for this release to receive a “great” rating, most, if not all of the tracks would have to be great to outstanding, and they most certainly are. There is no song on this EP that I would say couldn’t make it onto an Eminem LP, and with the exception of “Doe Ray Me”, not be a highlight on an Eminem LP. This is simply some of the best work Eminem has ever done, as he sounds substantially more comfortable on this underground release than he has on his most recent studio albums. One can only hope, that some of this underground energy can get transferred to Eminem’s studio efforts. In the meantime, we can enjoy this, and hail “Straight From The Lab” one of Marshall Mather’s best releases that never was.