Review Summary: Guess who's back? Back again, Hillary's back, tell a friend. Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Nanana NAH NAH NAH NAH NAH Nnana NAH NAH NAH NAH
While Eminem’s first two major albums The Slim Shady LP
and The Marshall Mather's LP
largely overcompensated through exaggeration to fit in with the virtually all black Hip Hop crowd, this album is Eminem becoming more comfortable in his own skin and acknowledging the biggest demographic of his fan base: whiteboys. What makes this my favorite Eminem album is the candidness, something he never achieved on any other album throughout his career. Compared to Eminem’s previous two albums, this is like the difference between a non-fiction and fiction book. It is not nearly as catchy or entertaining as Eminem’s previous two. In fact, some of the sounds on this album are downright terrible. For instance, the song “White America” is on the official list of songs the CIA used to torture prisoners in Guantanamo Bay...seriously.
Eminem abandoned the psychopath ‘Slim Shady’ alter-ego for this album, and while that may be less interesting, it is more realistic and relate-able to the listener. This is Eminem rapping about real life with no exaggeration or added drama. From dealing with backstabbing girlfriends, a crazy mother, losing custody of his daughter or attacking the country he lives in, this album gives the listener a glimpse at the life that made the brilliant imagination on his past two albums possible. Instead of invented stories of him torturing his mom and girlfriend, he explains in excruciating detail how it was that his mom and girlfriend actually made his life a living hell with songs like “Cleaning Out My Closet” and “Soldier”, with line after line of goosebump-raising rhymes like: “So ticky-tock listen as the sound ticks on the clock. Listen to the sound of Kim as she licks on a cock! Listen to the sound of me spilling my heart through this pen! Motherfukers know that I’ll never be Marshall again!”.
The biggest fault with The Eminem Show
is clearly its production. It is often so simplistic that it is not worth detailing in the review. It usually features a simple electronic melody on repeat and a rhythmic snare drum or clapping sound and nothing more. While Dr. Dre was the executive producer on his last two albums, here he only chips in on three tracks “Business” “Say What You Say” and “My Dads Gone Crazy”. Yet although the beats are less enjoyable immediately, they have more soul to them than any of the beats Dre made for him. This album is mostly about the message and lyrics, but the rather crude beats do eventually grow on most people and wind up meshing with the lyrics far better than any beats that Dre has created. A perfect example of Eminem blowing the production, but killing it lyrically, is when he makes his first and all-time best attempt at political rap on the song “Square Dance”, aggressively programming the younger generation with lines like:
Yeah you laugh til your muthafukin ass gets DRAFTED
While your at band camp thinking 'the crap can’t HAPPEN'
Til you fuk around get an anthrax NAPKIN
Inside a package wrapped in Siran wrap WRAPPIN
Open the plastic and then you stand back GASPIN
Fukin' assassins hijacking Amtracks, CRASHIN
All this terror and America demands ACTION
Next thing you know you got Uncle Sam’s ass ASKIN
‘to join the army’ or ‘what can you do for the navy?’
You just a baby, getting recruited at 18
You on a plane now eating their food and their baked beans
I’m 28, they gon’ take you before they take me!
For better or worse, Eminem put a dagger in the back of segregation in Hip Hop and changed it forever. Casual fans of rap won’t find much to like on here, but people who can stand bad production combined with meaningful lyrics, should find this album, that is over a decade old, to be relevant and interesting today. He even takes a crack at heartfelt SINGING on here, and damn- it works, on the track "Hailey's Song". Even though his voice is atrocious, you can just feel his pain coming through his vocals. Eminem has never been so serious on any other album, and that is a pity.
Even though this album sold more than any album in 2002, it is clear he didn't think this style would work and changed for the worse on his next albums: falling back into his comedic persona and rapping constantly about relatively trivial problems like drug abuse. But when all is said and done I believe this album will be looked back upon as his best album, primarily for the topics it deals with and the embarrassingly honest way in which he deals with them. Simply put, this album fits with the Hip Hop tradition of 'keeping it real' far better than any album Eminem ever made.