EMINEM’S NINTH STUDIO ALBUM FUELED BY A FAKE PHARMACEUTICAL CAMPAIGN IS A CAPTIVATING BUT OFTEN FRUSTRATING MESS, AS ITS ARTIST CONTINUES TO BE
BY TIA KIM
An artist who built his reputation not only as the first white rapper to be taken seriously in the music industry, but also one unafraid to tackle issues like homophobia, drug use, sexual assault, politics, and matters of race, Eminem’s background reads like a blueprint for work of the fist slamming variety. Born after a 73 hour labor that nearly killed his mother, Marshall Bruce Mathers III grew up in a working class and primarily African American Detroit neighborhood as something of a loner often bullied and in a state of protracted distress following his parents’ divorce and subsequent isolation from his father. He started rapping at age 14, and with his friend, Mike Ruby, formed the group Manix and M&M (later adapted to Eminem). After dropping out of high school at age 17, he was a frequent attendee at open mic and rap battle contests at the Hip Hop Shop on West 7 Mile Road, considered the hub of the Detroit rap scene.
Appreciated as a prodigy virtually from the beginning, his first self titled EP came in 1995, followed by the full length Infinite in 1996 and The Slim Shady LP three years later, and the last would go on to be certified triple platinum. There were eight more albums from 2000 to 2014 their lyrics often mirroring Mathers’s turbulent emotional life, one that included an assault charge against a bouncer, a variety of lyric writing conflicts with co performers, drug addiction, allegations of aggrandizing sexual assault against women, and finally an exhaustion fueled hiatus declaration in 2007. And controversy followed him to the end of last year; in December, his ex wife, Skylar Grey, was granted a temporary restraining order against the star for allegedly threatening her and her boyfriend.
Despite (or partly because of ) these turbulent life events, Mathers was the best selling U.S. musical artist from 2000 to 2009 according to Nielsen Sound Scan, has received four Grammys (including Album of The Year), and his YouTube Vevo page has racked up more than 9 billion views.
In keeping with a promotional campaign gimmick used on 2013’s Marshall Mathers LP 2, which featured a phony drug ad, Eminem’s ninth studio disc, Revival, was teased with a pitch for a drug of the same name, one claiming to treat “Atrox Rithimus.” Production played out at several recording studios, and producers included the artist, plus Rick Rubin, Skylar Grey, and Dr. Dre. The first single, “Walk on Water,” which features vocals by Beyoncé, was released on November 10; though slow paced and quietly piano driven, it features words spoken, then shouted by Eminem and slowly increasing in sadness and emotional desperation as they lament fallen (celebrity?) glory. Things bounce around unexpectedly thereafter, from “Untouchable’s” plucked from the ’90s Slim Shady style lean beats to no fewer than four more ballads (“Nowhere Fast,” “Tragic Endings,” “Need Me,” and “Bad Husband”) that might have been better combined into two, and finally to the frighteningly lyric’s “Framed,” in which Mathers, hopefully ironically, rages in sexually violent fantasies. The takeaway is that Revival is a captivating but often frustrating mess, as its artist continues to be.