Nobody should have to remind Eminem of his immense stardom.
Since 2000, the rapper has launched six consecutive studio albums to the top of the Billboard 200, two of which—2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP and 2002’s The Eminem Show—have been certified diamond in the United States for shipping more than 10 million copies.
He’s notched five No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with another 12 piercing the Top 10.
He’s the bestselling rapper of all time and the bestselling artist of the 2000s, moving more than 30 million units in a 10-year span. Eminem’s commercial dominance isn’t a matter of opinion; it’s an objective fact.
So why do his latest moves seem plagued with self-doubt?
On Tuesday (Nov. 28), the rapper announced a Dec. 15 release date for his new album, Revival, and… nobody reacted strongly one way or another. Music blogs published their obligatory news posts; Spin hit the nail on the head by describing Revival as “Eminem’s moderately anticipated ninth album.”
The announcement came two weeks after “Walk on Water,” his lukewarmly received Beyoncé collaboration that peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned a barrage of Twitter roastsfrom members of the Beyhive who compared his confessional raps to the likes of Macklemore.
This was a curious reaction for hip-hop’s most dependable hit-maker. Each of Eminem’s post-hiatus releases—2009’s Relapse, 2010’s Recovery and 2013’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2—became the bestselling rap albums of their respective years.
But they also drew their fair share of criticism, as writers and fans alike questioned Eminem’s relevance as he approached two decades in the music industry.
In the four-year gap since The Marshall Mathers LP 2, younger rappers whose stars had been growing finally blossomed into bona fide superstars. In 2016, Drake’s Views shifted a staggering 1.04 million units in its first week; his 2017 playlist/album hybrid More Life shifted 505,000 units in its first week.
Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. debuted atop the Billboard 200 with 603,000 units, the second-highest debut week of the year and his third consecutive chart-topper. J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive went platinum with no features, as did 2016’s 4 Your Eyez Only.
All the while, music publications began to portray Eminem as an easy punchline, suggesting his undisputed commercial reign may be coming to an end.