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At the turn of the millennium, there was not an artist on Earth that garnered more attention than Detroit’s favorite son, Eminem. Bursting on to the hip-hop scene with a legendary record in 2000, “The Marshall Mathers LP,” it seemed as if nobody could stop Eminem; a perfect combination of unmatched aggressiveness and disgusting delivery, Eminem changed hip-hop from the moment he arrived.
However, since Eminem released “Relapse” in 2009, he has struggled to maintain the attention of the diehard hip-hop fans, instead relying much more on his broader, pop-centric audience. Eminem slowly began to lose the faith of those who raised him to the point of superstardom and many wondered if he could ever return to the mindset that brought out some of the most influential music of the century.
Rumors began swirling about a new Eminem project following his polarizing freestyle for the BET Hip-Hop Awards in early October; soon after, Eminem released the first single, “Walk on Water,” from his upcoming album, “Revival.” Throughout the track, Eminem speaks about the criticism he has received over the past decade, and how he wishes that he could please everyone. It was one of the first times that Eminem had acknowledged the people who were questioning whether or not he could still make boundary-pushing music, and, while the song was nothing special, it at least piqued the interest of the people who have been waiting for Eminem to return to form.
Finally, on December 14, Eminem released “Revival,” and, unfortunately, nothing had changed. You all have likely heard that this album is disappointing, but what exactly went wrong?
Eminem has gone through one of the most confusing transformations in music history; he has gone from literally threatening to murder pop-stars at the beginning of his career, to only featuring pop-stars on his new album.
Ed Sheeran, Pink, Skylar Grey, X Ambassadors, Kehlani and Beyoncé are all talented artists, but this is a fucking hip-hop album, where are the rappers? No Royce da 5’9″? Nothing?
This is the biggest problem with the album, in my opinion. This album has nineteen tracks, and there’s only one feature that isn’t a pop-star; how can Eminem claim that he is aware of the criticism that he received in the past decade, and then proceed to double-down on the same format that has failed him over and over again?
I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t go to an Eminem album looking for a pretty duet; I go to an Eminem album looking for BARS. All the bars.
It is clear that Eminem is aware that he needs to update his style, but he was hesitant to update his format, or in this case his feature list. There is a plethora of young talent that could compliment Eminem in 2017, and it is not like Eminem would struggle to convince any rapper that he wanted to appear on his record.
This guy wrote “Stan,” one of the darkest, most gruesome tracks in the history of mainstream hip-hop. Eminem used to have the ability to make you experience an emotional response, regardless of the topic that he was speaking about.
In 2017, Eminem has a bandolier of infinite ammunition to garner some sort of response from the listener, yet I found myself zoning out during this album, as he simply could not hold my attention with his commentary about Trump, police brutality and his personal life.
Go back and listen to “The Way I Am,” and pay attention to how imposing Eminem sounds throughout the song. Somewhere along the way, Eminem lost the edge, and now his lyrics come across as cringe-worthy for the most part; this is most evident in “Revival” on tracks like “Untouchable” and “Framed,” where he attempts to be poignant, but unfortunately winds up sounding generic.
In order to understand why Eminem is not the mountain in hip-hop that he once was, we have to acknowledge why he’s so popular in the first place. Eminem used to be menacing on the mic, people who did not listen to him were afraid that he would brainwash their children because he was so intimidating and raw.
On “Revival,” there is not even one moment where he takes the listener to that dark place; an album that is supposed to REVIVE Eminem’s career does not even harken back to the style that immortalized him in the first place.
The music is just sub-par on “Revival,” plain and simple. The production is so unbelievably uninventive that this album’s instrumental playlist could double as a sleep-aid. Eminem attempts to dip into trap on this record, and even if it was just a joke, it still isn’t funny or entertaining.
The lack of humor is probably the most jarring aspect of “Revival;” Eminem is a funny person, who has always been able to make uncomfortable topics entertaining, but this new album lacks any of the creativity that could have been found on his best records, as well as some of the best hip-hop albums from other artists in 2017.
There really is no excuse for Eminem’s music to not live up to the hype, as he has every resource that he could possibly need at his fingertips, combined with the fact that he took quite a long time between releases. The fact that he continues to find himself relying on the same formula points toward either a lack of motivation, which could have come from his insane success or a genuine drop in skill, which is much harder for me to believe.
This album is a mixed bag of disappointment, and I know that word is used too often in this article, but it is also the word that sums up the second half of Eminem’s career most accurately. I have never seen an artist go from almost unanimously being in the top-five greatest hip-hop artists of all-time to below average as quickly as Eminem, if ever.
Perhaps the biggest problem, if you want to call it that, is that Eminem does not give a single fuck what anyone thinks about his music because it will still sell. If he was honestly concerned with anyone’s opinion, he would have at least tried to change his formula on “Revival;” the fact that he didn’t proves that Eminem is perfectly content with making mediocre music, as long as he remains on every radio station’s rotation.
“Revival” is not only Eminem’s worst album, it is also representative of the moment that I officially stopped believing in Slim Shady. He has proven, once again, that he has nothing to say, nor that he would even if he did. There has been an interesting debate going on within the hip-hop community recently, about whether it is better for an artist to stop releasing music altogether, or for them to continue releasing music at the expense of diminishing their reputation. Eminem has stepped into the realm of risking his own legacy by dropping so many disappointing albums in a row. Hopefully, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but if “Revival” is any indication, I wouldn’t count on it.