Thursday, June 17, 2010

TBG Beats: Eminem -- "Not Afraid"

I can tell you how long it's been since the last time I gave a damn about an Eminem album.

"Mrs. Bootleg" was still just "Fiancée Bootleg" and my Oakland Raiders were beginning what would become a Super Bowl season.

I vividly remember finding 2002's The Eminem Show on the shelves at Best Buy nearly a week before its official release date. Interscope Records -- in response to rampant leaks and bootlegging(!) -- "unofficially" authorized several retail outlets to start selling the CD as soon as possible.

Eminem was at the apex of his commercial popularity and industry power. Since then, the quality of his work has suffered a precipitous descent inversely proportional to his own sense of self-worth.

Em seemed obsessed with vacuous scatological gags (even more than usual) on 2004's Encore and only made a half-assed attempt to address the "n-word" controversy that dogged him at the time. His clunky, transparent production work birthed beats bad enough to taint everything he touched for the rest of the decade, up to and including last year's Relapse. And, let's be honest: the careers of
Obie Trice and D12 -- two acts off his own Shady Records imprint -- were sabotaged out of the gate with Eminem's need to create another Eminem.

Now, with that out of the way, I gotta say...I like this track.

Yes, it's a not-so-deft bit of manipulative marketing ("Hey, it's a NEW Eminem!") and the anthemic hook is practically retro-pandering after the universally-acclaimed "Lose Yourself", but there's a sincerity here that Em's lacked on an entire CD since 2000's The Marshall Mathers Album.

The conflicting resignation with his life and career in the first verse bleeds into an open apology for some past sins -- including his last album -- in the second verse and then it gets all...uplifting by the end.

Eminem's Recovery comes out next Tuesday. I know this is just ONE song, but I'd say we're off to a good start.


mathan said...

Admittedly, this is the worst possible time for me to hear a new Em single; I just copped Relapse this week and it nearly ruined my day off.

That said, I really have a hard time hearing anything redeeming in this song. Wow, Em's mining his personal life for song fodder, again. Wow, Em's rhyming over a beat that sounds as synthetic as any "real housewives" look, again.

I mean the hook is as corny the one he jacked from Martika those many moons ago. And over a decade into his career I think it's a bit late to try acting like a grown up.

Eminem is actually one of those rare artists who should've od'd before they proved they weren't revolutionary or a genius. He could've been Kurt Cobain, but he ended up being River Cuomo.

Or he could've been Biggie, but he ended up Nas, depending on your musical point of reference.

How you can write off The Blueprint yet mildly applaud this is beyond me.

that mexican guy said...

Go easy on Aaron, Mathan. I'm pretty sure he still blames Jay-Z for the death of Tupac and the demise of his beloved Death Row Records.

(Also: your "could've been Biggie, ended up Nas" bit? Brilliant.)

Joe said...

I've heard an advance of Recovery and this is what I've noticed:

Em's lyricism is back - no stupid voices like on "Rain Man" from Encore (worst use of a Dre beat ever... yes even worse than Truth Hurts). He's pretty honest too - in one song he admits that when on drugs he almost wrote a song dissing Lil Wayne and Kanye because they were doing better than he was (and that he would have had his ass handed to him at the time had he done it).

The production needs to be a LOT better. Only one Dre track, and lots of unknowns on hooks that could be better had bigger names been on them.

"It’s different them last two albums didn’t count
Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing em out" -- "Talkin to Myself" - Eminem

Aaron C. said...

Fair points, Math. At the end of the day, I like this track more than you. It wouldn't be the first time we've had a divergence of opinion. (And, if you're still down, I'd love to finally get off my ass on that retroactive look at The Blueprint that I pitched to you over a year ago.)

Mex: Didn't the LA Times' Chuck Phillips *clearly* implicate Biggie and Puffy in Pac's death. (He *analyzed* the lyrics to "Long Kiss Goodnight" and everything!)

Joe: I'm intrigued enough by what you've heard to give more of his album a listen. (And, your Truth Hurts references are always welcome here!)

acctg.sean said...

Where does Eminem rank on the list of greatest rappers? His 1997-98 stuff was crazy original. His 1999-2002 stuff sold like no rap albums ever did. He wins an Oscar and then he falls off a cliff in all facets.

Top 20? Top 50?

mathan said...

Wait there are 20 "great" rappers? When did that happen?