Eminem finds room in 2020 rap culture

Peter O'Neill

It’s not quite “Music to be Murdered By”, but Eminem makes a decent stab at it.

Music fans checking their phones last Friday were bombarded by the news of Eminem’s second “surprise” album in two years. Following on from 2018’s Kamikaze, Eminem goes for a much broader scale this time.

The songs on Music to be Murdered By are interlaced with samples from Alfred Hitchcock’s compilation of the same name, giving the album a grandiose feel compared to the comedic Paul or Ken Kaniff skits from his previous work.

However, Marshall Mathers isn’t averse to horror themes by any means. A large part of his work is creating images of violence and bloodshed under the guise of his alter ego, Slim Shady.

Of course, like any other art form, this draws controversy. Look at the public reaction to Quentin Tarantino’s movies or the Grand Theft Auto game series and you see many offended groups.

Then again, the contradiction of Eminem rapping about supporting ostracised communities and loving his daughter whilst also frequently making domestic violence a punchline, makes him seem even more out of place in 2020.

One of the most successful artists of the 21st Century and still commercially viable at the age of 47, Eminen is not going to change or suddenly ‘mature’ his style at this stage in his career.

Luckily, the shock jock antics are supported by amazing performances. While his songs don’t quite carry the same juvenile quick wit that “My Name Is” or the “Real Slim Shady” did, the serious moments of the album land heavily.

The song “Darkness” is easily his strongest political song and the greatest by any artist in the Trump era. Like a lot of great political songs, “Darkness” evokes, not by saying a name or an idea explicitly but by showcasing the reality of what life is like and why it’s reprehensible.

By having the twist of the song be that it’s from the mind of the 2017 Las Vegas shooter, he highlights the mental health dynamics of mass shootings and how mental torment left untreated can have drastic effects.

At a time when access to healthcare is a huge political issue in America as well as gun ownership, it feels all the more poignant.

Fans of backpack rap will also be happy to hear collaborations with Royce da 5”9’ and other members of Slaughterhouse. This will appease the fans of his that care more for his older material, although the Ed Sheehan cameo on this album barely gets a pass.

Overall though, it’s heartening to see Eminem still release good music after the debacle that was “Revival”. Even though that album wasn’t as bad as its reputation suggests, it did feel like an artist on his way out of relevancy.

By releasing songs such as “Darkness”, “Godzilla” and “Lock it Up”, Eminem has shown that not only can he say words fast but he can use his words to produce quality songs too.

Peter O’Neill

Image Credit: “Music to Be Murdered By” album cover