-appeared in OMG! Magazine Volume 2 Issue 18
-September 10th 2010
When I heard Eminem’s debut single “My Name Is” back in 1999 I surely never thought I’d hear from him again in 2000. Or 2001. Or 2010. But eleven years after the release of his first single Eminem has maintained a uniquely strong chart and pop culture presence. How many top ten artists saw us through the end of Clinton, all the way through Bush, and into Obama? With his chart-topping new album “Recovery” Eminem has proven himself to be a durable commercial commodity. While babes and boys come and go what is it about this thirty eight year old man that continues to intrigue?
Back in the late 1990s most commercial rap focused on babes and bling. Out of left field Eminem’s debut single “My Name Is” displayed a self-depreciation and wit that set it apart. While lyrical references to Nine Inch Nails and Primus may date the track a bit, its funky and breezy beat has aged gracefully. Eminem’s debut single sounds as fresh today as it did when it dropped eleven years ago. The same cannot be said for most tracks released at the time.
In the early years of his career Eminem outraged and shocked with his graphically violent lyrics and cocky demeanor. Not a week went by without hearing the rapper accused of a homophobic or misogynist remark. As the social and political climate became more tepid and politically correct, Eminem remained singular and outspoken. While Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera bared it all to get the public’s attention, it was what we didn’t know about Eminem that kept us guessing. How serious were his remarks? Was he being tongue in cheek? Does he really want to dump his wife in the lake or was it just an extention of a public persona?
The rebellious alpha male has always been very marketable. From James Dean to Vince Neil to Sylvester Stallone the American public has always loved their men to be strong and cocky. Eminem certainly emerged as a post-modern version of this tried-and-true archetype. But as his career unfolded Eminem eventually revealed a dark vulnerability. In releases like his semi-autobiographical film “8 Mile” and the bleak tale of fan-worship gone bad “Stan”, Emimen displayed a gritty genuineness otherwise absent from the pop landscape. Who knew the mocking self loathing of “My Name Is” would prove to be such a creative goldmine?
As the second half of the ‘00s unfolded Eminem consistently balanced his standard foul-mouthed raps with brutally honest explorations of drug addiction, depression, and other gritty fare. His output remained fresh and interesting. While other long-term rap artists like Snoop Dogg have stayed on the radar by becoming cartoonish caricatures of themselves, Eminem has managed to mature respectably while remaining relevant.
With his latest single, “Love The Way You Lie” Eminem has paired up with Rihanna to release perhaps the most honest examination of love and violence to ever top the charts. His latest album “Recovery” finds Emimen at the top of his game, eleven years after his first top ten hit. As the music charts get increasingly vapid and young, this thirty eight year old man from Detroit continues to intrigue.
Eminem has built a long-term career for by bravely airing out his insecurities and flaws in public. Love him or hate him, there is something captivating about watching someone forge their path with such honesty…missteps and all. While other artists rely on gimmicky wardrobes and facelifts to stay in the public’s favor, Emimen has done so by doing exactly the opposite. Eminem has stayed famous for being heroically flawed and human.