A kinder, gentler Em? Bah.

Nov 24, 2004 at 12:00 am

A buck says it sucks to be Eminem these days. True, his latest could be multiplatinum by the time you read this. But when you’re the shocking Marshall Mathers, and your shock shine has all but faded, millions in sales cease to be the barometer for success.

Now, your fans want good music.

And that’s why it sucks to be dude. Em’s the Michael Jackson of the new millennium and Encore (his seventh if you count Infinite and The Slim Shady EP) is the most significant release this year. Teen fiends of the Slim Shady routine are now young adults who want their hero to grow up with them. If he doesn’t age gracefully, Encore becomes Em’s version of Jackson’s Blood on the Dance Floor.

What’s a superstar to do? Spend the first quarter of Encore rhyming as though his life depends on it, that’s what. From “Curtains Up” to “Like Toy Soldiers,” Em’s hunger is undeniable and the songs flow like one long piss-take on current controversies. On “Yellow Brick Road,” he apologizes for racist comments that surfaced last year on a tape he recorded as a teen. He admits to projecting his anger toward one African-American girl on an entire race. Says he’s sorry. Accountability works here simply because we rarely get it from pop stars. He continues making amends on “Like Toy Soldiers,” giving a detailed account of his conflict with Ray Benzino, co-owner of The Source magazine. He says he’s “willing to be the bigger man” and abandon the beef because he doesn’t want anybody getting hurt. Wow. When did Em grow up?

Then the inconsistency starts.

The hyped anti-Bush sermon, “Mosh,” fails to reach its pre- or post-election potential. Reason? Releasing a voracious song just days before an election is like jumping into a fight after the combatants have punched themselves out. It should’ve been a month old by Election Day, and it comes off punkish. “Puke” is yet another ditty about Em’s wife. Oh, please. What is the statute of limitations on carping about a sour relationship? You give a friend, what, six months at most to bitch and moan. This has been eight years. He should have left the issue at “Mockingbird,” a beautiful song on which he counsels his daughter about the issues between him and Kim.

From this point, highs are very high, and lows make you suck your own teeth.

“Rain Man” and “My 1st Single” are full of wit and sparkle; “Crazy in Love” is a grand experiment, lurid and charging enough to work. But “Big Weenie” is a lame song with a lamer chorus on which Em siphons his own nerdy comedic skills. “Ass Like That” could be hot, but, come on — imitating Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for an entire tune?

Are you seri— well, no, you couldn’t be.

Aside from “Never Enough,” which features Nate Dogg and 50 Cent, the posse cuts sound like obligatory nods to the Shady Records roster.

Em and Dr. Dre share production duties throughout, and their styles blend well. But 20 songs and a three-tune bonus disc make the album about six cuts too long. Without the low points, Em might’ve had a classic on his hands. This one’s a worthy, if choppy, purchase.

Khary Kimani Turner writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].