“Full of controversy till I retire my jersey
Till the fire inside dies and expires at 30
And lord have mercy on any more of these rappers that verse me
And put a curse on authorities in the face of adversity” — Eminem, “Soldier”
The show was never meant to last this long.
To say that the second half of Eminem’s career lacks in the excitement that the first half of his career provided would be an understatement. Maybe it’s because I grew up on him (honestly, were it not for The Eminem Show, “Lose Yourself” and the 8 Mile soundtrack, there’s a solid chance I never get into rap), but the beginning of his career ark always played out like a movie: Marshall Mathers grows up in the mean streets of Detroit, meets Dr. Dre, becomes a superstar, signs 50 Cent, and gets caught up in the G-Unit/Murder Inc. feud.
But by the time Encore dropped, it became obvious that nobody was knocking Em off of his pedestal. The proceeding years were full of drug use, terrible accents, a quasi-comeback, and now: a kind of guardian angle-type presence in regards to the genre. Even if Marshall Mathers LP 2 is a critical bomb (as of writing this, we’ve been treated to enough sobering warning signs to assume just that, per David’s handy guide), it’s still a safe bet to go platinum, launch a couple of singles and keep Eminem on top of the mountain.
Boring. It’s all just become so boring for a man who’s career highlights came when he had something to prove. Which is why gems like this ‘Unsigned Hype’ column from ’98 are so incredibly important. They take us back to a time when the very concept of Eminem was new and fresh, when a white boy from the Midwest single-handedly threw a wrench in everybody’s Hip-Hop biases.
One of those editorial pieces that The Source will always be able to point to with pride (I’d argue that it rivals their Illmatic review in terms of pieces that defined the publication), so spot-on were the words by Hip-Hop lifer Riggs Morales: “Point blank, this ain’t your average cat. This Motor City kid is a one-of-a-kind talent and he’s about to blow past the competition, leaving many melted microphones in the dust.”
Prophetic. Eminem won.
There are no more rocks left for Mr. Mathers to upturn, no more emcees foolish enough to step out of line. His GOAT candidacy is secure. Even if his self-proclaimed expiration date kind of proved true, let’s stop getting disappointed, at least for a moment, with what we’re getting in 2013, and respect a transcendent career. Because The Marshall Mathers LP still sounds damn good 15 or so years after the fact.