Friday, July 31, 2009
Eminem Ethers Mariah Carey: It's Alive!
You know, it's funny. I was just thinking (for no real reason) about Michael Jordan's last game at Madison Square Garden, in 2003, when he was a slow, bulky, 40-year old small forward for the Washington Wizards who became incited by some smack talk from Knicks guard Shandon Anderson in the second quarter and proceeded to revert to vintage MJ destroy mode. Almost as if on cue, Jordan took over the game at will, scoring 19 points in the final 7 minutes of the period (he had 26 at the half and would finish the contest with a game-high 39) and reminding everyone that the aged warrior could still summon the legendary magic when properly provoked. It was one of the last great moments of an iconic career, and one of the few moments during Jordan's stint in Washington that made his comeback seem worthwhile.
That's what the new Eminem diss aimed at Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, "The Warning," reminds me of. I enjoyed Eminem's last record, Relapse - he's a master lyricist, a genius of his craft, and the skillful writer/rhymer will always be my favorite type of hip-hop artist. Relapse, as the title indicates, is centered around the drug addiction that plagued him during his five year hiatus between albums. Beyond that, it's just the same antics he was up to seven years ago. It's repetitive and disappointing in that it doesn't show much growth by him as an artist, but it's still worth the listen, a chance to hear vivid storytelling by a man with a flow so agile and flexible and versatile and a mind so perversely brilliant. He's better on his worst day than pretty much anybody, and one of those rare rappers who will never fall off lyrically, no matter how old they get or how many years they put in the game (no small feat).
I don't think the Relapse version of Em represented him on his worst day, but it wasn't his best, and I think the reason was that he wasn't motivated. His legacy is etched in stone and he has nothing to prove at this point. The hunger wasn't there; for Eminem to be truly great he needs to be taking it personally, and I think that aspect was missing on this last album - not as much as it was on Encore, which I feel was his most lackluster offering, but still absent. He didn't seem angry on this record, more like he just wanted to vent.
Now, I think the animal is back.
When Little Nicky trashed him after he hit Mrs. Cannon below the belt on the Relapse cut "Bagpipes from Baghdad," Slim barely blinked, showing more signs that he had matured beyond the point of trying to kill somebody on a rap song. When Mariah released the impressive "Obsessed" and it became obvious that a female pop singer was aiming right at the head of one of the most dangerous emcees ever and he didn't respond in kind, I figured that the monster was dead. When she dressed up like him and portrayed him as a stalker in the video for the single and he didn't say anything right away my beliefs that the old Em was gone for good were only strengthened.
But thank goodness, my fears were misguided. Turns out I just needed to employ a little patience. In "The Warning," Em is as spiteful and vitriolic as ever - and at a level resembling his peak. This is his best single song since "Lose Yorself." Yep. It's that good. He kills the Cannons, especially, especially Mariah. He even splices soundbites of her from their time together and raps around it, an act which, besides merely adding to the quality of the diss, adds credibility to his claims that they were together and his threat that there is more damaging material where that came from. If this were a World War, the Cannons would be sending in their notice of surrender right now. He just dropped the atomic bomb. Best dis song since "Ether." The Good Doctor provides the beat. A poor one can ruin the work of a great wordsmith; Em is so vicious here that would be almost impossible in this instance, but it's a moot point anyway, as Andre supplies the perfect wave for Marshall to ride. Perfect. That's the optimum word to describe this track. It's just perfect.
At one point he reminds Mariah, "This is what the fuck I do." Glad to see that is still true. The inspiration is back. The monster has returned. It's like MJ at MSG that last time, all over again.