Heard of Eminem’s new album? No? There’s a reason for that. “ShadyXV” shows how hard it is to stay relevant when producing hip-hop music for more than a decade. 15 years have passed since Marshall Bruce Mathers III rose to fame with his first hit single “My name is”. The American music industry at the time, led by the motto Sex sells with some puritan hypocrisy on top, was just begging for someone like Eminem. He was the antidote to everything currently on the market, the elephant in the room, addressing emotions that have not been addressed in popular music. The biggest of which was anger. That anger came from a real place.
Until Mathers rose to fame at the age of 27, his life didn’t look promising at all. Working at one fast food place after the other, struggling to come up with child support for his newly-born daughter and taking as many drugs as he could find, he bottled up a lot of stress and anger. Anger was his motor. The anger of not having gotten what he deserved in life, directed at those he deemed to be at fault; most of all his ex-girlfriend and mother.
Anger is what made Eminem great. It is what inspired millions of kids around the world who were also looking for a way to cope with their anger. Mathers found his catharsis in provocation and offensiveness and so did his fans. But today, little is left of what used to make Eminem great, as shown by his new album “ShadyXV”. The anger that once drove him transformed into depression and disorientation with what to do with his life. The first line that really stuck out on the album is on the song “Guts over Fear”:
„Sometimes I feel like all I do is, find new ways to word the same old song“
That is a sentiment even the most loyal of Em’s fans can’t help feeling. Mathers hasn’t found new topics to talk about since “The Eminem Show” in 2002, and he knows it. One can argue that the latter was the climax of his creative work. Ever since then, Eminem’s music has come to sound more and more like the Pop songs he used to have a go at in his earlier days. If the Marshall Mathers from 1999 could use a time machine to get to 2014, he would probably release a diss track about himself. The disstrack would probably be about selling out and sounding like Boyband “faggots”. But that Marshall is gone. What is left is a rich, lonely man, dwelling about his past. Don’t get me wrong. Technically, Eminem still is one of the best rappers out there. He proves it in cyphers every once in a while. But he has lost his drive. His musical identity is but a hollow copy of what it used to be. The provocative rimes don’t provoke anymore. Using terrible electric guitar riffs as beats and choruses from old pop songs only amplifies that impression.
The market of hip-hop consumers reaches from people who are 13 to 34 years of age.
If you haven’t heard of his album or listened to it yet, there is a reason for that. You, the person reading this article, are probably in your twenties. Eminem still makes music for teenagers. That means you have grown out of the target group of his music. The circus has moved on, as they say.
While artists like Jay-Z have managed to diversify their audience and switch to a more “grown-up” style of hip-hop, Eminem still makes music for teenagers. Because an artist, he hasn’t made the same creative leap Jay-Z has.
“Shady XV” is a double album; a third of the first and the whole second part is simply made up of old songs from either Eminem or rappers in his entourage. As if the message of the album wasn’t clear enough, the “Greatest Hits” character of the second half says it all:
Eminem has nothing left to say as an artist.
But as a token of respect to what he has achieved, let us listen to a track where he was at his prime :