November 18, 2004

Without an enemy, Eminem falters
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

On his new album Encore, Eminem disappoints and impresses at the same time. He has always enjoyed a God-given talent for rapping, but it was his meticulous attention to rhyme scheme that made the difference between simply impressive and absolutely amazing albums.

Eminem comes off like a procrastinator who had two and half years to record his follow-up to The Eminem Show, but instead finished it in a rush at the last second. Like an intelligent student writing a late night term paper, Eminem cruises on natural ability, but still sounds tired and repetitive.

For better or for worse, producer Dr. Dre's beats perfectly match Eminem's flow. The doctor's beats lack their normal G-funk bounce, but remain better than those of most other producers. The problem is that Eminem and Dr. Dre shouldn't be compared with average rappers and producers. Eminem's beef with Benzono and Ja Rule inspired him to more passionate lyricism than anything found on Encore, but they were still petty feuds with lessers. If Eminem wants to assert himself as a legitimate candidate for the best rapper of all time, he needs to learn how to push himself to a higher standard on his own rather than relying on others to push his buttons for him.

The biggest problem (and biggest consolation) is that Eminem seems to be completely aware of this problem. He has always been at his most vicious when he feels threatened by another rapper, but on "Toy Soldiers," Eminem admits that he needs to demonstrate more self-control in the future. He raps, "It's not a plea that I'm coppin/ I'm just willing to be the bigger man if y'all can quit poppin/ off at your jaws/ Well, then I can/ cuz frankly I'm sick of talkin'."

The problem with this song and much of the album is that Eminem is rehashing subject matter that he has already kicked to death on better songs previously released on DJ Green Lantern mixtapes in the last few years.

On "Evil Deeds," Eminem brags, "Sometimes the average listener rewinds and plays me 20 times." On previous albums this has been true, but there isn't a single verse on Encore like the second verse in "Square Dance" from The Eminem Show, which required multiple listening before you could get you head around his lyrical gymnastics. On Encore, there are brief flashes of the impressive multi-syllabic rhymes that fans expect from Eminem, but he doesn't sustain his virtuosity for more than a line or two.

On "Big Weenie" Eminem rambles about his legions of jealous enemies, until he eventually admits, "It's pointless/ Why do we have to keep on going through this?/ This is torturous." The album isn't torturous, but it's certainly pointless. Eminem's irrepressible talent shines through his lazy verses nonetheless, which makes Encore a disappointment, but not a waste.

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