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"DEATH RATTLE": Eminem's new "Revival" LP nudges rapper further into pit of irrelevancy

Aftermath
"Revival" is Eminem's ninth studio album. It was released in December 2017.
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ALBUM REVIEW: Revival by Eminem (Aftermath) 2017

A musician’s legacy isn’t a straight line. Most legends in the music industry don’t have a discography full of classics. They usually all have unbelievable streaks where everything they put out is gold and they can’t be defeated.

Even for everything The Beatles are loved for, their streak from Rubber Soul to Abbey Road is what truly cemented their status as arguably the most influential band of all-time.

“One of the things that’s great about hip-hop is it hasn’t been around so long that we know what a full career is supposed to look like,” Eminem said in a recent Vulture interview.

Legacy in hip-hop is almost nonexistent. As of recently and in previous years, hip-hop is built on making a splash until someone comes by and makes a bigger noise than you. You are lucky to have one song stick in today’s musical climate.

When Eminem debuted in MTV’s Gen X peak and asked to have the attention of the class for one second, everyone listened. He was white but co-signed by Dr. Dre. He was white but didn’t act like Snow or Vanilla Ice or any other novelty acts using their skin tone as a selling point.

Eminem knew he was white and instead of ignoring it, used it as fuel to prove he was just as good as anyone else. Eminem’s streak from 1999 to 2002 was indescribable. He was the most personal emcee ever at that point. Thrown in court for lyrics, getting banned from countries, protests from GLAAD, he made it hard to turn away, whether that be from disgust or entrancement.

Whenever you push an artist to put out something when they don’t necessarily have anything pressing to say, you can tell. Eminem’s fourth album was a forced effort packed with silly filler tracks, abysmal rapping and an undeniable sense of whatever-ness about rapping.

His new (and last?) studio album Revival is (not surprisingly) awful. His past two albums have been a result of him recovering from a drug habit that led him to use his fans’ support to get inspired to rap again. But instead of using that to just rap well, he wants to rap about having the will to rap. He raps about rapping. He raps about how well he raps over the most cookie cutter beats. He’s been tapped out for worthy reasons to string together words for over a decade.

Of course, you can’t expect someone to be the same after their best friend was murdered and you narrowly escaped a fatal drug overdose, but Revival is a complete turn from anything previous. There were slivers of hope in past albums that he would come back and stop making pop-rap that he previously made fun of.

Revival is the complete submission of not knowing what to do anymore or who to even make music for.

Eminem is the best selling rapper and best selling artist of the 2000s. He’s still probably the biggest rapper ever, surprisingly. Artists fame wane at some point and you’d figure his fame after “Encore” would have died out, but it never did. To put out an album this pitifully boring at still a high level in your career is beyond embarrassing.

Curiosity leads to the question of: why do other genres of artists get passes when they don’t release legendary material anymore, but an album like Revival is actually hurting Eminem’s legacy? Before their untimeliness deaths, no one would think of David Bowie or Prince’s below-average 90s material when discussing the artists, only their classics. It may be linked to the youthful nature of hip-hop and Eminem just doesn’t know who to appeal to anymore. He’s very obviously chasing the pedestal set up by The Marshall Mathers LP some 18-years ago.

The second best selling rapper ever, JAY-Z, just put out one of the best albums of his career after hearing criticism that his album before wasn’t up to far. He took the criticism and used it to turn to making incredible music. It’s an album he could have never made 5 years ago, let alone 20. Eminem used his criticism to cry about people criticizing him.

On the opening track “Walk On Water,” he surprisingly feels very defeated in a way we haven’t heard previously. It makes me wish that we got a very somber and short EP of him coming to terms that he’s past his prime and dealing with his life currently. Any sincerity put forward gets wiped away with Em rapping about a girl in the most grossly unappealing way over Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock N Roll” on “Remind Me.” There’s no scenario in life where I wanted Eminem to rap over Joan Jett.

We get 80 minutes of material that is essentially “Love The Way You Lie” replicated and more embarrassing sampling of classic rock songs. “Revival” is the album for people that get into fistfights at the self-checkout line at Wal-Mart. I truly can’t find an excuse for how this album is listenable.

Eminem can have any producer he wants. Any producer. He instead continues to use Alex Da Kid who produces trashy pop-rap tracks that are edgy to pre-teens and those that keep countdowns on their phone for when the new 50 Shades film drops.

This album is him becoming a caricature of his former self. He isn’t being offensive by way of saying controversial things and sincerely meaning them. He is just spewing stupidity and hoping to hit the nerve of someone dense enough to react.

There’s a lot that can be covered in 19 tracks and Eminem makes sure to make the album as uneven as possible. Glancing at the album cover makes the unfortunate listener think this will be 80 minutes of pure political hip-hop. He’s obviously not a fan of Donald Trump and uses that hatred to fuel two very on-the-nose tracks with “Untouchable” and “Like Home.”

The world is literally overrun with political darts thrown at the current administration.

Don’t waste any more time bogging up space and pinning words together at the leader of the free world if you are just going to repeat what every left-leaning citizen already knows.

“Untouchable” is split into two parts with Eminem taking the role of a racially profiling cop in the first half over an aggressively lackluster guitar backdrop and a black citizen in the second half.

Eminem has been successfully political in the past. “Mosh” was a genuine and successful sneer at George W. Bush, but neither of these two political tracks hit any direct mark, say anything original or in clever ways. We are aware of the hypocrisy of some of those that vote Republican, but can we get that confusion put into captivating lyrics and listenable production?

To try and break down several more tracks on the album is a waste of time. You get the usual abusive relationship tracks, tracks about family, tracks about insecurity, nothing here is scrapping new ground. “Revival” is directionless, meaningless and horrifically offensive to listen to. Not because what he is saying is offensive, but because the combination of the sounds that flood this overtly long album is offensive to anyone that wastes 80 minutes dealing with this horrific cacophony of dumpster scraps.

When the artist himself knows it’s time to call it quits, maybe everyone should follow suit.

Revival is an attempted shout for recognition and relevancy, but it’s not a worthy enough scream to make onlookers care enough to stop. It’s the death rattle of a career that we should have been mourning the loss of a decade ago. With every new track he produces, the presence of what was once great starts to fade. Eminem could have been the story of quitting while ahead, but unfortunately, that’s not the case.

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Kevin Tudor

Born and raised in the mean streets of Yukon, Oklahoma, Kevin is currently majoring in...

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