At first I wasn’t going to listen to this, based on the cover graphic alone, because for one, the Rolling Stone “tongue” didn’t exist when they recorded “Mother’s Little Helper”. Two, do I really need something from the distant past to help keep Eminem relevant? No. However, I listened to it and I think it works as a mash-up, created by CHEATCODE.
Or “hate the game, not the player“.
Did I just see/hear a commercial which suggests Eminem will save music? Fuck him.
This was a comment I posted on Twitter upon watching last night’s Criminal Minds. It was a commercial for CBS’ forthcoming Grammy presentation, and it consisted of no one but Eminem. The ad came off in a way which, to me, suggested that Eminem is so big that he will save the world… if you watch the Grammy’s. Oh really? I got a small amount of feedback soon after from people saying “say what you really think” to “not an Eminem fan”. I’ll say what I said there: I’m a fan of his *up to a point*. I like some of his work, but I don’t think he’s the best in what hip-hop offers, nor is he the best in what music has to offer. So what’s my beef with Eminem? To be honest, there is none.
I’ll say this for the record. I remember when Eminem was no more than that guy passed around on cassette dubs of radio freestyles who would mess people over with his wicked rhymes. He was called wicked because people compared him to a devil. Not a white devil or anything like that, that didn’t come until he became a star. But he was someone who did his rhymes without limits, didn’t find a need to hold back when he felt he had the freedom to say anything and everything. He was in control of his style and lyrics, he is a composer in that he compiles his words properly. Give him a story to run with, and he’ll do what it takes to make people listen, the trademarks of a working artist. Some in hip-hop will limit themselves by what they feel hip-hop represents. Anyone who goes outside of that boundary is not considered hip-hop. Anyone who doesn’t look hip-hop is not hip-hop. It’s foolish conservative rules that welcomes the massive sales of anyone and everyone, but sometimes (read “sometimes”) does not welcome in views and perspectives from “outsiders”. You are only of value as the amount you’re willing to give to the cause.
Which goes back to Eminem. You might be saying “wait now, you pretty much just praised him for being an artist who is willing to be bold and daring, so what’s wrong?” I questioned my own opinion. I hate the commercial because it was pushed in a way which made out Eminem to be the reason music is so great in 2011, but the music industry is tanking at a rapid pace. The industry still feels that Eminem, who some have called the Elvis Presley of hip-hop, will be someone who will keep the trust funds happy and active for all record label employees. Or maybe that’s the lure, a lure that the music industry has made their thing for at least 50 years. Lures is what turns ordinary artists into fantastic superstars that we, the public, want to believe in. Look at Jon Bon Jovi, whom I’m not a fan of but who people praise endlessly because he has a very bright smile and chest hair women want to live in. He is made out to be the greatest thing to have happened to pop music, but let’s not forget he is (or was, depending on your perspective) a hard rock artist. He does well in country because the money is there, and it sells. I think if Pharrell Williams was able to do tracks with Taylor Swift or Jennifer Nettles, he would go country too, but in Pharrell’s case, it would be good.
Back to Eminem. Should I not be celebrating the good he makes, and is the commercial not validating of the good I see and hear in him? Maybe. Now, I continue to have mock battles with myself towards what is of value: mainstream music that’s pushed to millions of people everyday, or independent and underground music that fights to be known and heard. If I’m so adamant about showing support for underground music, why in the hell should I even care about someone like Eminem, especially since he hasn’t been underground for at least 12 years? I think that’s when it leads to simply being a fan of published/released music. I want to hear good music, and if it’s pushed by a major label, fine. If it’s pushed by a collective of artists from a certain region, and they’re trying to work odd jobs so they can rent a van for a month and go from one part of the coast to the other, cool. I think sometimes, when I see “the game” of the music industry has become, I wonder why some artists don’t bother pushing themselves anymore to make good music. Soul/funk musician DâM-FunK was watching an episode of BET‘s 106th & Park and wondered why a lot of the music sounded like the kind of sounds you’d hear wrestlers walking out to when they’re about to hit the ring? It’s not just one or two songs, but every song heard comes off like boring circus music, where you hear a sense of celebration but what’s being celebrated and why?
Back to Eminem again. It’s not Eminem’s fault that he plays the industry game, this is how he makes his living and if he didn’t want it in the first place, he could have avoided the word “exploitation” in his contract and headed back to Detroit. Look at some of the people who have worked with Em in his career. It was Dr. Dre who was Eminem’s stamp of approval, and now Dre is doing nothing but selling shitty headphones and laptops which tells people “if you buy these, you can make albums like… whatever album I last released, whenever it was released.” Again, it’s all part of the lure, the sales pitch, anything that makes you, the listener and viewer, to buy. That’s what any industry is about, buying what you seek, creating what is in demand. But how about when an industry force feeds people into believing what they release is good? That’s basically saying that the music industry is nothing but the equivalent of McDonald’s, because you can let artists rot out of the jar for three months and no mold will collect. See Train and Maroon 5 for references.
I don’t hate Eminem. I love the Beastie Boys, but there are some songs by them I don’t like. I like white rappers, and it’s not a skin tone issue, I don’t see him and go “I don’t think he’s valid because he’s not black.” Sure, maybe being a white MC means you have to try four times as hard, but if and when you do and you make something that impresses me, I’m sold. I don’t care if you’re Slug, Eternia, or El-P, you step into a marketplace knowing you’re an immediate target means you take risks. You’re not doing this because you think you’re hot shit with your bootleg Drake shirt. You do it because it feels good to you, and more power to you. For me it’s more of a quality issue. To me, Eminem has dipped and does this sing-songy thing I can’t stand, but he continues to sell and make more music. Someone must like it.
Eminem continues to make some decent music, and he makes other rap artists want to challenge themselves. Yet in the mainstream, it seems no one is stepping up to that challenge. If people do, they’re not considered as worthy because Eminem is viewed as the king of his empire. I want to see people step up to him and go “yeah, now let’s see if you can run circles around me, old man”, but you know what? That’s hip-hop, and even a lot of hip-hop today is not hip-hop.
My point is that, the Grammy’s want people to know that there’s music out there, but I wish sometimes there was more variety than what’s heard. Then again, I don’t solely rely on the Grammy’s for that, in fact I don’t rely on them at all. Would I want a Grammy for “Best Liner Notes”? Hell yeah. But the commercial, a production from CBS, seemed like the same old lure that everyone is tired of. I want and expect more, and it seemed void of effort, which at times is what some mainstream music has become. This goes back to why I fight for something that obviously doesn’t care if it sinks or swims. I just think wow, c’mon industry. Do you really still think Eminem is the cure-all for your woes? Why not rely on everyone instead of just one?
So many broken hearts and unfulfilled dreams, so little time to care.
Sometimes I’ll listen to an album and go “what the hell were they thinking?” Lil’ Wayne has gigantic balls for being bold with doing a hard rock album full of auto-tune, but he also crosses the line between being an idiot and being a genius. I’m split over what crown he should be honored with.
I’ll give credit where credit is due, Rebirth (Cash Money/UniversalMotown) is a complete mess, but within that mess is Lil’ Wayne’s twisted idea of what works. Lil’ Wayne has become who has become in the last few years by understanding the limits, catering to his audiences, and twisting it by the sack because he can. It’s his version of hard rock, but more about the hard rock post-Nirvana than it is anything before. His attempt to be progressive works within the limits of his own world, taking hints of the eccentric talent of Andre 3000 but owing more to keeping Hollywood excited than Atlanta, or in his case New Orleans. It’s very far removed from anything Lil’ Wayne has done, but within the colostomy bag of sounds is someone who is cock sure of how to make these sounds work.
Case in point: “Ground Zero”, the third song on the album. With his hard rock backdrop he raps, and to me this works great. It’s not Mike Shinoda by any means, but he’s at his best when he’s rhyming while under the influence of who knows what he’s taking. For him though, what he rhymes/raps about can be turned into song, so he’s not afraid to talk about biting panties, metaphorically munching on female abdomen, or offering a middle finger to anyone who dares step up to him as he’s metaphorically munching on female abdomen. I don’t know if he’s serious or if this is the 21st century update of Bill Cosby‘s Hooray For The Salvation Army Band.
Musically and lyrically, it sounds like all of the cliches much of 90′s rock and hard rock has become, especially all of the metal/hip-hop hybrid bands that came out in the last 15 years. This isn’t to say that Lil’ Wayne can’t do it, because I think if he worked with the right people and made some decent songs, he would be viewed differently. Maybe he’s playing on that, he could care less about what rock, metal, or hip-hop critics think. This is the hybrid music Justin Timberlake warned us about. If Lil’ Wayne is having a laugh with this, it’s funny to listen to it from that perspective. If he’s serious… no, he can’t be. If he’s making music that he knows will be discussed, talked about, mocked, bashed, and in the end bought, he has done it again.
With Mary J. Blige covering Led Zeppelin for her forthcoming album, and this being Lil’ Wayne’s *first* (which to me means he promises more) hard rock album, all I can say is that The Roots need to save the day with their announced cover of Frank Zappa‘s “Peaches En Regalia” for their forthcoming LP, fast.