By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
But, in fairness, his shtick is more complex than that. Genuine homo-hatred and its less virulent cousin, homo-anxiety, are both categorized as homophobia. And both are often strong undercurrents in homoeroticism, particularly the unexamined and accidental kind. Eminem sticks a finger in all those dikes. He’s clearly fascinated by gayness, and he runs with that fascination, with the resultant wordplay ranging from the discomforting to the silly. As his career unfolds, it becomes obvious that while he ain’t the most enlightened on sexual mores and nuances, he also ain’t the hip-hop Jerry Falwell. (Jerry Springer’s more like it.) His constant flirtations with gender-bending in his videos and the various kinds of homo attraction and repulsion found in his storytelling and skits are yet another avenue of artistic freedom and personal exploration granted "the white rapper" but not the black ones (at least none who want a high-profile career), but they also give voice to that which all straight boys are forced to suppress for fear of being called out.
In the song "Rain Man," off the new album, Encore, he asks Dr. Dre, ". . . is it gay to play putt putt golf with a friend . . . and watch his butt butt when he tees off . . . I just need to clear things up / till then I’ll just walk around with a manly strut . . ." The question is posed within a verse filled with played-for-laughs questions that are ringed with discomfort over what a man can get away with and still be considered a real man.
So, you might be asking, why has so much space been spent talking about race and sexuality, and not the new album? Part of the reason is that Eminem, as a vibrant if somewhat contrived modern pop icon, has become a canvas against which these kinds of questions are thrown. He and his work embody them. By virtue of what he raps about — and how he raps about it — these questions are part of what makes him interesting, relevant. But the larger reason is that the new album simply sucks. It’s not even close to being worthy of his talent.
It should have been obvious when he dropped the gimmicky, true-to-formula first single and accompanying video, "Just Lose It," that he was running on fumes. In taking cheap shots at washed-up, certifiable pop stars (Michael Jackson), parodying the already clich√©d (Madonna’s cone bras) and clowning Pee-wee Herman, he showed clearly that his shit was ragged. (How daring. Clowning Pee-wee Herman in the year 2004. Never mind that Paul Reubens’ sly creation is more genuinely subversive than Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers or Eminem could ever hope to be.)
On the rest of the album, he plumbs dusty mommy and wifey issues with increasingly less depth and no new insights. He contextualizes and apologizes for the aforementioned use of the word niggerwhen he was younger, with the apology sounding both sincere and perfunctory. The mama-hating "Puke" is the kind of shit his 10th-grade geeky, bored-with-school, fuming-about-home suburban fans would pen in class. The shrill "Toy Soldiers" is unlistenable, and the lame "My First Single" is pure filler. But so is most of the album. His and Dr. Dre’s overall production is so flat, so lacking in soul (which means not lazily sampled R&B tracks but inspiration, passion) that it never sparks the sum of the parts into a worthwhile whole. In the documentary Fade to Black, Jay-Z is shown listening to hours upon hours of tracks that producers have submitted to him, shaking his head at the lackluster efforts offered and then putting the most acclaimed beat masters (Kanye, Pharrell, Timbaland) through their paces in order to bring him heat. Em seems to have settled for any synth doodling and dry beats thrown his way. Only on "Mockingbird," a love song for his daughter, Hailie, does he push beyond gimmick and trifling production. Finally, Em’s well-thumbed autobiography is used for something other than juvenile riffing or cloying self-pity, at last giving you some reminder of why this white boy is more than just the machine’s answered prayer.
EMINEM | Encore | (Aftermath)