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Eminem coasts in cruise control

Kenyatta Storin | Thursday, November 18, 2004

Simply put, “Encore” is hands down the worst album of Eminem’s career. He showed signs of a slight decline on his last release, “The Eminem Show,” since it lacked the originality of his previous efforts, but it was still a solid rap album and better than most of its competition. Unfortunately, if his latest album is the long anticipated “Encore” to that show, then fans might be better off heading to their cars early to beat the traffic. Listen to either “The Slim Shady LP” or “The Marshall Mathers LP” and you will hear an emcee distinctly different from the one on “Encore.” Love him or hate him, the old Eminem was funny and clever, and would spout creative rhymes and images that other rappers would never even think of. He was a brilliant storyteller, and never afraid to speak his mind no matter how many people he offended. Even if you could not stand him, you had to respect his talents. But that Eminem left the building a long time ago, and left a cardboard cutout of his former self to do the duties for “Encore.” Yes, this new Eminem still says whatever he wants, pokes fun at celebrities, makes the usual references to his daughter, ex-wife and Dr. Dre, and makes obscene, juvenile jokes – but that is exactly the problem. Eminem uses the same old tricks, but like an aging basketball player, he fails to execute them with the same grace and finesse as he once did.One cannot help but get the impression that Eminem did not put a whole lot of thought into “Encore.” Most of choruses are too silly to be funny, with lines like “You’re really just a big weenie, big weenie” or “you make my pee pee go / da doing doing doing.” Even worse, Eminem sings on a number of the choruses, which is about as pleasant as listening to the various farting, burping and puking sound clips littered throughout the album. Furthermore, even the targets of Eminem’s jokes are questionable. The album’s first single, “Just Lose It,” is dedicated to poking fun at Michael Jackson, which is rather cliché considering that Jackson has been the brunt of jokes for years. He also devotes “A– Like That” to insulting Triumph the Insult Comic Dog (from “Late Nite with Conan O’Brien”). Not only is this song not particularly witty or funny, but one has to wonder what was going through Eminem’s mind when he decided to spend an entire song insulting a puppet.Despite these problems, Eminem is too talented to let the entire album drag. He still has his humorous moments, like the track “Rain Man,” where he admits at the end, “I just did a whole song and I didn’t say [expletive].” But most of his best moments actually come when he is serious and honest. For instance, although “Mosh” has a dull beat and repetitive rhyme patterns, Eminem spouts some clever rhymes attacking President Bush: “Strap [Bush] with an AK-47 / Let him go fight his own war let him impress daddy that way.” Eminem also speaks from the heart on “Like Toy Soldiers,” expressing his regrets over the Ja Rule / 50 Cent feud: “I’m just willing to be the bigger man if y’all can quit poppin’ / … / I’m not gonna let someone else’s coffin rest on my conscience.” Like on his other albums, he sheds more light on his relationship with his ex-wife on “Crazy for Love,” but he gives a fresh, honest perspective on it, admitting he needs her: “But your essential to me, you’re the air I breathe, I believe if you ever leave me I’d probably have no reason to be.”Eminem and Dr. Dre split production duties on the album. Although the beats have their moments, they are not up the level of Eminem’s previous works. Dr. Dre is particularly disappointing because he is often looked upon as one of the best in the business. In fact, the best beat on the album turns out to be Eminem’s simple piano and snare beat of “Like Toy Soldiers.”It is difficult to ask any artist with the fame and track record of Eminem to maintain the same high level of quality with every release. However, he falters much more than he should on “Encore.” This album is simply not in the same league as his previous full-length releases, and shows an Eminem who is just going through the motions, rather than trying to change the game. Fans can only hope he gets the fire back that he once had, or else Eminem will disappear into obscurity like many popular rappers before him.