Eminem hasn’t hit a home run since 2010. His latest album is a good way to continue that trend. It could be his worst LP since the last time they impeached a president.
His single, “Darkness,” makes a powerful political statement in an election year. Making powerful political statements is not how Marshall Mathers became Eminem.
Mathers used to have the magic of someone who didn’t take himself seriously. And he became rich and famous by clowning on anyone else who took themselves seriously.
For instance, the pious media crusaders, who feed on terrible tragedies and senseless inanities alike, and amplify fear for profit. The same media that used to blame Eminem himself for violence. He used to stand above it all, holding his own frame.
Then he went and dropped “Music To Be Murdered By.”
I get that keeping everybody safe is important.
And not everyone who’s seriously thinking about that is taking themselves too seriously. (Though most of them who talk about it are.) But I want like– Joy Behar, or Nancy Grace to tell me that, not Eminem. I want Eminem to tell me:
And all of this controversy circles me
And it seems like the media immediately points a finger at me
So I point one back at ’em, but not the index or pinkie
And not write albums to get an ‘attaboy from the powers that be:
You think I give a damn about a Grammy?
Half of you critics can’t even stomach me, let alone stand me
Eminem used to be the mainstream media’s kryptonite. Now he’s joined them. He’s blaming guns for the actions of rampage killers the same way the media used to blame rap for violence against women and cops. People are responsible for their own actions.
Most of the millions of people who listen to rap have never committed an act of violence. And most of the millions of people who own guns in America never have either.
The amazing thing about “Darkness,” is that it closes with a call for legislative action, but it opens with a startlingly insightful look at what causes an extreme minority of the population to become mass shooters. Alienation, hopelessness, and despair:
Here I am, alone again
Can’t get out of this hole I’m in
It’s like the walls are closin’ in
You can’t help me, no one can
That’s a more serious examination of the Las Vegas shooter’s motives than the news media ever gave us. It cuts through the uselessly naive media and political interpretation. Lawmakers and the press see mass shootings as a systemic problem.
But with “Darkness,” Mr. Mathers strikes at the root to show us a human problem. It isn’t something that can be directly addressed by an act of Congress. And the solution doesn’t neatly fit into a news headline or campaign ad, like gun control.
Eminem got closer to a real solution in “The Way I Am” (2000):
When a dude’s getting bullied and shoots up his school
And they blame it on Marilyn [Manson] and the heroin
Where were the parents at?
The magic is gone. Now Eminem is rapping– for you to lobby Congress to get legislation passed. Does that sound like Eminem to you? Or hip-hop?
This seems like a desperate and cringeworthy Hail Mary pass to be relevant again. It will accomplish the exact opposite for Eminem, because this is not the source of his power.
His album sales have slipped dramatically for three consecutive releases since “Recovery.” He’s digging himself deeper by writing music for Pete Buttigieg supporters. That is obviously ridiculous. And it’s not going to work out for him.