Release Year: 2004
By 2004, Eminem was one the most successful and popular rappers in music. His last two albums were mega-successes, so expectations were pretty high for this release. Maybe the pressure got to him since his fifth LP is one of his weakest. While there are some high points, most of the songs are forgettable, and some of them are too silly for their own good. Though some fans would disagree, this marked the downfall of America’s favorite rapper. He wouldn’t bounce back until 2010.
This album is a mixed bag. I remember not being impressed with it when I first heard it 10 years ago. And my thoughts haven’t really changed over the years. There’s a severe lack of memorable or strong songs on this release. Only a handful of them manage standout, one of them being “Like Toy Soldiers.” The track smartly samples the Martika track of the same name while Em raps about beefs with other rappers and how he tried his hardest to not get involved. The song recounts the 50 Cent vs Ja Rule feud, which Eminem became a part of after Ja Rule named dropped his daughter on the song “Loose Change.” He goes on to say how he tried to stop it because he knew it could lead to dire consequences. It’s a poignant track that points out how name dropping someone in the rap world is pretty dangerous. It’s thoughtful and kind of somber. As a result, Eminem has kept himself out of future feuds.
“Mockingbird” is another strong song where Eminem talks directly to his daughter. Though it’s never been my favorite, it is a sweet song where he apologizes to Hallie for not being there and for not being able to work it out with Kim. It also shows his vulnerable side, like when he mentions crying after not being able to buy gifts for Christmas. Of course it wouldn’t be an Eminem song if some humor wasn’t in there, so the track ends with the statement “don’t fuck with dad.” “Mosh” is a politically charged song where the rapper calls out George Bush and tries to convince people to kick him out of office. The message is actually pretty good, but since it was released too close to the 2004 election, it didn’t have much of an effect.
The rest of songs are decent, but mainly filler. “Evil Deeds” is a better track from the bunch that revisits the familiar territory of Eminem’s childhood. As usual, there’s a lot of dark humor in the lyrics though it’s not his best writing, which is a big problem with the LP. None of the rhymes stand out as being particularly witty or powerful as they have been in the past. None of them make you go “oh!” when you hear them. And with so many of the songs revisiting Em’s past, it can get tiring. “Yellow Brick Road” is another dark song that deals with his early life in Detroit. The closing track “Encore/Curtain Call” is actually pretty good. It has an upbeat, party vibe to it and the contributions from 50 Cent and Dr. Dre are a nice touch.
I’ve always considered this more of a Slim Shady centered album since there are so many silly tracks. “Rain Man,” “My First Single,” and “Puke” are fun to listen to and have some humorous lyrics that will get a chuckle out of you, but they feel so pointless. What the fuck is he even talking about in these songs? Even Eminem knows it’s full of bullshit as he says at the end of “Rain Man:” “And I ain’t even gotta make no god damn sense/I just did a whole song and I didn’t say shit.” It’s like he ran out of ideas, which becomes more apparent with “Ass Like That,” the song where he performs in the style of Triumph the Dog, who he had a feud with. It’s one of those songs where I like it sometimes, but ultimately know it’s really stupid. Though “Just Lose It” is supposed to be the standard Slim Shady track in the same vein as “Without Me” and “Real Slim Shady,” it really can’t compare. I mean it’s pretty good and definitely catchy as hell, but again not his best.
This is an album struggling to find its identity. Em’s not sure whether he should be the Marshall Mathers he introduced the world to on his third LP or if he should give listeners the Slim Shady persona they craved. So he gave us a mix of the two, but neither are very good. The light songs are too silly and often feel pointless, while the more serious tracks revisit territory he’s previously covered in better songs. Though I wouldn’t call this my least favorite Eminem album, that honor currently goes to Relapse, it’s pretty low on my list. Very little about it stays with you once it’s finished and it’s the first time in his career where many fans and critics wondered if the rapper was finally finished. We all know now he wasn’t even close.