Besides his screechy anger, the biggest calling card of Eminem’s work has always been the way he’s interwoven sardonic tabloid references into his songs like a modern-day Cole Porter. If you were a ridiculously famous person at the time he entered the recording booth, chances are you would’ve copped a ribbing in one of his rhymes or music videos.
Unfortunately, this has its own problems. For example, have you listened to a Cole Porter song lately?
UH, WHAT? Who is “Missus Ned McLean”? Who is “Max Gordon”? And “Anna Sten”? And “Lady Mendl”? And “Missus R.?” WHAT THE F**K ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, COLE PORTER, NO ONE UNDERSTANDS YOU.
Eminem’s songs suffer a similar fate. A few years ago, when folks were publicly critiquing his poorly-received fifth album Relapse, Rolling Stone writer Daniel Kreps bucked the critical trend and praised the album’s lead single ‘We Made You’ as “a solid pop cultural time capsule of this weird 2009 moment we’re experiencing now.”
It’s an interesting perspective: at the time, the song’s video, which lampooned cheap targets like Brett Michaels’ ‘Rock Of Love’ and and Jersey Shore and Sarah Palin and Amy Winehouse and fat Jessica Simpson might’ve been mildy amusing (maybe?), but just four years on, it’s aged less like a fine wine and more like a rotting bat on your local telegraph line.
The ever-angry artist released his brand new single ‘Berzerk’ yesterday — a thrash-y riff on producer Rick Rubin’s previous work with the Beastie Boys — and his signature pop culture references are all over it again.
Sheesh, if the dude’s gonna insist on making tabloid-skewering such a major aspect of his work, maybe he should add the Daily Mail or Perez Hilton to his RSS feed or something? ‘Cause some of these references are older than my abuela.
1. The bit about Kendrick Lamar
Line: “Bout to go H.A.M., ya bish / Shout out to Kendrick”
Topicality rating: 10/10
Oh shit, a timely reference! Well, not the ‘H.A.M.’ part, which Kanye and Jay-Z dropped back in 2011, but the other half. Given Kendrick Lamar’s recent blog-melting verse on Big Sean’s ‘Control’, this could be the most zeitgeist-y reference on an Eminem song ever. It also means that a) Eminem recorded the song within the last 14 days, or b) he’s a prophet, or c) it was unintentional and he’s just ridiculously lucky. Either way, 2013 up in this song!
2. The bit about Ren & Stimpy
Line: “The art of MCing mixed with Da Vinci and MC Ren / And I don’t mean Stimpy’s friend, bitch.”
Topicality rating: 2/10
Oh no, that didn’t last song. Man, this cartoon’s 22 years old. Sure, I guess it’s still re-run around the clock on stoner TV worldwide and it was essential for Eminem’s NWA-referencin’ wordplay, but couldn’t he work in an Adventure Time metaphor in here instead? Regular Show? Even Ben 10 would be better.
3. The bit about Kevin Federline
Line: “So baby, make just like K-Fed and let yourself go, let yourself go.”
Topicality rating: 0/10
Nope. No one has mentioned K-Fed in ages, at least not since he was on that critically-panned Australian weight-loss show that aired on the Nine Network last year because the Nine Network are elderly stupids with no idea about anything except awesome shows about baking (#GABO, go Nancy!). Geez, I doubt even Britney thinks of K-Fed anymore. Terrible reference.
4. The bit about Kid Rock
Line: “So come get on this Kid’s rock / Ba-wit-da-ba-da-dang-dang…”
Topicality rating: 1/10
Em has a bit of personal history with fellow Detroit native Kid Rock, but that’s no reason to assume that we also give a shit about Kid Rock. ‘Bawitdaba’ was a horrible song released by Kid Rock back in 1998, so basically Eminem travelled back 15 years to come up with an odd metaphor for his cock. Surely we have cock metaphors in our own age?
5. The bit about Khloe Kardashian
Line: “The ugly Kardashian / Lamar, oh sorry yo, we done both set the bar low.”
Topicality rating: 7/10
Another new one! Khloe Kardashian is Kim’s tall sister; Lamar Odom is her basketball-playin’ husband. “Ugly sister” is what Boston Celtics fans used to yell at him when he played for the Los Angeles Lakers, which is some incredibly mean trash-talk, but hey that’s Boston. Much like his Kendrick line, Em’s inadvertently stumbled on some topicality with this reference, following this week’s sad tabloid reports of Lamar’s drug-fuelled disappearance. Not to be a whack-job conspiracy theorist, but maybe Eminem’s behind all this?
And so, as a time capsule, Eminem’s ‘Berzerk’ works as a pretty great snapshot of 1998-2006. Perhaps in another 30 years, when entire ages get blurred, this track will be hilarious. In the meantime, though, look out for Em’s song about Miley twerkin’ at the VMAs, which should be due out sometime in 2018.