Shady's retreat

And that's why it sucks to be dude

A buck says it sucks to be Eminem these days. True, his latest could be multiplatinum by the time you read this. But when you're the shocking Marshall Mathers, and your shock shine has all but faded, millions in sales cease to be the barometer for success.

Now, your fans want good music.

And that's why it sucks to be dude. Em's the Michael Jackson of the new millennium and Encore (his seventh if you count Infinite and The Slim Shady EP) is the most significant release this year. Teen fiends of the Slim Shady routine are now young adults who want their hero to grow up with them. If he doesn't age gracefully, Encore becomes Em's version of Blood on the Dance Floor.

What's a superstar to do? Spend the first quarter of Encore rhyming as though his life depends on it, that's what. From "Curtains Up" to "Like Toy Soldiers," Em's hunger is undeniable and the songs flow like one long piss-take on current controversies. On "Yellow Brick Road," he apologizes for racist comments that surfaced last year on a tape he recorded as a teen. He admits to projecting anger toward one African-American girl on an entire race. Accountability works here simply because we rarely get it from pop stars. He continues making amends on "Like Toy Soldiers," giving a detailed account of his conflict with Ray Benzino, co-owner of The Source magazine. He says he's "willing to be the bigger man" and abandon the beef so no one gets hurt. Wow. When did Em grow up?

CD Spotlight

Then the inconsistency starts. The hyped anti-Bush sermon, "Mosh," fails to reach its pre- or post-election potential. "Puke" is yet another ditty about Em's wife. Oh, please. What's the statute of limitations on carping about a sour relationship? "Ass Like That" could be hot, but come on - imitating Triumph the Insult Comic Dog for an entire tune?

Em and Dr. Dre share production duties throughout, and their styles blend well. But 20 songs and a three-tune bonus disc make the album about six cuts too long. Without the low points, Em might have had a classic on his hands. This one's a worthy, if choppy, purchase.

By Khary Kimani Turner


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