Mo’ money, mo’ problems, and mo’ popularity, mo’ scrutiny. Given that he has two consecutive diamond-selling albums, Eminem knows this better than anyone. First people complained that he took his shock antics too far on “The Marshall Mathers LP.” Then they whined when he abandoned them for a more serious tone “The Eminem Show.” Now he has largely gone back to his Slim Shady ways – which people have been asking for – and they are complaining that isn’t serious enough. You win some, you lose some.
People will find plenty of reasons to hate Eminem; the 15 year old tapes with his racial slurs, his voice is annoying, they don’t like his beats, he raps about Kim too much, he has a huge pop audience, his singles are cheesy, etc. Some complaints are understandable, others aren’t. Regardless, letting any of these things get in the way of recognizing that he is an incredible emcee is just pure hating. His word play, rhyme structure, flow, and cadence can boggle the mind. When it comes to skills, very few can compare. Ever. But doesn’t always translate into making the best music. “Encore” is an example of that.
Let’s start with the good stuff though. This LP has its moments, particularly in the front half. He opens up with a nice track in “Evil Deeds,” and proceeds to slay “Never Enough” along with 50 (who sounds his best since his debut). Em’s beat for “Yellow Brick Road” is lackluster but good enough to carry his flawless storytelling of the infamous tape. “Like Toy Soldiers” is among his best work here, from his production (complete with Martika sample), to his gripping recount, assessment and conclusion of the Benzino and Murder Inc beefs. He turns political and blatantly lashes out at Bush on “Mosh” (sure to cause some repercussions from politicians considering his visibility). Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from here.
The obligatory Kim bashing session is here with “Puke.” Not only does it lack the evil genius of “Bonnie & Clyde ’97” and “Kill You,” but it is horribly irritating in execution despite the killer Queen drum sample. “My 1st Single” also suffers, but for the opposite reason. This time it is the beat that kills his breathless delivery. Dre, who chimes in with 8 beats, offers up a ominous selection with “Rain Man” as Em takes it back to his Slim “I’ll pretty much say anything” Shady days. It works in the first verse; “you find me offensive, I find you offensive/for finding me offensive/hence, if I should draw the line any fences/if so to what extent if at any I should go/cause it’s getting expensive/being on the other side of the court room on the defensive/they say I cause extensive/psychological nerve damage to the brain when I go to lengths/this far at peoples’ expenses/I say you’re all just too goddamn sensitive it’s censorship and it’s/down right blasphemous/let’s end this shit now cause I won’t stand for this/and Christopher Reeves won’t sit for this.” But the only thing less funny than the second verse is the next song, “Big Weenie.” I think he needs drugs to write funny shit, cause most of this isn’t. “Ass Like That” is gonna be a song you either love or hate. Whatever the case, it sure is surreal to hear him rap an entire song as that Triumph puppet from MTV. Then of course there is “Just Lose It,” by far the worst song Eminem or Dr. Dre has ever made. It really seems like their object here was to make the worst song possible. The interlude leading into it is damn hilarious though.
Things get a bit better at the end, “Mockingbird” is another song for Hailie that is most notable for flawless delivery. The same can be said for “Crazy In Love” as Em rips through his verses with a vengeance. The best might be last though as Dre and 50 join Em for the title track and a surefire hit song.
All in all, the album is undoubtedly Em’s worst major solo release. The production is solid but unspectacular, and for the most part the hooks are really irritating. Em fails to find a suitable balance for his mixture of serious and silly subject, more than likely because most of his efforts at humor are surprisingly not funny. I always used to laugh out loud at his crazy rhymes, and there wasn’t much here that even got a smile. An emcee this great shouldn’t be making an album this average.