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Please Stand Up! Now 35 Can Eminem Reascend to Rap Superstardom?
@ 10-28-2007, 10:38 AM
By Adam Graham
Happy birthday, Eminem. Marshall Mathers turned 35 last week, and now he finds himself at an interesting career crossroads. Out of the public eye for the better part of the last two years, he's past the point where a new album would simply be a new album. It would be a comeback album.
His last studio effort, 2004's "Encore," found the Detroit rapper either at his most eccentric or his most juvenile. It was the sound of a man who seemed bored of rapping and out to amuse only himself, and it sold about half as many copies as its predecessor.
In the the time since, he's made more headlines in his private life than he has professionally, with his stint in rehab and his remarrige and quickie divorce to his ex-wife Kim Mathers.
So what now? Can Eminem come back or does he even want to? He's been in the studio for months working on a new album, though no date for the project has been set. Here's some unsolicited advice for Em to ensure a successful return to the spotlight.
Switch up your style
Beginning with "My Name Is," Eminem always has previewed his albums by releasing a goofy, pop-culture-skewering first single ("The Real Slim Shady", "Without Me" and "Just Lose It"). Though there is no shortage of easy targets right now, that may not be the best direction to go.
"He's getting older, and that's seen as something whimsical and young," says Erik Parker, director of content at hip-hop news site sohh.com. "A more introspective route might fare better for him this time around."
Innovate, not renovate
Instead of following current hip-hop trends (still smarting from Em's urging to "get it crunk" on the "Encore" closing track?), Eminem should follow his own muse. In other words, let's not release a ringtone-ready single with a hot YouTube-able dance craze, mmmmkay?
"I don't think he has to change according to the game, he can change the game," says Detroit rapper Guilty Simpson. "I think that's where a lot of artists go wrong: They try to capture a certain element of the temperature of the game. but if you're not a new artist trying to break in, what excuse do you really have following trends and not setting them?"
Stretch your sound
A successful producer in his own right, Em could easily sit down and produce the majority of his album himself, dial up Dr. Dre for a few singles and call it a day. But it might be time to work with some outside producers who could help him hone a newer, fresher sound.
How about Kanye West, polow da Don (Rich Boy's Throw some D's") or Timbaland? Or even further outside of the box, what about rock producers such as Steve Albini or Rich Rubin?
"I think he might be better off if he doesn't do too many of his own productions," Parker says. "He might want to branch out to someone else, just to check a different sound that might reflect more of where he's at now."
Get your grown man on
Hip-hop and pop music have been a playground for the young. Eminem is now 35, which makes him twice as old as current Billboard chart-topper Soulja Boy. Em needs to embrace his age and elder statesman status, as Jay-Z has.
"It's important for someone who's turning 35 to be 35," Parker says. "It could have an air of desperation if he tries to appease or appeal to the next generation."
Man in the mirror
Eminem's problems would be a lot worse if he, well, wasn't Eminem.
"We're talking about Eminem here," Simpson says. "This isn't a guy that's trying to break into the market. He stands on his own two legs. Even if people criticize his music, he's still amongst the elite artists in the history of the game."
Parker agrees. "He's one of the best rapper ever, lyrically, and he's been consistent with that through the years," Parker says. "....He'd have to make, like, three really bad albums before people would totally give up on him."
As Eminem Himself once said, "You better lose yourself in the music."
"All I think Em needs to do is put everything behind him and just fall back in love with the music," Simpson says. "Erase the politics of things that might sour him to the game, and go back to the element of being Marshall Mathers, that same hungry MC from back in the day... If he stays true to himself and stays creative, he can't lose."
[THE DETROIT NEW]
----------Red Eye- A Chicago local newspaper