Brown, Kathy : Joy

He came, we saw, we wanted our money back...

Admitting to moral revulsion in these hyper-aware, shock-happy times is tantamount to saying you’ve always had a soft spot for that lovely Mary Whitehouse. It marks you down as a little slow, someone who can’t divide fact from fiction, who thinks that Albert Square is a real place and who wouldn’t understand that US Number One resident [a]Eminem[/a], aka Slim Shady, is just a character that one Marshall Mathers is exploiting for his own warped ends.

If [a]Eminem[/a] wants to write about disposing of his girlfriend’s body while their tiny daughter looks on, then fine. If he wants to enthuse about drug-induced date-rape, no problem. If he wants to spring around the stage, slapping the hands of an adoring front row and rapping about [I]”raping lesbians while they’re screaming, ‘Let’s just be friends’”[/I], how we all laugh in our postmodern way, thrilled by our impeccably sick wit. Ho ho ho. Rape. Hilarious.

Undoubtedly, you’d have to be Norman Tebbit not to realise that Slim Shady is as much a character as Bugs Bunny. After all, it’s hardly a masterpiece of Chris Morris-like subtlety – just compare Morris’ woozily brilliant Blue Jam riff about taking Rohypnol to get himself molested with [a]Eminem[/a]’s blunt narration of spiking a teenage girl’s drink. You shouldn’t even think about playing these games unless you’ve got the requisite wit – but what’s really aggravating is that this rabbity, cathode-ray-tanned runt is no fool.

He’s clearly gifted, treating the alphabet like he, huh, treats his women, his viral whine eating the sound system, his rhymes scattering like a nail-bomb. Bolstered by Detroit compadre MC Proof, the flesh-eating contagion of ‘My Name Is’ and the flick-knife vicious ‘Just Don’t Give A Fuck’ sound precise, fierce, and – damn it – funny. He plays up the dysfunctional nerd role, the omega male not so much born of women as grown under the kitchen sink in a culture of Wonderbread mould and chicken grease. It’s The Snuff Simpsons, basically – ironic nihilism for the thick-as-a-plank generation. Yet it’s a point you don’t need idiotic misogyny to make. Maybe it’s the chip on his shoulder shaped like Vanilla Ice that makes him push it to the limits; maybe, sadly, it’s just good commercial sense.

A five-song set, though, isn’t. There are jeers as he explains that’s all they’ve prepared. “But you’re a freestyler!” comes the retort. Too late. Slim Shady has left the building and it’s left to the open-mic contestants to attack the “[a]Eminem[/a] scam” – [I]”Think you can get away with playing five tunes?/Might as well play to aliens on the moon”[/I].

It’s a perfect end to an evening that left everything unresolved. For now, [a]Eminem[/a] is a question mark, and all you can do, as he spins towards global stardom, is hope the answers are worth hearing. “Laydeez! Make some noise!” he shouts. And you don’t know whether to yawn, retch or – oh dear – laugh.