There is much to admire in misanthropy. No time for such petty factional concerns as racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, narcissism, xenophobia… the misanthropist is the real deal. An equal prejudice employer, he hates us all. Just don’t hang out with him, that’s all.
We are fortunate right now to live in a time of great misanthropy, and we are blessed with the smartest mouthpiece for that perfect loathing that maybe there ever was. His name is Marshall Mathers, you know him as Eminem and this is his second major album.
His first, of course, was ‘The Slim Shady LP’, an hilarious collection of scurrilous fictions based on the proposition that the grossest equals the mostest. Basically [I]South Park[/I] times a million, ‘Slim Shady’ was a cartoon orgasm, high on the sheer audacity of turning a mirror to society and selling that grotesque reflection back to the very suburbs and ghettos from whence it came. A perfect parable of how the freaks shall inherit the earth, the more controversy stuck to the gloriously revved-up repugnancy of ‘Slim Shady’ like turd to a blanket, the more attention he gained and the more rekkids he sold. Surely this was the classic case of success being the sweetest revenge for all those years of broken homes and bully beatings.
Uh-oh. Not so. ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ is real twisted shit – one long, disillusioned whine. Like that other great modern pop misanthropist, Robbie Williams, Mathers has discovered that there is no inner gratification in fame. On the contrary, celebrity status has just multiplied the opportunities for humankind to roll over and expose its ugly, self-serving underbelly, and magnified the fact that life is just one long letdown.
During the gruelling assault course of lyrical genius that pours itself into the 18 tracks on this album, Marshall Mathers is used, abused and betrayed by – deep breath – the press, his fans, his fellow rappers, pop music in general, the government, his mother, TV, his girlfriend, his friends, his record company, radio, other members of his family, God, his own fucked-up self… In other words, it’s not a lotta laughs being Eminem.
Condense it to its essence, and misanthropy boils down to what Mike Tyson said on CNN: “People suck.” And in taking Tyson‘s instinctual bon mot and spinning it into storytelling of breathtaking skill and dexterity, Marshall Mathers turns the torchlight on the deepest malignancy at the heart of our rotten society: rank, festering hypocrisy. “You want me to fix my words up/While the President’s getting his dick sucked”, he roars on ‘Who Knew’. “Never knew I would ever get this big/I never knew I would affect this kid/I never knew I would get him to slit his wrists/ I never knew I would get him to hit this bitch…”
Mathers is pig-sick of the whole damn deal, being on the defensive all the time, justifying his talent, parlaying the blame. “I don’t do black music/I don’t do white music”, he raps at one point. But, just as he defends himself from accusations that being a “wigga” is all that got him where he is, he knows the inverse to be true; he knows that the ugly racist facet of the major record company marketing machine is, in part, exactly what made him rich. And we have the audacity to slag him off. Our hypocrisy disgusts him. After all, he’s just what we made him.
But for every OTT outpouring of rage (the super-brutal ‘Kim’ must have been deliberately designed unlistenable – his revenge upon his listener), Mathers still shows he is the stink bomb. ‘Stan’ is a wonderful short story, an astute study in extreme fandom, while his sideswipe at Puffy and Jennifer Lopez, ‘I’m Back’, proves he is still the daddy of outrage: basically, the Double-M says he would screw her even if she was his mother – without a condom – sire a son/brother and deny all responsibility. You gotta admire an imagination that misguided.
‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ may be the whitenoise of America’s Most Unwanted, but it is also the product of a talent supremely Untouchable.