They take E, coke, crack and weed. They indulge in anal sex. They shoot Vanilla Ice, threaten Limp Bizkit, share Whitney’s stash and get hit by Britney one more time. People get murdered. There are fart jokes. Revenge is a recurrent theme… sound familiar?
Eminem’s not exactly pushing the envelope with ‘Devils Night’. These are tricks which have served him exceedingly well over his two solo albums and he ups the gas for this debut jaunt with D-12, the crew from Detroit that originally spawned him. ‘Devils Night’ is his most misogynistic, homophobic, violent and anally fixated trip to date. Like all his work it’s offensive, defensive and, somehow, still quite charming. It’s ‘The Real Slim Shady’ times six. Really, it should be getting boring by now.
But it’s not, not quite, because once again the rhyming is painfully funny, the delivery fresh, and the music catchy. For this, Eminem can take a lot of the praise because he produces seven of the 13 tracks here – including one of the album’s best, the Digital Underground-influenced ‘Purple Pills’ – and is also credited as Executive Producer (whatever that means). Dr Dre and D-12’s Kon Artis divide the rest.
Boys find it hard to display sensitivity in front of their male peers (ahem), and the comic-book rapping takes a slightly nastier, more malevolent bent than usual. There is less self-deprecation from D-12 than from a solo Slim Shady and on some tracks, such as the pitifully macho ‘Pimp Like Me’ and ‘That’s How’ they come over as sour and one-dimensional.
When he’s on form, though, Eminem remains an untouchable rhymer. Marvel as he mounts an insanely aggressive defence on ‘Ain’t Nuttin’ But Music’ – a smash hit if they work a way around the mass slander of everyone from Jesse Jackson to ‘NSync – or at his genius impression of a madman on ‘American Psycho’ (and in the drawling slobbery of his partner Bizarre he’s also introduced an equally inventive voice). You just wonder how long someone so eager to dish it out but so ill-equipped to take it can carry on so aggressively.
Women and gays are humiliated. Most of the American music biz is bad-mouthed. Yet Eminem responds to the merest slight with ludicrous gusto, as evidenced by him devoting the entire closing ‘Girls’ to ripping Limp Bizkit for a flippant remark on MTV. It’s borderline paranoid psychotic.
But it’s [I]funny[/I] paranoid psychotic. That’s D-12’s saving grace: they’re funny. There’s a lot of laughs on ‘Devils Night’. Problem is, those that aren’t hollow are too close to the bone for comfort.