Eminem – Berzerk

Marshall Mathers LP 2
Year :
EPMD / Ultramagnetic MCs / Eazy-E

I had a painful moment this past week that might help explain what’s wrong with Eminem’s “Berzerk.” I found myself miffed when servers, food-runners, hosts (basically everyone in a particular restaurant) kept calling me “Sir” during dinner. I did just turn 30, but I don’t typically think of myself as looking old. Strange thing was, though, that I was among a group of my peers, the 25-35 set that I share my particular corner of Brooklyn with. It stung.

It wasn’t until I realized that I was still in my clothes from a long day at the office that things started to come together in my mind. Wearing work clothes to dinner may not be so unusual in many circumstances but Brooklyn is a strange place. I don’t, in fact, work in Brooklyn (or even New York City for that matter), but in Stamford, CT, a small city about an hour outside of NYC. It’s always important to dress the part in life, and the work attire for an office in Stamford could not be further removed from the evening uniform of a “hip” Brooklyn neighborhood. I live in that neighborhood but, at that moment, no one would have so much as guessed it. Being out of place in those clothes effectively aged me by 10 years.

Which brings me to “Berzerk.” I want to commend Eminem for “Berzerk.” Really, I do. It’s a bold move and one that comes very late in a career that has been pronounced DOA at least once before. It finds Marshall Mathers doing something he’s done rarely, if at all, in the past (save for a few throwaway skits)—create an uptempo, party (read: fun) song.

On paper, it almost sounds like “Berzerk” could work. “Berzerk” is a self-consciously overt throwback to 80s rap, from the RUN-DMC cadence and the Beastie Boys sample, to the lyrics and the album art. Eminem’s technical skill has never been in question and he’s competent as ever here. And the production? “Berzerk” is a Rick Rubin track and, despite being what must be something of a nostalgia trip for him, the production is tight, crisp, brash, and irreverent. Namely, exactly what it sets out to be.

But something about “Berzerk” just feels out of whack. It reeks of effort. And as the prophet Yeezus tells us, “When you try hard / That’s when you die hard.” His disciple Rubin should know better. Eminem is many things (offensive, of course, but frequently thought provoking and sometimes even uplifting). But, he has never been about carefree fun. I’m not begrudging his desire to do something lighter—you can’t make sad music forever, and when that’s your primary mode it must be hard to break loose (just ask Modest Mouse). And, of course, at the end of the day every wants to be happy. But in the case of “Berzerk” the effort feels unfortunately forced, manufactured.

It’s like wearing the wrong clothes to dinner.

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(@YahSureMan) is the Founder of The Daily Soundtrack and Bark Attack Media. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

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