In 2008, Frank Thomas hit .240 with 8 home runs split between the Oakland A’s and Toronto Bluejays. During his final season in 2001-2002, Mitch Richmond averaged 4.1 points per game for the LA Lakers. Cal Ripken’s last year as a baseball player saw him hit just .239, while Shaq (the almighty Aristotle) logged 37 games in his last season in the NBA while averaging 9.2 points per game for the Boston Celtics.
So, what is my point? My point is that farewell campaigns don’t often feature a massive demonstration of excellence. Very few athletes go out like Peyton Manning or Michael Jordan (the second time he retired after leading the Bulls to their second 3-peat). The same can be said for many professions.
During my lifetime, I’ve been in the final class for a handful of teachers. While I am the son of a CPS teacher, taught in CPS for a few years, and currently teach at Columbia College, I must say that it was apparent in every case that it was time for that teacher to retire. I can only assume that the same can go for plumbers and there’s not a plumber somewhere on the edge of retirement who would view his or her last toilet installation as their best work… No diss to teachers or plumbers. My point being that the last of something always is the last of something for a reason.
So still, where am I going with this? Over the last month or so, Eminem has been campaigning around the release of his 8th studio album, Revival. If you’ve seen anything about it, you’ve undoubtedly seen the poor reviews and reactions on social media more often than not slamming the project. I’m not here to defend Eminem’s music or new album (which I know is not for sure his last). To keep it fully open, I made the mistake of thinking Eminem would be a one-hit-wonder style rapper after his first album dropped when I was a junior in high school. I was very fucking wrong.
About his new album, I streamed it on the day of its release and haven’t revisited it since, nor had the burning desire to put it on. When I listened, I felt next to nothing. I thought some songs had promise, others were not very good. For every good bar or concept, there was another one that missed the mark or was just silly. That’s Eminem right now. I think his recent interview with Complex was great because he was fully open about where he’s at in his career. He’s about rhyming. The skill of putting words together is his main skill and this is a guy who has gotten so good at it, he can’t even figure out how to stop rhyming words together. He said in the interview,
“I think that there’s still a lot of people that don’t understand compound syllable rhyming and being able to take entire sentences and make them rhyme and stuff like that. They might not hear that, so they’re not gonna be able to appreciate that, because they hear what they hear and then, “Ah, man. That shit is wack.” Okay, but maybe you don’t understand what I’m doing.
I feel like one of the things that’s happened to me over the years is rapping getting harder, but rhyming gets easier, if that makes any sense. One of my drawbacks I feel like that I did on the last album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, was long verses, because I couldn’t get the rhyme to end. In other words, when I think of a couple phrases or whatever it is, I think of so much shit that rhymes with it and connecting the syllables and doing all that, but by the time it’s all said and done, is this different than anything I’ve done before? I’ve done a song like this, so now I don’t like it because it may not be talking about anything. It may be just connecting words together and just to get a reaction, but it’s not really that good. I don’t know.”
The interview was really open, and it made me think a bit more about all the criticism I’m reading online, about Em and his new album. What kind of struck, and drove me to write this article about something that in all honesty is not very important, is that a lot of the reviews seem to take pleasure in Eminem’s new album not being very good. It is as if critics were hoping the album was bad so that they had something to write about. Before the album even dropped, I’d say the general pulse was that it was not going to be good, Eminem is no longer good, and now, there is the narrative that Eminem was never even that good.
As I said before, I’m not a big Eminem fan. I don’t own the majority of his albums, and I’m sure you can find posts on this very site that I’ve written slamming some of his music. But this album really isn’t that bad, and this album’s performance shouldn’t go back and change the impact he’s had on music and how for a moment in time, the dude was fucking killing it. Em is also one of the few white artists actively going after Donald Trump and pushing his fans to recognize the institutional racism that Trump represents, benefits from, spreads, and is currently trying to make stronger. Does that earn him a cookie, no, cause that’s what he should be doing, but in the reviews I’ve read, the actual subject matter of his music is an afterthought.
No one mentions Frank Thomas’ final season or how bad Mitch Richmond was before he retired. Shit, the Beastie Boys’ last album was their worst (that’s even hard for me to type). In all those cases the work was reviewed but there was no joy in extreme pointing out the mistakes. The album’s not that good, fantastic. But how much more attention should be paid to how bad it is, rather than finding and celebrating the next artist? Why make Em the butt of recurring jokes, where there is so much more to write about?
Even as I write this article, I am laughing at myself for spending time on something so trivial.