Eminem – Berzerk (2013)

In a world of over-sampled banality and misogynistic lyrics, hip-hop appears to be struggling under its own weight.  Too many artists don’t seek retroactive inspiration, if indeed inspiration at all, and write songs based on whatever the zeitgeist dictates.  Rarely do we find an artist who can stand above the rest, respecting their own struggles and artistic power, and yet still come up with fresh ideas after 14 years.  But how fresh is sampling?  Are we so attuned to the Amen Break and Bonham’s Levee drums that we cannot distinguish where one track stops and the next begins?  David Guetta and Calvin Harris may be gutting every song under the sun for their own gain, but there is such a thing as moderation and taste when utilising other people’s work for your own output.

Case in point, the new Eminem single ‘Berzerk’.  Produced by Rick Rubin and containing samples from the Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill (also produced by Rubin), this is a classic hip-hop structure with biting lyrics and solid head-nodding beats.  But this is old skool; this is golden age; this brings up images of breakdancing around the boombox and Adidas™ sneakers.  Slim has acknowledged the inspiration (and indeed alludes to the sound with the opening lines “Let’s take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch”) and plays it to great effect, crafting a great piece of hip-hop that hammers a solid beat with Slim’s smart lyrics.

No need to wax lyrical about his writing, as there are plenty of other websites and forums discussing this, but this song is a party track.  The key message to take being grab the bull by the horns and have fun.  He always points to his own detractors and critics within his songs (“Oh, Marshall Mathers, shit head with a potty mouth, get the bar of soap lathered”) and throws in some fun to get the crowd going (“We’re gonna rock this house until we knock it down so turn the volume loud, cause it’s mayhem ’til the a.m”).  The addition of grinding guitar power chords reminds us that hip-hop can still be accessible and groovy, and Rubin’s production borders on the distortion without being too dizzying.  A great choice of producer by Slim as he seems to enjoy performing this track – a clear indication of why he brought it out as the first single from an upcoming LP.

A bouncing grinder of a track, with the potentiality to cross musical borders from pop and hip-hop to rock and metal.  This will be universally accepted as a great track.  The eclectic sampling and retro recognition makes for a smart piece of music, and can help us all realise that sampling is not always an artistic cop out.  It can be used to achieve great music without being too sentimental or bland in its use, and we should respect and acknowledge our peers with a knowing wink and co-operative camaraderie.  Slim has always been considered a voice of a generation, and he can still remind us to stop what we’re doing sometimes and just have some fun.  So let’s have some fun!

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