Em's Latest Track on MMLP2
By: Ben Mueller
September 3, 2013
Eminem scurried out his newest single “Berzerk” this past Tuesday before dust could settle on the announcement of his new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2. From the very beginning of the single’s video—the moment a cassette tape is placed in an enormous 80s boombox—it’s clear Em has every intention of his comeback being a throwback. The track is Beastie Boys incarnate and reaches even further for its Billy Squier crunchy-guitar backbone from “The Stroke.” But layered, often noisy production threatens to get in the way of what we have waited so long for: them sweet-ass Shady raps.
Hip-hop pioneer Rick Rubin produced the track and is also executive producing the new album—along with the obvious Dr. Dre., Rubin is known for his stripped down approach to record-making, most recently with Kanye’s brutally raw Yeezus. Although “Berzerk” has Rubin’s trademark rock influence all over it, it comes as a bit of a surprise that pop music’s “busier=better” trend (e.g. Imagine Dragons’ chart-topping “Radioactive”) seems to have snuck in over Em’s polished rhymes. Squawky guitars, trill hi-hat, and an obscene amount of vinyl scratching during the bridge and chorus threaten to drown out the vocal in a sea of treble.
But thank god that vocal is so damn good. If there’s one thing Slim has proven this past decade, it’s that he’s bottled up his secret stuff and can spit it back at will—comeback (Relapse) after comeback (Recovery). What “Berzerk” has in common with The Marshall Mathers LP is Shady’s classic shades of irreverence: “I’m ‘bout to bloody this track up, everybody get back/ That’s why my pen needs a pad cause my rhymes on the ra-aaag.” Later, he wakes up in a Monte Carlo next to “the ugly Kardashian.” Celebrities! Menstrual references! The snotty Em we know and love. But when the rapper’s less hyped single “Survival” better places his raps front and center—and is in service of Call of Duty: Ghosts no less—it’s wise to anticipate his new album with a cautionary excitement. In other words, don’t let yourself go quite yet.