Context is vital
Context is extremely important when it comes to the enjoyment of particular artists’ music. What makes an artist like Eminem and his music so fascinating is the true narrative that is laced between all of his albums and effectively ties them together.
To many, Eminem is the self-proclaimed “Rap God” that he declared himself to be 4 years ago on his sequel album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2. While he is greatly respected as such in the Hip-Hop community, others are quick to suggest that the old Shady dropped off the face of the Earth years ago around the release of Encore, an album Em himself has admitted he doesn’t like. Now, Em is making a return once again, in 2017, with his upcoming album Revival—the first single being his new track featuring none other than Beyoncé titled “Walk on Water”; a self-reflective track about Em’s struggle to keep a float during the ever-changing Hip-Hop industry. On this new single, Em appears privy to what people are saying about him online: that he’s either a rap god or a washed-up artist who needs to hang the mic up.
Over the passed 7 years, Em has received criticism and praise over his singles for his upcoming projects; criticisms that usually highlight the corniness of his records and how he should stop having female pop acts sing his choruses, and praise suggesting his incredible ability to still fuse pop and Hip-Hop in a successful way.
One important thing to consider when judging the music of an artist like Eminem however, is the context. Eminem’s return in 2009 with Relapse marked the beginning of a comeback for the rapper, after struggling to become sober. All of this his documented and chronicled throughout all of his albums of course, but that is why Eminem is not like every artist—especially in the mainstream. This context alters the way his music sounds.
Mainstream music with pop-sensibility has always taken the role of being vague, and open to interpretation, so that listeners could insert themselves into the context of the song and make it apply to themselves (this is why we get so many bland breakup and love records, because those are very relatable topics). Eminem, however, being a mainstream act who really continues to make underground-like music, has never easily been able to make a smooth transition; the reason for this being that Eminem’s music is more highly-personal than easily relatable.
For this reason, it’s easy to write off Eminem’s music as sometimes egotistical, and sometimes self-loathing, but, nonetheless, always about himself—which I agree it mostly is, and, if you’re not invested in Eminem’s story, then why should you care about his music?
To Keep it Blunt…
Context is extremely important when it comes to the enjoyment of particular artists’ music. What makes an artist like Eminem and his music so fascinating is the true narrative that is laced between all of his albums and effectively ties them all together. Through the ups and downs of his career, Eminem has always been able to tell his truth in his own way, and, that’s where the criticisms begin for Eminem. Many want to box him in and pray that he returns to his 1998-2003 roots of ruthlessness, and many new fans are comfortable with the pop artist that Eminem has become.
Whether you hate the sound or not, the context and content has always been there to back up Eminem’s career. Knowing the context behind “Walk on Water,” knowing Em’s struggle to strike a balance between wanting to be known as a Hip-Hop god, and at the same time, as a normal person who wants to remain out of the spotlight makes a track like this all the more enjoyable. Knowing about the lawsuits targeted at him, the pop-culture references he’s made in the past, and just how much he’s been through up until this point then, on a larger scale, validates his entire career and makes his discography that much greater. With this, the content of his music, although not always directly relatable, can be extremely interesting and can still give listeners a new piece of mind based on his experiences–relatablity has never been a necessary prerequisite to great music. It is, of course, OK to have favorite and less favorite moments in Em’s career, but, following Eminem all these years has certainly made for quite the journey for fans and stans alike—and this mentality, of pulling from the context of Eminem in 2017, may make you enjoy his upcoming release a little bit more when it hits stores and streaming platforms.