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Eminem - Encore (Album Review)

Eminem season continues as we go back to 2004 with his 4th studio album 'Encore'. Picture the scene, Em is at the top of his game after 3 back to back to back classics - but his upcoming 4th album is leaked, and he needs to replace a large chunk of the tracks with little time left AND a massive dependency on drugs. It was meant to be Eminem's last album at the time, but with these last minute issues how would he have bowed out?

The production for the most part on this album is great with the usual catchy melodies, drum patterns and bouncy sounds, such as on 'Rain Man' where the beat is fire - but he doesn't really talk about anything on this track and the lines are dumb - but they're still funny. I mean he says it himself, "And I ain't even gotta make no goddamn sense // I just did a whole song and I didn't say shit". It's nothing special but with a solid flow, funny lines here and there and an inviting presence I believe this one is a good song. There is the odd beat here and there which doesn't sound good however - such as on 'My 1st Single' which has these headache inducing quick paced claps where he spends the song just mocking singles from other artists with lyrics which are hilariously bad, "Hickory-dickory Dirk Diggler, look at me work wizardry // With these words – am I a jerk or just jerk chicken? // Or chiga-chigga-chig-chig-jer-chig-jer jerkin' your chain // Twenty-two jerks in a jerk circle, or is it a circle jerk? // Wait a minute, what am I sayin'? Allow me to run it back // And rewind it {blblblblblblblb} – wait, let me ask you again // Am I just jerkin' your chain? Am I berserk or insane?". I would be lying if I didn't say the dumb hook isn't catchy - and overall it's funny in terms of questioning what's going on but it's by no means a good song. The finale to this album 'Encore / Curtains Down' has this great bouncy, club style Dre beat as Dr. Dre joins Em giving us a smooth flow, hard delivery and classic Dre performance as well as 50 Cent hopping on sounding nice despite only doing 4 lines. The song is about reflecting on their rap careers and it sounded really good with a great hook and smooth flow from Em - a very good song.

Performance wise, especially lyrically it's very mixed from Em - he has some songs where he's at his best with wordplay, social commentaries etc. 'Like Toy Soldiers' has these emotional and powerful verses and he talks on hip-hop beefs turning violent and the stupidity of it, "But we still have soldiers that's on the front line / Who's willin' to die for us as soon as we give the orders // Never to extort us, strictly to show they support us // And maybe shout 'em out in a rap or up in a chorus // To show 'em we love 'em back and let 'em know how important it is // To have Runyon Avenue soldiers up in our corners // Their loyalty to us is worth more than any award is". The emotional piano and soldier drums are great and it's one of Em's most gripping and powerful pieces of work - the sample for the hook creates a great atmosphere of despair (as well as a nice toy solider metaphor) and overall it's an amazing song. There are other times too where what he's saying makes 0 sense and he just throws sentences together. Even when he's not saying anything, technical ability shines with his great flow and rhyme schemes - but even delivery wise it's less interesting and passionate than his first 3 studio albums and just didn't pack that punch we'd come to have expect. Other songs such as 'Puke' have lyrically weak moments that are childish - but hilarious, "You're a fucking cokehead slut, I hope you fucking die // I hope you get to hell and Satan sticks a needle in your eye // I hate your fucking guts, you fucking slut, I hope you die (Di-i-i-i-i-i-ie)". The whole song is about how Kim makes Em want to puke and he does this over a catchy beat and drum kicks and claps which match Em's fire flow here perfectly. It's really catchy, I'll admit this is an example where nostalgia plays a role in me liking this but overall I find this song to be decent despite how dumb it is. 'Big Weenie' is another example of a track which lyrically makes 0 sense and is just awful, "Now why did they make yoo-hoo? Pippity-kaka-poo-poo // Psych, I'm kidding, I just wanted to see if you're still listening". It's actually a diss track to Benzino and while it is funny that's mainly due to how bad it is (although it's still better than Benzino's disses eh). The beat isn't really that good either with these thumping, jumpy drums and overall it's just really bad with a childish, horrible sounding hook and verses that make no sense - it has an argument to be Em's worst song.

Feature wise it has who you'd come to expect at this point and I've got to say - the features are great here and when they're on a track Em is also at his best here too. Both 50 Cent and Nate Dogg join Em on 'Never Enough' as 50 has some hard lines, a fire flow and a great hook while Nate provides the usual solid hook. The track's focus is about his tough upbringing and numerous rap beefs they've just got out of leading up to this album, which is laid over this solid beat which sounds mean as Em provides a great rhyme scheme with every one of his lines rhyming - it's a short but sweet track. Obie Trice gibes us a great verse with a nice delivery on 'Spend Some Time' as well as a solid Stat Quo verse and smooth 50 Cent verse as the track talks on falling in love with someone who turns out to be bad for them. Em's verse is great here too as he really pictures the story in your mind and the heartfelt hook with Dina Rae's vocals sounds great with Em providing some decent singing. Em's verse had the best flow and more impactful lyrics and everyone did a job here - it's a pretty great breakup track. D12 reunite for the banger 'One Shot 2 Shot' where they all provide great verses to push the narrative of one of D12's rival crew shooting up the club they were in with some funny lines, demonstrated by Kuniva, "So I hugged her and used her body as a human shield and // She got hit, and now she's yelling (Don't leave me!) // I told her I'd be right back and the dumb bitch believed me!". The bouncy piano melody makes this beat so catchy, the hook too is great as Em gives us a nice verse and more of an overview of what's happening from his perspective. It's an entertaining and great song overall.

There's definitely content on here at times, shown early on on the song 'Yellow Brick Road', where Em explains the backstory to the racist leaked tape of his 'Foolish Pride', telling us about the breakup with his black ex girlfriend, his struggles growing up in a predominantly black area as well as meeting proof for the first time. It's another great social commentary with vivid storytelling over this simplistic beat which works well to keep the attention on the lyrics and paint a thoughtful atmosphere. The storytelling gets you so engrossed, the flow is fire, the hook nice and it's a pretty great song. 'Mockingbird' is another track that's a prime example of this album having content as it's all to his daughters apologising for the rocky relationship with their mother, their poverty stricken beginnings and the constant media attention on the family. He does this over this emotional piano beat which makes the song more heart wrenching than it already is with some raw and incredibly honest lyrics, "And at the time, every house that we lived in // Either kept gettin' broken into and robbed or shot up on the block // And your mom was savin' money for you in a jar // Tryin' to start a piggy bank for you so you could go to college // Almost had a thousand dollars, 'til someone broke in and stole it // And I know it hurt so bad it broke your momma's heart // And it seemed like everything was just startin' to fall apart". The iconic hook has a sad punch to it and the pain and hurt in his delivery make this such an emotional track and arguably one of the best pieces of art Em has ever put together. You can even hear him starting to crack up during the line, "'Cause all I ever wanted to do was just make you proud". However a large chunk of this album is wasted on songs that don't talk about anything, talk about uninteresting things or have a focus which is kind of silly and pointless. 'Ass Like That' would be an example of the previous statement as it talks about Em getting into many sex crimes (mocking R Kelly & Pee-wee Herman) as well as using the voice of Triumph the puppet dog to get out of these situations. The Indian style beat is absolutely fire on this and while lyrically it's not outstanding - it is funny. It's entertaining to follow, has a nice flow and solid hook - despite being one of his most hated songs I enjoy this. He uses Triumph so show he can offend people all he wants because it's a puppet but Em does it and everybody shits their pants.

Other tracks to look at include the opener 'Evil Deeds' where he attempts to socially commentate - which isn't as good as his skill has shown in his last 3 albums until he gets back to painting images in our head during the 3rd verse as he talks on all his common topics: relationship struggles, struggles with fame and his rough childhood. The beat is grand and creates a really dramatic atmosphere to follow (as this was meant to be his last album), the hook is catchy and the last verse fire. I don't care much for the 1st verse too much but overall a good song while still flawed. 'Mosh' is a politically charged song airing his frustrations with the Bush presidency and the way he's pursuing the Middle East - dropped right before the 2004 election. It has powerful lyrics throughout, an inspiring hook and slow, heavy drums which create the perfect mood for this. His slower flow is so effortless over this beat and it sounds like he's really talking to us - a great song. The lead single 'Just Lose It' is a fun party song referencing Michael Jackson's child molestation accusations and a lot more. The lyrics are random but funny and slightly clever on this one, "Grab your left nut, make your right one jealous (what?)", and while it's my least favourite of all his main singles so far it's just got this infectious hook, catchy beat and real fun vibe to it - don't look into it too much and it's a banger. Finally to talk on 'Crazy in Love', it's just this really uninteresting love song about being crazy for someone with a bad sample which has these grating female vocals. Em's flow is fire but the singing delivery doesn't work well and I just don't like this song at all.

To conclude, I think this album is overahated. While it's definitely Em's worst album so far - it has some of his highest highs and even the "lows" people talk of aren't that bad (bar some horrible songs). Nostalgia does a play a part in me liking this album - and while I don't love it and it's inconsistent it still has its place in Em's discography. The skits on this album aren't even as funny or entertaining as the first few albums - but the dramatic skits fit into this project perfectly.

FAVOURITE TRACKS: Never Enough, Yellow Brick Road, Like Toy Soldiers, Mosh, Just Lose It, Spend Some Time, Mockingbird, One Shot 2 Shot, Encore / Curtains Down



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