By Ahmed Bubshait
The two best-selling hip-hop artists of all time, Eminem and Kanye West, have more in common than one might think.: both released four albums in the 2000s, dropped collaboration albums in 2011, and started their own fashion lines—to varying degrees of success. Additionally, both created their own record labels in the wake of their critically acclaimed debut albums. West announced a GOOD Music compilation album via Twitter—“GOODMUSIC.THEALBUM.SPRING2012”—and “Cruel Summer” ended up being the highest-selling hip-hop compilation album. Two years have passed and Eminem is now on a quest to protect his best-selling throne through Shady Records’ “Shady XV.”
The double disc album is divided into two parts: Disc X, a collection of new tracks by the Shady crew, and Disc V, the label’s greatest hits (excluding Eminem’s solo work). Eminem assembled a stable of established rappers, producers, and singers to work on Disc X. Slaughterhouse, a supergroup that emanated as a result of its members’ (Crooked I, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and Royce Da 5’9”) strong online presence and shared penchant for generating controversy, are present in two of the twelve tracks. Other rappers include tongue-twisting country rapper Yelawolf, who notably appears on three tracks, and the Detroit-repping emcees Big Sean and Danny Brown, who join Eminem and other Detroit rappers in the closing track “Detroit Vs. Everybody.”
Eminem’s technical proficiency is ever-present throughout the album, and his relentless, meticulous flow and raw delivery peak in the Royce-assisted Bad Meets Evil cut “Vegas.” The combination of Slim Shady’s cartoonish energy and raunchy lyrics and Royce’s ability to take simple concepts and flesh them out in a complex manner makes the listeners wish Bad and Evil met more often. The album’s other standout track, “Psychopath Killer,” sees the duo joined by other members of the Shady 2.0 Conglomerate. Yelawolf’s haunting hook—“I’m a psychopath, I’m a killer”—blends well with the track’s dark rhymes and atmosphere.
“Shady XV” is occasionally exhilarating but ultimately underwhelming. The project lacks the cohesiveness of an album: it sounds like a compendium of discordant, humdrum acts. Primary vehicle Eminem accounts for most of the tracks, and the presence of his newfound high-pitched nasal voice and passable production makes Disc X sound a lot like “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” the inferior sequel to his widely beloved magnum opus. His knack for cringe-worthy and abrasive lyrics makes the album even less bearable. It is saddening to hear someone rap about maturing yet still cling to homophobic and misogynistic remarks.
To promote the compilation, the Shady gang released a rap cypher, “SHADY CXVPHER,” in which Eminem brags “I could put a chain around my second album [MMLP] and wear it as a neck medallion.” The same, however, can’t be said about his most recent effort. The only thing that “Shady XV” really succeeds in is making it even harder to forget about Dre and the extent to which he enhanced Eminem’s work.
Ahmed Bubshait is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org