Release Date: Nov 24, 2014
Record label: Shady
Honoring the 15th anniversary of the label Eminem founded with his manager Paul Rosenberg, Shady XV features one disc of new recordings and one disc of the label's proven hits, all of it wrapped up with chainsaw-and-hockey-mask artwork that represents the label in 2014, not so much its funkified, 50 Cent past. After all, the biggest numbers on the archival second disc include 50 Cent's ode to bottle service "In Da Club," a strip club and frat house regular, plus D12s "Purple Pills," an Insane Clown Posse-ish piece with Eminem and friends in top, albeit silly, form. The other top bangers on disc two are all from Eminem himself, which barely counts unless Shady is merely a vanity label, but the true backstory shows that D12 never became that strong, third label act because key member Proof died, while Slaughterhouse are a veteran supergroup, or in other words, simple, solid fan-boy stuff.
To celebrate 15 years in the game, Eminem and Paul Rosenberg's Shady Records has delivered Shady XV, a two-part project that's one half compilation album — with new material from Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf and Eminem — and one half greatest hits record, aimed to remind listeners of some of the most important hip-hop singles of the last 15 years. Starting off in a five-minute lyrical whirlwind over a classic rock Billy Squier sample, (prompting "Berzerk" déjà vu) Eminem attempts to harness everything that led to his original infamy. But although undoubtedly dripping in unattainable lyricism, the provocative content is seemingly worn and the concepts tired.
Robert Christgau suggested in his essay on Eminem, “The Psychological Craftsmanship of Marshall Bruce Mathers”, that there is now some acceptance of what Eminem had claimed from the very beginning, that “his descriptions weren’t prescriptive nor his threats literal”, that Eminem’s purposefully offensive “Slim Shady” is or was an “ironic” character. Christgau goes on to suggest however that the division between character and “real life” may not have been strictly adhered to, giving the example of Eminem (or Slim Shady) stabbing an effigy of his ex-wife to death on stage as fans egged him on. Superstars whinge about the right to respect for a private life, but then thrust their own hang-ups into the limelight, making respect or privacy very difficult for everyone.
In its 15-year existence, Eminem’s Shady Records has enjoyed some monstrous successes (50 Cent), missed some golden opportunities (Detroit talent Obie Trice quit the label in 2008) and housed its share of dross (D12’s ‘Bane’ functions here as an unwelcome reminder of their existence). This double-disc compilation – which features four new Eminem solo cuts – celebrates the label’s past and sketches out its future, but the one constant is Eminem. As artist, collaborator, A&R and CEO, the 42-year-old looms large.
Eminem's music has been unrelievedly awful now for a full decade. The tenor and quality of that awfulness have varied slightly—2004's Encore was awful in an embarrassed, shrugging, transparent way; Relapse's awfulness lay in its regressive puerility. On Recovery, he discovered a new and commercially successful kind of awful, mixing the ugly viscera of domestic abuse with power-ballad glucose.
Eminem and Various Artists'Shady XV'(Shady/Interscope)Four starsBeyoncé'Beyoncé: Platinum Deluxe Edition'(Columbia)Three stars The battle of the sexes plays out with fresh zest on new albums from two of music’s biggest stars. In one corner, we have Beyoncé, who doubles down on her trademark female empowerment songs on a deluxe new edition of her self-titled surprise album from last year. In the other corner stands Emimem, who intensifies his career-long flair for male preening and misogyny on “Shady XV.” Both albums do their share of recycling.