SINGLE REVIEW: EMINEM – “BERZERK”

by Ryan Meehan

I got a chance to sit down and listen to the new Eminem track last night, as well as check out the video for the song that is the first single “Berzerk” off of his new record The Marshall Mathers LP 2 due out November 4th.  I’m a little behind since this single was released back on the 26th of August, but this week it’s in peak position on the hip hop charts so I figured that there is still plenty of time to discuss it without bringing up old news.

This cut is produced by Rick Rubin, who is very well known for his collaborations with artists who want to use guitar samples in their music.  His most recent hit was Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and now he hopes to add to the establishment of his relevance on the pop charts with the one and only Slim Shady on the mic. 

Of course, Rick’s not new to the rap game – he was responsible for the Aerosmith/RUN DMC crossover hit “Walk This Way” as well as countless other Def Jam artists from that era.  One of his most successful projects was the 1986 Beastie Boys album “Licensed to Ill”, and this song features samples from two cuts off of that record:  “Fight For Your Right to Party”, and “The New Style”.  But the sample that dominates a majority of the mix is Billy Squier’s “The Stroke”, a song that I have always been a big fan of.  Although it’s pretty obvious that I don’t consider the rest of Billy Squier’s work to be terribly influential, I’ve always really dug that one and it’s one of those moments where you hear it and you can’t believe it took somebody that long to use that sample.

For the most part, the song is pretty cool.  If there is anything to be desired, it’s that possibly the chorus hook would be a little more memorable, but it’s saved by the end of the phrase where Mathers says “All Night Long” over the descending chorus hits of the Squier sample.  The lyrics and rapping are good in the verses, and try to match an old school beat with some newer pop culture references as one might expect from the Slimster.  There’s even a breakdown in the middle that features a turntable solo for all you breakers getting ready to drop your cardboard.

I love the video for this track because it’s got all sorts of old school elements.  There’s one clip that has Em roaming the streets of Detroit in a stocking cap with the skyline in the background, and the sky has that infrared effect that was used in the Beastie Boys’ video “So Whatcha Want”.  The main shot of the video is Eminem and Rubin in front of a big breaker-style jambox bobbing their head to the beat.  In my research for this piece, I was surprised to learn that Rick is just 50 years young, but still I can’t help but wonder how many people watching that video on YouTube have no idea who the hell he is.  All of this includes video from the original Squier clip where each member of the band is wearing blue jeans tight enough to ensure none of them could have kids until at least the end of 1987.  I’ll let you check it out and judge for yourself right here…

Eminem seems to have really cleaned himself up.  I saw him in the booth on ABC’s Saturday Night Football during the Michigan / Notre Dame talking with Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, and for all of the shit he’s been through (both imposed as well as self-inflicted) I am always very impressed as to how he’s been able to hold his own on programs like that.

I understand the direction of the single itself, he’s trying to use some older chops to give the new record that kind of old school New York 80’s feel to it and I love it.  But that’s me…I’ll be 34 here in a couple of months.  (I think, let me double check my Driver’s License)  My worry is that there are going to be some of Eminem’s newer fans that aren’t going to be as crazy about this, because they began following Em’s career and don’t have the knowledge when it comes to old school rap music.  And that’s sad, but with a lot of the weak hip hop that has come out over the last decade or so I can understand how the younger generation prefers flashy visuals as opposed to just damn solid samples.  Hopefully, those who haven’t ever heard some of the music that this track pays homage to will check it out and discover the tracks that had a huge influence on today’s hip-hop artists.

Rating:  8.2/10.0

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.

Meehan

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