Now, before the Stans get on my ass, know that I am an Eminem fan. I hold him as one of the best artists alive and one of the best rappers alive. I had a copy of the Infinite project for years before my computer crashed and deleted about a few gigabytes of old-school music. I’ve followed Eminem since I was a kid and it was taboo to listen to the trailer-park-boy-cum-rap-superstar. I’ve bought every project he’s put out, even MMLP2 (which wasn’t all that great to me, either) and Relapse. And know that just because I feel that (spoiler alert) Revival isn’t that good, that doesn’t mean that I automatically want to hear more “Gucci Gang” and XXXTentacion tracks.
With that disclaimer out of the way, Revival just isn’t that good. It’s full of moments that feature Eminem trying to rekindle the magic he had on projects such as The Eminem Show and MMLP while conforming to the comforts of pop rap and what’s “hot” in the game right now. That could’ve made for an–at the very least–okay album. Hell, given the talent of Eminem, it should have made for at least an okay album.
The killers on this album are as follows. The production kills most momentum gathered by Eminem on his own. There are moments of “Classic Eminem” (or even “Good Eminem”), but they’re quickly pushed aside for a moment where he uses “The Migos Flow,” he makes a pun that makes me cringe (and there are more moments like that than dope bars), or the production sounds ripped out the mid-to-late 1980s. To Rick Rubin, I respect what you do infinitely. However, it may be it’s time to put the rap-rock beats to bed). Even when he has a moment of amazing bars, he puts a stop to it for either an explanation of his punchlines, an unneeded switch of flow (we get it, Em. You can do a million flows at once; doesn’t mean that you should), or just say some shit that doesn’t need to be said–even more so than usual.
I was worried when I saw that this album would have a lot of pop features and only had one “rap feature” in the form of Phresher of “Wait A Minute” fame. Phresher is limited to a chorus and post-chorus tag team moment with Eminem. So, suffice it to say, my fears were warranted. Even the heavy political songs miss their mark, and come off as surface-level analysis of the fucked-up situations we live in versus actually offering any real stances/solutions for change. Plus, it’s kind of hard to take someone’s political opinions seriously when, a few songs later, he’s rapping about how he’s been framed for stuffing someone’s body in the trunk who may or may not be Ivanka Trump.
When talking to a few of my friends about the project, because I like to hear other peoples’ opinions along with my own, the reactions were similar. And these are people who hold Em with some sort of hip-hop regard. Responses ranged from “the cover must be how he feels about the album” to “this is straight trash. The first lines of a song are ‘your ass is heavy duty like diarrhea’ to “that new Jeezy flames, though.”
If you think Eminem can do no wrong, you may feel that this album is still good. For the rest of us, it’s a missed attempt to really plant a flag in the dirt and further the movement of saying “bars are still relevant.” Hell, it’s a missed attempt to say that, in the game of hip-hop, Eminem is still relevant as he presents himself today (outside of his Trump jabs, I mean). Yes, Em still has bars here and there, but their purpose isn’t really explained/given. Yes, Em still manages to make some of these songs work, but most of them arrive dead on arrival. Yes, we get a bit of Mature/Political Marshall, but that’s undermined by corny punchlines and wack production. And yes, Eminem managed to put Phresher on an album that also had Kehlani and Ed Sheeran, but the end project is a mish-mash of sounds, styles, and lyrics that don’t really go that well together. Overall, this isn’t that good of an album and may very well be worse that Relapse.
I know the Stans will be at my head for this review, but this is one Revival you’ll wish stayed dead.