Eminem's "Berzerk" Isn't a Sellout: In Defense of Marshall Mathers
Marshall Mathers deserves your respect.
He was dealt a real shitty deck in life. His father left him as a baby. His mother mentally abused him. He grew up poor as shit in the
bad really bad part of Detroit. And still, he overcame it all to stake a claim for white people in hip-hop, reversing the decade of shame brought on by Vanilla Ice. Artists like Macklemore and Mac Miller wouldn't have a career if not for the work that Eminem did in the '90s.
He went on to overcome addiction and terrible personal problems, and now he's back with a new record that reflects his journey and struggle, but everybody just wants to mislabel him a "sellout." To paraphrase a probably coked-out gay dude on YouTube, y'all need to "leave Eminem alone." Here's why.
The most recent controversy stems from Em's latest song, "Berzerk," the lead single off his forthcoming album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Honestly speaking, the title of the record is the true seed of discontent. Fans immediately doubt that the follow-up to a true classic can live up to expectations. But that's the wrong way to approach it.
Instead, we must realize the title implies a return to the artist's roots, and in fact, from the very first "Berzerk" lyric, Mathers lays it out: "Now this shit's about to kick off, this party looks wack/Let's take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch." Just like in the O.G. days of Brooklyn's budding scene, he bases the hook on a sample from an '80s song -- in this case, Billy Squire's "The Stroke."
He continues the allusion to rap's early period with the song's heavy Beastie Boys influence, the most notable white rappers to precede his own rise to fame. The song samples the Beasties and pays visual homage to their "So What Cha Want" vid.
Problematically, people take issue with the use of the guitar sample and the vocal style. Uninformed individuals see it as a "sellout" move, considering it too catchy or poppy. But c'mon, he's not rapping over Avicii like Flo Rida or Pitbull. He's being true to his roots, as the album title and lyrical content implies. Lest we forget, selling out means compromising your artistic values in return for inflated record sales. It doesn't mean switching up your style because it's the natural next stage of your artistic evolution.