Eminem releases new single ‘Berzerk,’ prepares for album hype
By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen
With Detroit searching for new leadership and direction, an old icon tries once more to become the “face” of the city. This time, Eminem is telling the world he’s gone “Berzerk”.
But is his image and extreme behavior a message the city wants to represent it during these turbulent times?
The first image chosen to promote Eminem’s lead single, “Berzerk,” shows him with a “devil horn” hand gesture on his forehead, an explicit picture designed to shock audiences and portray him as a villain. Within days of its release, the song and photo have traveled the world, with newspapers, radio and Web sites promoting the upcoming project.
“Take your shoes off, let your hair down and go berzerk all night long,” raps Eminem in the song’s bridge, with guitar-driven production reminiscent of Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys.
The hip hop superstar’s eighth studio album, “MMLP2 (Marshall Mathers LP 2),” will release Nov. 5, and will almost certainly earn a top position on the sales charts across the globe. Eminem’s last album, “Recovery”, which dropped in 2010, has sold over 10 million worldwide and earned a Grammy for Album of the Year in 2011.
Since his 1999 debut album, Eminem has become a globally recognized voice of Detroit, having broke into the popular music world after time spent rapping in the 1990s in Detroit venues Saint Andrews Hall and The Hip Hop Shop on 7 Mile Road.
Since then, he rarely makes public appearances in Detroit and his label, Shady Records, has become an industry giant headquartered in New York City, sharing little success with other Detroit artists the label has signed over the years. Former local artists signed by Shady Records included the group D12 and Obie Trice, though neither were able to translate platinum record sales into long-term success.
For the corporate commercial music industry, a European American artist achieving success in a traditionally Black music genre has remained a norm. Two weeks ago, the 2013 MTV Music Awards saw Robin Thicke win for best R&B artist, Macklemore for best rap artist, Justin Timberlake perform a Michael Jackson-inspired routine, and Miley Cyrus steal headlines for “twerking,” which is an overtly sexual variation of traditional African dances.
In Detroit, many African American artists Eminem first worked with now see the megastar as being far removed from his original style and true talent. His sound is now more fit for popular radio than for the underground clubs where he developed his rap flow.
Regardless, Eminem’s cultural influence is not to be underestimated. In the early 2000s, his brash talk and bad boy image was a model for white adolescents, influencing the walk, talk and demeanor for a generation globally. More recently, his Super Bowl commercial in 2011 for Chrysler is believed to have helped their brand and slogan, “Imported from Detroit,” in the company’s financial recovery.
Detroit’s corporate class will undoubtedly celebrate the millions in sales that Eminem’s album will generate, and the corporate media cameras will flock to any of his appearances.
However, because of his association with Detroit, the true measure of success should be judged as to whether or not the messages in the music will inspire the people as they work towards the recovery of their neighborhoods.
As the city undergoes its changes, residents should understand that one of its leading ambassadors is spreading the chaotic message of going “Berzerk”. This will make little difference in the daily lives of most people, but from the outsider’s perspective, this will be a dominant image of the city.
Meanwhile, many dedicated artists in Detroit’s local hip hop community are working hard to change the image of the city with positive messages for the development of the youth. Education programs, food justice initiatives and social justice organizations are actively using hip hop culture as a tool to motivate youth to make productive decisions for their future.
For Eminem and Shady Records, their job is to sell records, and millions of dollars are guaranteed to pass through their banksaccounts.
In Detroit, however, artists are working to grow a positive place to live, create freely and raise a family, not develop a place where their impulses are thrown to the wind amidst a damaged landscape. Hip hop can be a voice for either, but the decision lies with the people.