Eminem always seems to be on the precipice of vanishing. Though he’s never fake-retired like some of his contemporaries, each new song or game-changing live performance feels as if it could be the last before he disappears into his Detroit-area estate to gnaw on red meat in his private bowling alley. Like many rappers — and, perhaps more important, men in their 40s in a state of permanent recovery — Marshall Mathers is all too aware of his own mortality, and lately he seems to be actively taking victory laps around his own legacy: first with last year’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, and now by rallying his label roster for one more party.
In offering a handful of hits from his vanity label, the second disc of SHADYXV attempts to make the case that Eminem is as good a nurturer of talent as he is an MC. It’s mostly a reminder of what an early-aughts juggernaut 50 Cent was; he shows up on nearly a third of the collection’s tracks. Otherwise, you’re left with the one rap song everybody is comfortable with at karaoke (the Oscar-winning ”Lose Yourself”) and that Obie Trice tune that was in an ad for Entourage.
Shady’s first half is, like most new Eminem material, more problematic but also more rewarding. With its aggro-horrorcore production, trapped-in-2001 cultural nods (there’s a reference to former congressman Gary Condit), and Billy Squier sample, it’s essentially The Marshall Mathers LP 2.5, with all the accompanying dicey gender politics. However, when Em steps aside so Yelawolf can unleash his id (on ”Down”) or lets Slaughterhouse bang around with old-school swagger on ”Y’all Ready Know,” it’s proof that the survival of his high-speed, borderline-psychotic wordplay is guaranteed, should Em decide to drop the mic for good. B