EMINEM – Our House, Green and Gold, The Showdown (all MP3)
The thing I like best about Eminem is (cue universal amazement that I can say such a thing) the fact that he’s true to himself. He could very easily pretend that he has the instant, easy vocal flow that is supposedly necessary to succeed as an emcee, which he clearly does not. When I hear his voice, I hear a man turning his geeky, gawkish, overgrown-schoolboy vocal funklessness, which all hip-hop orthodoxies dictate to be a bad thing, into a good and positive thing (to criticise the milieu of this music as “white trash” misses 100% of the point, because his triumph is to widen the scope of hip-hop beyond its cliches into his own experiences). To hear his direct, ill-timed, unfunky speech over incredibly tight, demanding rhythm tracks is a fascinating contrast, but Eminem consistently wins the battle.

It was this man who provided the most unequivocally extreme moment I’ve ever heard on radio (Blue Jam had nothing on it), while appearing with Tim Westwood (who he could teach a few things about turning allegedly negative qualities into positive ones). All accepted means of expression were beyond him, it was simply unbridled, uncontrolled, unordered shouts and screams, a private, internal language understandable only to those few completely removed from the restraint and lack of expression that once characterised British people (and, as such, very close to the linguistic and emotional heart of pop music itself). And therefore the closer he gets towards the norm of hip-hop (“The Showdown”) the less incredible his music is (although still very, very good). It’s “Our House” which is the great moment here, a metallic, half-deranged screaming suburban dystopia which is the most extreme example of Marshall Mather’s genius, as the first great emcee with no sense of The Funk. Some will doubtless say Eminem-by-numbers, I say it renders the whole suburban fratboy rap-rock explosion instantly obsolete, exposing it for its amateurism, appalling production and atrocious emceeing (there are a few exceptions, but very, very few). Not that we didn’t know that anyway, but it’s good to have one of pop’s great sensationalist genii confirming it for us.