WIB Reviews writer Matthew H. Raymond watches the music video Eminem just dropped for his new Rick Rubin-produced single, “Berzerk“, for the first time. Released on September 9, the “Berzerk” music video has already garnered almost 20,000,000 views on YouTube. The following are Matt’s real-time observations:
0:00–First, let me say that I am incredibly excited for The Marshall Mathers LP 2. I hope this album will serve as a “comeback” of sorts for Eminem, who has struggled with something of an identity crisis since kicking drugs and returning from his five-year musical hiatus in 2009. Relapse and Recovery aren’t my favorite Eminem albums. They don’t exemplify the things which made me love him from the very beginning–his wicked humor, his vicious, seething delivery and his verbal gymnastics, the staccato punctuation of his effortless runs with a few deliberate, hard accents. Old Em was so fun to watch, so animated, so reckless and so dynamically insane. Not to say that sobriety has altogether softened him–“Berzerk” is a delightful throwback in many ways, demonstrating a fire we haven’t seen in years and a curious but endearing Beastie Boys fixation. “Berzerk” may very well be MMLP2’s “My Name Is“, an infectiously fun, radio-ready single. Ok, enough. Here goes…
0:10–Oh my. That is a GIANT boombox. Thank Adam Yauch’s Jesus for that giant boombox.
0:18–Here’s Em, and there’s Gandalf in his street clothes. Or Leo Tolstoy. Wait…Oh. Is that…?
0:20–Okay STOP. T-SHIRT. WANT. Run-DMC’s Raising Hell Tour. 1986. It’s a pretty interesting cameo–the world remembers this tour as marred by gang violence and riots. But it’s a great nod to hip-hop legends who, much like Eminem, pumped out songs that made us all wanna f**k some s*** up (in a more benign, less consequential and charged manner). That tour was berzerk. Also, the layers of Beastie Boys allusion in this video are already staggering. So many layers. From the green screen to Em’s MCA-esque delivery to Rick Rubin’s Billy Squier guitar sample and hi-hat–this could all be on Licensed to Ill. Well, yeah. Rick Rubin produced that, too.
0:26–Hmm…Em’s beanie and that 1990 Detroit Pistons shirt. Where have we seen that before? Oh. Yeah. I remember. This. So, all of you probably already knew about/realized the blatant throwback to “So What Cha Want” but I’d like to let all of you know that I’m in nerd heaven right now. Making these kinds of connections, tracing a new-school rapper’s cinematic choices or sonic flourishes back to the ground-breaking decisions made by old-school rappers–I live for this. This is too much fun. I’m sorry.
0:37–There’s Eminem’s middle finger. Oh, Em’s middle finger. How I’ve missed you. And that’s Royce da 5’9″. A uniquely Detroit moment, as though Em wants to remind us about Bad Meets Evil, to restore relevance to a has-been powerhouse that, though stultified by bootleggers and industry politics, represents Detroit’s raw talent.
Power move, Marshall. Power move. What the Sam Hill is his sweater?
0:53–“Been Public Enemy ever since you thought P.E. was gym, b****”. I just exploded in a cloud of nostalgia and wordplay. Gee willikers.
0:58–Well, I’ve managed to gather myself enough to return to my prior OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD THERE HE IS. Rick Rubin. The man, the mystic, the icon. Rick Rubin is here. Rick Rubin. He’s going to all our children’s college dorms and he’s gonna throw wet t-shirt parties. Also, he’s only ten years older than Eminem, who has aged gracefully despite the drugs and stuff. Except Rick Rubin looks 1000 years old. In comparison, Em looks like a Teletubby in that beanie. Except I’ll never love anything as much as Eminem loves beanies, so there’s that.
1:09–When was the last time you thought about Kevin Federline?
1:11–I can’t un-see that.
1:32–Rick Rubin’s sunglasses are a little too much for me to handle. The interspersed clips of Billy Squier shredding on “The Stroke”, however, are perfect. Rick Rubin is doing his best impression of Joaquin Phoenix in that infamous David Letterman appearance.
1:41–Kid Rock. I’m not here for this. I don’t have the time.
To his credit, I was spacing out for the last ten seconds or so until he showed up.
1:55–Sometimes “Berzerk” reaches Busta Rhymes levels of weirdness.
2:20–Alright now. What’s with all the bizarre fight scenes in this video? Is this, too, an attempt at encapsulating the Beasties’ irreverence? Or is this Eminem challenging our supposition that he has become pedestrian, that he’s figured out his personal problems and has nothing left to fight? We don’t hear about his mommy issues. Or his daddy issues. He’s off prescription drugs. He’s mentally stable (ostensibly). He’s toned down his trademark misogyny. He’s not the iconoclast he used to be. He’s almost forty-one years old, and the multifarious tumult of a twenty-year career seems to have subsided. He’s even focusing on fatherhood. It’s as though Eminem has no demons left to summon. So why not get Rick Rubin and a bunch of clips of people getting the crap kicked out of them? If Eminem wants to go back to the eighties and make an in-your-face Rick Rubin guitar-riff banger, Eminem can go back to the eighties and make an in-your-face Rick Rubin guitar-riff banger. It’s Eminem. We expect something interesting.
2:46–Eminem just name-dropped “the Ugly Kardashian”. How sweet. Let’s continue–“Lamar, oh sorry yo, we both done set the bar low/Far as hard drugs are though, that’s the past”. These lines come in light of Lamar’s purported troubles with a crack cocaine addiction, so by suggesting that “both done set the bar low”, Eminem refers both to their troubles with drugs and their respective histories with Khloe Kardashian. Lamar in September 2013 is like Eminem in December 2007. I won’t go any further with this comparison.
3:10–BOOM! Em still has wordplay. Internal rhyme. Double entendre. Impressive.
3:15–Rick Rubin speaks!
3:27–I want a GIF of Rick and Em’s synchronized head-nod. My birthday is in 288 days.
3:58–Eminem noir. Sin City. And Rick Rubin IS TOTALLY THIS GUY FROM KILL BILL. This is way too much fun. Holy crow.
Conclusion–Whoa. “Berzerk” is a strong whiff of nostalgia. Between wistful remembrances of my sixth-grade, Beastie Boys-loving self, bumping “The Sounds of Science” in my blue Sony Walkman as I walked to 7-11 to grab some Arizona Iced Tea before basketball practice, I saw and heard flashes of an earlier, pre-Relapse Eminem–not the Eminem whose lyrics ran rampant with teeth-gnashed violence and tongue-in-cheek misogyny but the Eminem whose lyrics ran circles around our brains, who sandwiched allusions between similes between double entendre and wry name-drops. I’m really impressed. But what does this song have to do with MMLP2? Is “Berzerk” a portent for an album full of throwbacks? Whatever else MMLP2 holds, it’s always good to see Rick Rubin, and “Berzerk” recalls some remarkable qualities which first endeared Eminem to the masses.