Day 151: S.f.M. – Eminem’s Punk Statement “Berzerk”

by Tom Noonan

Don’t get this confused.  Rick Rubin isn’t saving rap music.  He isn’t hoarding some type of tattooed conch under his beard that’s capable of making Big Sean spell “ass” correctly or of raising Tupac from the dead.  He isn’t rap’s John the Baptist, but he’s definitely responsible for a whole lot of moving violations.

For those who don’t know, Rick Rubin is the producer behind Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” and the sludgy desert landscape of Kanye’s Yeezus.  He’s the reason rappers are now being referred to as rock stars.  He’s also the guy from that Magna Carta… Holy Grail video who looks like he stumbled out of a Rob Zombie movie.  He’s the kind of mad scientist a good album needs to become great.

His next big project is executive producing Eminem’s sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP (alongside Dr. Dre and Eminem himself).  After the album was officially announced Sunday during a very special episode of To Catch a Predator on MTV, Eminem released the first single off The Marshall Mathers LP 2 on Vevo, a Beastie Boys sampling assault called “Berzerk”.  The song itself isn’t great, but it comes across like more of a statement than a radio aspiration, a complete reversal on his approach to both Relapse and Recovery, where he released the radio-ready “Crack a Bottle” and “Not Afraid” respectively.  By releasing “Berzerk” first, Em is making it sufficiently clear that he’s gone all in, as Kanye and Jay before him, on Rick Rubin’s vision of rap as urban destruction.

With that being said, “Berzerk” isn’t “99 Problems” (or, for that matter, even close to anything on Yeezus).  Where “99 Problems” puffed itself up to look as big as a Led Zeppelin track, “Berzerk” is content slumming it at a dive bar with the punks and the grunge kids.  Eminem doesn’t want us to confuse him with Mick Jagger.  He’d much rather we think he’s Johnny Rotten.