If Marvin Gaye's family can come after Robin Thicke for royally ripping off the late R&B singer on "Blurred Lines," can we expect the surviving Beastie Boys to charge Eminem for aping pretty much the entirety of Licensed to Ill on his new track, "Berzerk"?
Well, maybe not. Eminem poached Rick Rubin—you know, the guy largely responsible for convincing the Beasties to rap in the first place—to help produce his new album, which he revealed at Sunday's VMAs.
"Berzerk," our second hint of the record, is pure old-school posturing. "Let's take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch," the rapper shouts over a booming Billy Squier beat and thick, cheesy metal riffs. (There's even the "Kick it!" sample from "Fight For Your Right [To Party].") If you don't recognize this as a late-'80s throwback, chances are you were born after 1991.
But the results are thin and bereft of ideas, as if after having reached self-parody on 2010's Recovery, Eminem feels compelled to reduce those who came before him to the same shallow core. "We're gonna rock this house until we knock it down / So turn the volume loud 'cause it's mayhem till the A.M.," goes the chorus, which treads junior high territory.
SPIN's Brandon Soderberg went so far as to call it "Rick Rubin meathead rap rock macho bullshit." But his colleague Christ Weingarten defended the track, implying that Eminem's critics are just too young to get it:
If you're not catching feelings listening to this Rick Rubin beat, then I'm truly sorry you learned about rap in college.— Chris Weingarten (@1000TimesYes) August 27, 2013
@notrivia if you don't think hard, aggressive, macho posturing is hip-hop, then maybe you don't know anything about rap before De La Soul— Chris Weingarten (@1000TimesYes) August 27, 2013
Which, frankly, is an odd defense of a hip hop track. Unless the world has shifted on its axis and Eminem is now appealing to the over-30 demographic. Maybe your mom has been digging that copy of The Slim Shady LP that she confiscated from you in 1999 all along.
Anyway, here's the track:
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.