Slim and shady
ANGRY BLONDE by Eminem (HarperCollins), 148 pages, $39.50 cloth. Rating: N james joyce's ulysses doesn't have one. Neither does Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita or William Burroughs' Naked Lunch. But controversial rapper Eminem's collection of disses and rants comes with a Parental Advisory: Explicit Content warning slapped on its cover.Marshall Mathers -- aka Eminem and Slim Shady -- is angry. He's been pissed on and he's pissed off. So's his audience of disenfranchised teenagers.
The subject matter of his raps is cheap drugs, vengeful violence and rape fantasies -- "Fuck you, you fucking fuck" is the basic message -- and it's been celebrated with a few Grammy nominations. But anyone interested in understanding Eminem's oeuvre will come up empty from this slim and shady ($39.50!) book of notes and lyrics.
Consisting of oversized, blurry Raygun-style print coupled with out-of-focus fan photography, it's difficult to imagine who'd buy this thing. Parents? Hardly. And no 14-year-old I know is going to waste 40 bucks on stuff you can find on the Internet for free.
Rap is an oral and aural culture. It's not meant to be plunked down on a page and studied as if it were poetry. But Angry Blonde wants it both ways -- low-brow and high-brow. In the introduction, Eminem is hailed as a musical genius, but this study of his written word reveals an amateurish use of internal rhyme schemes. "Discouraged" rhymes with "malnourished" and "unfurnished." Big deal.
His imagery is laughable. Compare Mathers' "I'm tired of using plastic silverware" with Pete Townshend of the Who's "I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth." The first is an unintended oxymoron, the second a clever reverse metaphor.
It's not like no one has ever brought literacy to hiphop before. Check out Michael Frante, Chuck D, Divine Styler or Gil Scott-Heron.
"I get imaginative with a mouth full of adjectives, a brain full of adverbs and a box full of laxatives," Eminem explains. Translation: dude be full of shit.