The producers of 8 Mile expect it to do for hip hop what The Blackboard Jungle did for rock’n’roll and Saturday Night Fever did for disco. As Eminem is already far and away the biggest-selling recording star in America, you kind of wonder where there is left for him to cross over to. Nevertheless, word is the movie’s a highly successful Rocky-type dream-fulfilment tale of poor-kid-becomes-rap-star. The soundtrack, however, isn’t some nightmare hybrid of “Eye Of The Tiger” and “Stayin’ Alive”. It’s a nightmare hybrid of angry Eminem and funny Eminem, and?this from an avowed sceptic?it’s absolutely fucking wicked, from the first “sometimes I just hate life” to the last “you think all I do is stand here and feel my nuts??”
A frighteningly powerful record, it’ll bring out your inner adolescent. And then beat the crap out of him. It’ll make thousands of disgruntled teenagers run away from home, and make their parents jealous. It’s breathless, furious, and all the things pop too often isn’t. The point of Eminem becomes blindingly clear.
He snarls through “Lose Yourself”, the best ‘you can do anything you set your mind to’ song since heyday Dexys, and “8 Mile”, where his “insides crawl” across six minutes of painfully intense tripped-up trip hop. On “Rabbit Run” he leaves you no space to think: this is hardcore, but he can toss in jokes without destroying the momentum. Nas, Rakim, Jay-Z and Macy Gray are among the supporting cast. “Love Me”, Eminem’s collaboration with Obie Trice and 50 Cent, is inflammatory, swiping at R Kelly, Li’I Kim, Lauryn Hill and others, and proving romance isn’t dead with a vitriolic “shut your muthafuckin’ mouth and show me love, bitch”. It’s too late to lock up your children: Eminem statistically rules the hearts and minds of a generation. You can run, hide, or decide this has energy and irony, together in perfect disharmony. It’s time to cave. He’s got it.