Critical Reading and Writing
CM101 Revised Midterm Compare and Contrast Paper
Jay-Z, “Reasonable Doubt” vs. Eminem, “The Slim Shady LP”
Hip-hop is a unique art form because since its early origins, it has operated as an extension and expression of the civil rights movement. Hip-hop is an artistic movement as well as a political one. Hip-hop places African-American voices at the forefront and provides commentary on the urban, black experience, shining light on issues of poverty, crime as well as justice. Over time, however, hip hop has lost its change agent credence, in part because it has emerged as arguably the most popular music art form among today’s youth. However, the most serious hip-hop critics look both to content, audience, and commercial success. * Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” (Released in “1996”) and Eminem’s “The Slim Shady LP” (Released in “1999”) present a difficult binary for fans of the genre. One reason is they generate totally different audiences. Both albums re-defined standards in the industry and forced fans and critics to ask: What does this mean for hip-hop as a movement? Also what does it mean for hip-hop as a business? These two men have redefined the genre as both a business and a political force in several ways. Hip-hop has expanded and diversified but it’s a people’s movement. Jay-Z’s album speaks the historical, artistic and political tradition of the genre: to the street hustlers, people in urban and ghetto America, to the “Hood”. Eminem's album, by contrast, is not to be taken seriously. Eminem revealed his fantastical sexual proclivities, his extreme drug abuse, his violent desires, and his anger towards his mother and ex-wife. These difference will draw two different types of audiences and ultimately fan bases.
Eminem’s “The Slim Shady LP” lyrics were “For entertainment purposes and not to be taken seriously.” “Most songs feature substantial amounts of swearing, homosexual slurs, numerous references to sex and drugs, and over-the-top descriptions of violence.” (-wikipedia.org.) These are topics that the usual die hard hip-hop fan or critic would not gravitate toward musically. This style would also be somewhat new to past popular hip hop artists’ styles. It drew a more “for entertainment purpose” audience, fans that aren’t too interested in the traditional messages of the genre. * To compare Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” and Eminem’s “The Slim Shady LP” presents numerous dilemmas to the music historian and critic. They were released at different time periods and generated a wide gap in sales. By far Eminem’s “The Slim Shady LP” outsold Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt." To date that album has sold over five million units in the United States (Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 25, 2010.), achieving critical commercial success. It debuted at #2 on The Billboard 200 chart. These numbers support the fact that Eminem had a more mainstream pop audience. The album also won a Grammy for Best Rap Album (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_Rap_Album). Additionally the album ranked #273 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (http://www.rollingstone.com/music/lists/500-greatest-albums-of-all-time-19691231/touch-eurythmics-19691231). It is the highest-ranking Eminem album on the list. This was because it was an audience’s first time experiencing this kind of an artist in hip-hop music. * Ultimately Jay-Z’s “Reasonable Doubt” didn’t sale as many units. Selling a little over 2 million in sales to date, (http://www.billboard.com/column/chartbeat/ask-billboard-steve-vai-jay-z-radiohead-1003999123.story#/column/chartbeat/ask-billboard-steve-vai-jay-z-radiohead-1003999123.story) which makes it less commercially successful than "The Slim Shady LP" however it ranked #248 on the Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums of All time (http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/6599786/248_reasonable_doubt). Also it was selected on The Source’s...
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