Remember in high school when the kind of music you listened to defined who you were as a person? It influenced the way you dressed, who you hung out with, what you did on the weekends. That was probably a little drastic. Music shouldn’t control you as much as you should control your music. You should take pride in your playlist! It’s no different than a wardrobe you spent years building or a house you’ve meticulously decorated. There are very few things in life as inexpensive as music that can generate such an emotional reaction. When I heard Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” for the first time, I literally got goosebumps. You wait 90 minutes into a movie to get to the part where it gives you goosebumps, and the popcorn was $9. Are you getting excited about music again yet?
We’ll keep this our little secret. I’ll do all the dirty work for you. You know the basics, like Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Rihanna. Based on those artists you already love, I will find you new, exciting music that gives you back those goosebumps. Every installment, I’ll feature a few artists you may not have heard yet, that share some similar characteristics or styles to ones you do know. Then you can impress your friends with your shiny new playlist at your next party and take all the credit — I don’t mind. This is Rare Cuts.
Well Done: Eminem
I don’t think much needs to be said for one of the single most successful musicians in history, but I’ll break it down for you anyway. For anyone unfamiliar, Marshall Mathers has sold more than 45 million albums in the United States alone, probably surprising himself more than anyone else. His brash and sometimes volatile lyrics were unheard of in the mainstream, prompting America’s parents to hit the mute button, which only fueled their children to want more and more. An entire generation of kids rebelled against Mom, Dad, teachers and the status quo with the help of Slim Shady. Not only did he break down the race barrier in hip-hop, forcing the genre’s hierarchy to accept and respect a scrawny white kid from Detroit, but he introduced a generation of white kids to rap. This helped hip-hop flourish in today’s music landscape after rock had dominated the ’80s and ’90s.
Whether or not he’s your favorite rapper, you have to respect that he grabbed the torch from musicians like Nirvana and became the voice of the youth. This year, Eminem is celebrating 15 years of his Shady Records imprint with the release of “Shady XV,” a collection of past hits and new bangers from Em himself, former labelmate 50 Cent and more recent signees like Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf. You can cop the collection on iTunes, as well as another massive set of Shady Records jams available for free here.
Nobody really compares to Eminem, because he was so different from anything we had heard up until that point — or even since. However, his unique approach, ignoring critics, labels and censors alike in his pursuit to make the music he wanted to make inspired an entire generation of artists to do the same. Artists like the ones below may not sound exactly like Marshall, but you can be sure they’ve been influenced greatly by him in their pursuit of all that is weird, outlandish and truly unique.
Medium Well: Tyler, The Creator
Tyler, The Creator is what happens when you have a generation of kids who grow up listening to music by artists who don’t give a fuck what people think, and we’re all the beneficiaries. He’s the frontman for the wild and crazy Odd Future collective, who have gone from storming Jimmy Fallon’s stage to running an entire empire complete with a successful TV show and music festival-slash-carnival in just a few short years.
Aside from all the zany antics and bizarro-world visuals, Tyler, The Creator is actually a phenomenal artist, having put out two critically acclaimed solo albums (“Goblin“ and “Wolf“), as well as memorable features on songs for artists like Pusha T (“Trouble On My Mind”) and The Game (“Martians vs. Goblins”). His ability to change voices and delivery from bar to bar helps him take on all sorts of characters in his music. This keeps his listener constantly guessing as to what he’ll say next, a trait he shares with the great Slim Shady, who also used to create multiple personas to tell different stories within his music.
Medium Rare: Danny Brown
Danny Brown has multiple ties to Eminem, including but not limited to his crazy flow, unique musical style and hometown Detroit. The Fool’s Gold Records rapper was also originally rumored to be the next signee of 50 Cent’s G-Unit imprint, which fell under the same Aftermath umbrella as Eminem’s Shady Records. The problem? Danny Brown was too different for 50. His music was too weird, he wore his jeans too tight, he just wasn’t very G-Unit. Well the joke’s on 50 now, as “Weirdo-Rap” rose to the forefront the past couple of years with artists like Danny Brown leading the way.
From his clothes and his hair to the extreme vocal ranges at which he can deliver his raps, everything about Brown is just … different. It works, though, as he’s built up a massive fanbase that follows him religiously, sometimes even proving their love for him on stage while he performs. He’s currently working on his next solo album, a follow-up to last year’s “Old,” as well as a compilation album from his Bruiser Brigade collective. Even Eminem himself recognized the talented rapper and decided to bring Brown along with him on his recent European tour, allowing Brown to reach a whole new mass of fans at storied venues like Wembley Stadium.
Raw: Chris Webby
Chris Webby isn’t shy about Eminem being his favorite emcee, and you can hear it in the Connecticut native’s music. Not just in the way he writes his songs, but in the way he actually builds them. I interviewed producer Scott Storch earlier this year for Complex Magazine, and he compared Webby to Eminem for this same reason”
“Webby first reminded me of Marshall because they both wanted to go crazy and add sound effects throughout the music to add another layer. They were both meticulous about the details. Webby is super into the craft and really took pride in the music we were making. Chris is a really, really talented dude, and he’s still going to grow, too. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Eminem from a white dude.” — Scott Storch, via Complex
While he’s build up a strong core following with constant touring and 10 mixtapes and EPs, last month’s “Chemically Imbalanced” was officially his debut album. While it did well commercially and critically, his fans loved it, which seems even more important to the young rapper. He’s currently on a nationwide tour in support of the album, which you can get right here.