Released in 2005, Curtain Call: The Hits has spent 552 weeks in the UK album charts. Are young fans thrilling to his outrageous lyrics – or is the truth more prosaic?
It was inevitable that amid the rolling waves of the Y2K revival, the era’s leading enfant terrible would be sucked into the cycle. The children of Eminem fans are growing up and logging on, and as 2022 came to an end the 8 Mile rapper’s 2004 track Mockingbird became his latest song to be sped up and spat out across TikTok. The ensuing trend involved young users of the app – in a mode that seems incredibly off-brand for the rapper – sharing stories of parental devotion while the song zipped along, pitched-up, in the background.
But while other ageing acts pulled into the algorithmic whims of youth culture might be grateful for an audience boost, Eminem (AKA Marshall Mathers), now 50, is hardly in need.
Last year, his 2005 greatest hits album, Curtain Call: The Hits, was No 6 in the UK Official Charts’ biggest albums of the year. Effectively, a 17-year-old greatest hits compilation was the bestselling rap album of 2022 – a year in which the likes of Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, Megan Thee Stallion, DJ Khaled, Future and any number of other blockbuster hip-hop acts released new full-length efforts.
Karam, 17, recognises him as “one of the greatest rappers in history” but, he adds, a little less charitably: “I think he’s fallen off since 2016, and he’s just pretty old at this point.” He mentions a trend from a few years ago when boys his age would ape Emimen’s blond buzzcut – but, like cheap peroxide, it didn’t last long.
Morgan, 11, says he has heard Eminem on Fortnite, but greets any follow-up questions with disarming bemusement. Like, why are you asking me about this old man? (Or, perhaps, why are you asking me about this, old man?)
It’s hard to ascribe the waning interest to anything beyond the usual generational atrophy. Despite characterisations of today’s young people as pearl-clutching snowflakes, the misogyny and homophobia that centred Eminem in any number of early-2000s moral panics barely figure.
“Most of my friends say that because he raps so fast they don’t even pay attention,” offers Mehima, 19. The sped-up versions on TikTok add a cutesy, smoothing effect on the more crass material too, she says.