The idea that this third edition of the Eminem-headlining Anger Management tour may be the final bow for the biggest star in hip-hop before his retirement was first reported in the Detroit Free Press before being picked up last week by music magazines and tabloids. Midway through his set at the Hyundai Pavilion in Devore, it looked like Eminem was going to deny the story. He ruffled through tabloids, commenting on celebrities like Angelina Jolie (“did her,” he claimed) while invalidating most of the words he read back. But when it came to his own retirement, Em had this to say: “If I do go away for a while, and I come back, I’m going to change my name. No more Slim Shady, no more Eminem, no more Marshall Mathers. My new name is going to be … Rain Man.”
With that, he and his DJ launched into “Rain Man,” one of the strongest cuts from last year’s slightly disappointing “Encore” (Interscope). But that didn’t dissuade the idea that this tour may be Eminem’s last — an idea also encouraged by the parade of guest stars, all signed to Eminem’s label, Shady Records, who unfortunately took away from his stage time.
The best of those guests — Bizzare and Obie Trice — were a reminder of the shock that greeted Eminem when he first emerged with “My Name Is” (shortened here to just the first verse and chorus, as many of his singles unfortunately were). Both the oversized Bizzare and the dexterous Trice display Eminem’s sense of humor and wordplay while exploring less-than-savory topics. But Em’s most recent signing, Stat Quo — who recently survived a tour bus accident that made national news — was just a gangsta rip-off, boring in his delivery and even more repetitive lyrically.
The fact that Eminem’s set allowed room for three of Stat Quo’s songs (and a bunch more featuring various members of his posse, D12, most of whom just stood in Em’s way) not only suggested that Eminem was tired, but that he knew he had to start promoting elsewhere, too. And though his set weaved its way around the enormous, three-level stage and contained plenty of highlights (“Stan,” also shortened, and the Oscar-winning “Lose Yourself” among them) as he sang along to himself via DJ-spun album-cuts, it did feel like he was performing himself into a corner — and knew it. If he does bow out now, he’ll do it as one of the only rappers (along with Jay-Z) to be able to command an enormous stage on his own volition with no backing band or group to join him. That alone makes his sweaty, overproduced set unusually exciting to watch.
The same can’t be said for his protégé 50 Cent, whose popularity has almost eclipsed Eminem’s. Though he, too, is a dexterous rapper, he was lost onstage among his G-unit posse, who insisted on “put your hands in the air” histrionics between songs. Only singer Olyvia stood out; most of the guest performers’ mini-sets echoed the artistically barren walls of gangsta rap’s past — something that even the requisite half-run through of “In Da Club” couldn’t hide.