By Dee Dee Vega
When Eminem's latest album, Encore, was released amid mixed critical reception this year, his detractors and
fans alike pondered the possible future of Mr. Marshall Mathers. The fear was that Eminem, whose monumental
fame and legitimacy had by then been cemented into the rap pantheon, simply had nothing left to spit about
since his lawsuits, poverty and various romantic and legal woes drew to a close. It seemed that a burning
discontent with the American political climate and the implications of his own whiteness were the only conditions
Eminem couldn't improve and so they remained the focus of his lyric complaints. But at the Anger Management
Tour, taped for a Showtime special at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Eminem's rambunctious rage and
righteous indignation were alive and well, electrifying the audience that craves his antics as much as his rhyme.
It takes a big rapper to command attention on a multilevel set flanked by perilous pyrotechnic routines and a
decapitated Statue of Liberty. But it takes an even bigger rapper to stand out among the ranks of rap elite
represented in Anger Management. Eminem's dove white, luminous face (and ass—he's known for his prolific mooning)
stood out not only from the other rappers that shared the bill with him, Lil John and Em's protégé Fifty Cent, but
from the endless flow of hip hop personalities that made appearances with the headliners like Busta Rhymes, Mobb Deep
and New York legend Mase. Outkast's Andre Benjamin evoked a near riot when he appeared in the audience as a spectator.
Fifty Cent, a top selling act, definitely entertained his fans, but it wasn't until Eminem took the stage that the
far-reaching impact of true charisma could be felt in the audience. Eminem not only attacked the beats laid down
by his DJ Alchemist, but he attacked a gang of not just the usual suspects in his sublimely choreographed tirade.
An Alfred E. Newmanesque George Bush took the stage and suffered Eminem's lyric wrath during Mosh, the voice of
ex-lover Mariah Carey plagued our rap protagonist while he performed, and what would an Eminem show be without a
Kevin Federline joke or three? The one pop culture figure Eminem never tires of battering is Michael Jackson who
was treated to an impersonation that included a face mask and about fifteen baby dolls that Eminem gave names like
Napkin, Bedspread and Tampon then drop kicked into the audience. Hey, what do you expect after Mike got Em's video
thrown off BET? Dirty pool, baby.
Maxing at one hundred dollars a ticket, the fans certainly paid for the spectacle they got. The Garden performance
was sold out, but there was a concern that the ticket price was simply too high for a hip-hop show, which are
notoriously poorly organized and attended. While record sales may soar with rappers like Eminem and Fifty Cent
who have topped every other artist in sheer numbers in recent years, the spending rarely translates to national
concert revenue since hip hop artists are largely tapping an audience from a lower socio-economic class that will
buy a CD, but won't dish out a hundred dollars for a ticket. It appears that this was not a problem in New York.
The most impressive thing about Eminem's performance was his ability to communicate with his audience that
have always been right willing to pay to hear Marshall Mathers lament his life and sing the glory of his
tribulations and triumphs. Perhaps this white rapper is so universally loved and commercially successful with
both white and black listeners because his willingness to bare his soul, his experiences with poverty and his
political discontent resonate across the color line. After seeing Eminem unite the racially mixed audience at
Madison Square Garden I thought—this is what it sounds like when doves cry.