D12: Devil's Night

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D12

Album: Devil's Night
Label: Shady

The Howard Stern of hip-hop, Eminem deflates the phoniness and self-importance of celebrity culture with a comic sensibility that oscillates between lacerating wit and locker-room boorishness. Like Stern's rude irreverence, Eminem's pop-star bashing—the work of a smart but emotionally stunted star pandering to his audience's basest instincts—can be hilarious and cathartic, or tedious and repetitive. Devil's Night marks the first album by D12, Eminem's Motor City-based crew, and while the star constitutes only one-sixth of its membership, its debut album is saturated with his unmistakable comic misanthropy. Picking up where Eminem's alternately overrated and underrated last album left off, Devil's Night continues his profitable assault on good taste, as the sometimes Marshall Mathers and company engage in yet another round of celebrity-bashing ripped straight from today's tabloid headlines. But what was fresh and provocative at the time of Eminem's debut has grown somewhat stale; at this point, his misanthropy feels as predictable as Gallagher smashing watermelons. Still, Devil's Night has its moments, most courtesy of Eminem mentor Dr. Dre, who transforms "Ain't Nuttin' But Music" into a bouncy, celebrity-obsessed sequel to "The Real Slim Shady," and "Nasty Mind" into an irresistible slice of tuneful misogyny. But without Dre's solid songcraft and stellar beats, Devil's Night tends to blur together into one long mass of bad vibes, nasty one-liners, and calculated shock that's nowhere as shocking as it would have been during hip-hop's pre-Slim Shady era. For all its flaws, Devil's Night is entertaining in a facile, adolescent sort of way. But even the cleverest adolescent, and Eminem is nothing if not clever, eventually needs to grow up and try something new.