THE TOPIC: Eminem's "Not Afraid" (The First Single From Recovery)

LEAKED: 4/29/2010 at 8 AM by YourAudioFix (CDQ by TeamSupreme)
THE CONSENSUS PANEL: Miss Info (MissInfo.tv), Combat Jack (DailyMathematics.com), Andrew Noz (CocaineBlunts.com), Jake Paine (HipHopDX.com), Nation (ItsTheCalm.com & NahRight.com), Dallas Penn (DallasPenn.com), Elliott Wilson (RapRadar.com), Robbie Ettelson (Unkut.com), Eskay (NahRight.com), John Gotty (The Smoking Section), Jeff Rosenthal (ItsTheReal.com), Meka (2DopeBoyz.com), Peter Rosenberg (RosenbergRadio.com), Nigel D. (RealTalkNY.net), Maurice Garland (MauriceGarland.com), and Noah Callahan-Bever (Complex).
AVERAGE RATING:

See mini-reviews from each panel member below...

PANELIST: Miss Info, MissInfo.tv
REACTION: "I like when Em gets inspirational like this because it embraces the fact that, along with scoring points of technical difficulty (see 'Despicable'), this guy has and can make personal theme music, locker-room psyche songs, forearm tattoo mantra music. So "Not Afraid" is the rap 'No More Drama.' Now, personally, I use music to indulge in the dark side, not nudge me towards the light, but Im still enjoying 'Not Afraid''s narrative and the melody appeals to my pop appetite."
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PANELIST: Combat Jack, DailyMathematics.com
REACTION: "People think I don't like Em. On account of how I shitted on Relapse. It's not that I don't like the white boy, I think he's one of the best that ever did it. Was never much of a fan of his music tho, mainly the subject matter, pills, killings, that shit was always too... white for my tastes. Then his mom issues, Kim, Hailey. Blah, blah, blah. Also that thing with him producing his own shit...

Took a couple of listen twos of his latest 'Not Afraid', produced by Boi-1da. Production is tight, big like an anthem. I like anthemic songs, that's what made T.I. King. Em is focused, sounds forward moving, and I can't ever be mad at moving forward. Plus, he's matured. Prolly his most positive song yet, especially with him referencing how he's now confidently victorious over his demons. He also agrees with me on how 'Relapse' was weak. Lyrically he doesn't kill like usual, but his 'okay' is most rapper's wet dreams. Also, he takes us further along with him on his personal and truthful journey. Personal and truthful always ftw! I eff's with this. Guaranteed to be a BIG song this year."
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PANELIST: Andrew Noz, CocaineBlunts.com
REACTION: "It seems like Em's finally realizing that he's getting to old for the fart jokes but he's yet to figure out exactly his strengths beyond his humor lie. On his classics it was never about just rapping really well but being able to do so with strong storytelling and a certain honesty. This, like his 'Drop The World' and 'Forever' verses, is just regular battle rap Eminem sprinkled with emotional platitudes. He puts on his serious face and raps intensely about vaguely somber or inspiring stuff. There's no narrative, no truth. Just 'fuck the world, feed it beans.' But at least he's not saying it in an Elmer Fudd accent."
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PANELIST: Jake Paine, HipHopDX.com
REACTION: "Eminem's artistic admiration for T.I. is really apparent on 'Not Afraid,' which sounds like carbon-copy Paper Trail. It's honest, while attempting to be catchy, and mixes a inspirational, harmonic chorus with some pretty deft rapping. I think that Boi 1da's sung, multi-part choruses might work well with Drake, but make Em sound terribly out of his comfort zone. That chorus makes the record windows-up only material, but still, I'm personally relieved that Marshall's first single is more 'Like Toy Soldiers' than 'We Made You.'"
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PANELIST: Nation, ItsTheCalm.com & NahRight.com
REACTION: "I think it's great. I usually can't stand people stepping out of their zone like that, especially when Em does it, but the singing didn't bother me on so much... even though he pretty much had a solo on this song. The rapping is cool, I'm not really that crazy about his rhymes here, but his flow over this song is undeniable. The overall message of this song is much stronger than any of the singles he had on Relapse ('Crack a Bottle'/'We Made You') and Boi-1da did fucking good on the beat."
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PANELIST: Dallas Penn, DallasPenn.com
REACTION: "Anthem music x Eminem = Antheminem. Eminem is the emo rap king, hands down. This song is the 'Lose Yourself' 2010 version. Get a ticket to Giants Stadium and get your lighters out. This song will be marching music for every loser this summer. It ain't my bag, but this shit is gonna be big. Huge. Colossal."
RATING:
("Right in the middle. Middle America stand up!")
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PANELIST: Elliott Wilson, RapRadar.com
REACTION: "I love when rappers shit on their last CD. Word to Nore. Props to Slim for ceasing with the cheeseball first singles. This lives up to the hype. Heart honesty. 4.5. Nobody's perfect. Ha!"
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PANELIST: Robbie Ettelson, Unkut.com
REACTION: "Remember when Slim Shady made songs about putting the corpse of his daughter's mother in the trunk of his car? Now he wants to talk about his 'feelings' and tap into the Linkin Park fan-base of kids who think cutting themselves is what's hot. I mean it's one thing to pretend to be emotional if you're trying to bag some dizzy dame in high school, but cry me an effin' river. The only way that this could have been softer was if he got his pal Elton John on the hook. Man up, indeed."
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PANELIST: Eskay, NahRight.com
REACTION: "The beat is cool and Em's verses are impeccable, as usual, but I feel like the chorus slows the song down in a bad way. I don't know if that makes sense. I get why he did it the way he did it, I just don't know if it works. Also, he sounds like he's struggling to stay on rhythm during some of his verses, whereas he usually makes it sound like the beat is trying to keep up with him."
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PANELIST: John Gotty, The Smoking Section
REACTION: "Eminem's plight as a recovering addict is an experience with which I empathize. I know sobriety brings out an effort to correct all previous wrongs with an initial, valiant attempt that can end up being clumsy and creating small messes. But I also know people forgive that misstep because the new version of you is making the effort, and is perhaps better than the old, shit-wrecking version of yourself.

That was Slim and Relapse (hell, Encore too.)

After the first verse and chorus of 'Not Afraid,' Em had me teetering on the fence, wondering if he would be able to make amends. But then an honest, self-effacing 'Bunny Rabbit' steps into the song, admitting Relapse was subpar and reaffirming himself to his fans. The old anger towards Kim is replaced with a passion to please listeners, and he even dedicates a few lines to his addiction. Quite noble. The biggest downer has to be the singing at the bridge. If it's not working for Drake right now, I doubt Slim's going to find much more success with his vocal stylings. Still, it's good to see Marshall finding comfort on the wagon, and hopefully there's enough room for legions of fans to grab a seat with him."
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PANELIST: Jeff Rosenthal, ItsTheReal.com
REACTION: "Last year, when he released Relapse, I wondered aloud on Twitter whether an Eminem single would still be an Eminem single if it didn't have an eons-too-late reference to an easy pop-cultural target. Well, here we are, listening to just such a thing! It's a clever PR statement, with Em taking charge of his own message like in the freestyle scenes of 8 Mile; more B. Rabbit than Slim Shady. (It's 'Lose Yourself' for a new iPod generation.) He's spry, dancing around these bars like an underage sorority girl listening to a different song than this one. A highlight: Eminem thankfully apologizes for the Faux-sama accents of yore and his last album as a whole, pledging to do better. (This is where I'd really go in on the singing if its blatant disregard for my ears hadn't threatened to grow on me in the past couple of hours.) That's all to say that "Not Afraid" is a fine enough song. Not sure where to listen to it, though: it seems too slow for the gym, too spare for the club, too smart to just be background noise. Maybe it'll be forgotten. Then, at least, Eminem could apologize for it on his next album."
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PANELIST: Meka, 2DopeBoyz.com
REACTION: "I'll be honest: I didn't listen to Relapse because of Em's penchant for rapping in Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog's voice throughout. So while it's good to see that he's dropped that doofy accent on 'Not Afraid,' I was left a bit unimpressed by the single. Don't get me wrong; the raps are incredible as always. But i could do without the hook and the lackluster beat. But why are you asking me for this my opinion? Everybody knows I hate everything."
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PANELIST: Peter Rosenberg, RosenbergRadio.com
REACTION: "Em is back sounding like Em and seems to have lost that 'accent' that everyone was complaining about. I love the 3rd verse and though the beat didn't move me on first listen—it's definitely an ear grabbing return."
RATING:
("If 'The Way I Am' or 'White America' is a 5")
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PANELIST: Nigel D., RealTalkNY.net
REACTION: "Interesting to see Eminem lead off with a serious single and say his last album, Relapse, was, "eh". His flow is on point as always, but the singing gets annoying after a while. The chorus is also cheesy."
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PANELIST: Maurice Garland, MauriceGarland.com
REACTION: "The sounds like some lost verses from 'We Are The World 2010.' It sounds like something to play on Em's E! True Hollywood Story..."in 2010 Eminem returned with his triumphant, soul-bearing single 'I'm Not Afraid,' making his return as the king of rap complete." Its that 'I'm Back' song that stars make after they've been gone or went through something. I wouldn't be surprised if Lindsey Lohan and Robert Downey, Jr. were cast for the video. For real, this is some real mega-pop star shit, which I really cant be mad at because hell, Em is a mega-pop star. Shit ain't jammin' though."
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PANELIST: Noah Callahan-Bever, Complex.com
REACTION: "We asked for it, and he delivered—'Nuff said. Em took all the criticism leveled at Relapse (and it's roll out), processed it and gave us exactly we, the fans, wanted (new production, serious subject matter, no celebrity pot shots, anthem-ic chorus, etc...). And it sounds great! Is it melodramatic? Sure. Is it mad emo? Of course. Have you ever listened to Eminem before? Um, 'Sing For The Moment'? 'Toy Soldiers' much? This is what he does, and he does it great. If you're not psyched to hear one of the greatest rappers ever defying his own conventions while still making the exact kind of record only he can make (and the exact kind that vaulted him into the GOAT conversation in the first place, too, I might add), and doing it as well as he ever has, then you're probably just not an Eminem fan anymore (which is plausible, people's sensibilities change) or just have some serious perception issues. Speaking of which, let me relieve you of that half-full glass of water, I'm parched."
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