The Shock is Off

Up in Smoke asks and answers: What happens to rap when its hard edge is draped with a little glitz?

The chill of that moment also distilled a question that had lingered over the show all evening: What happens to gangsta rap when its hard edge is draped with a little glitz? The answer came while watching Eminem. His hyperkinetic performance proved he's more than a blond-haired, blue-eyed novelty. His lyrics give voice to the furious resentments that might stream through a frustrated young man's mind as he lies awake at night thinking about what he should have said or done in a too-late-now situation. He epitomizes extreme. But Eminem's presence on this tour teaches a different kind of lesson, one that incorporates opposing messages. The serious credibility he gains comes surrounded with the evidence of the not-so-hardcore place where his predecessors are finally finding happiness. Cultural apocalypse ain't no fun if the homies can't have none.

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