I can remember the first time I heard Encore like it was yesterday. It was Friday, November 12th, 2004; George Bush had (kind of) just been re-elected, I was eleven years old and just about the biggest Eminem fan in the world. I didn’t have any money, and my friend Matthew from down the street came over to my house to play video games; or whatever it is that eleven year olds and thirteen year olds do on a Friday. He, unlike me, had $13.99 to spend and bought the album in question, but didn’t seem too thrilled: “Hey man, you can honestly have this shit if you want it. I’m not keeping this, it’s terrible,” he told me. He really gave it to me; I just figured Christmas came early.
Eminem was coming off of the critically acclaimed Eminem Show, and the 8 Mile movie & soundtrack, so I could only imagine that expectations were high for the proverbial “encore” to the show. But when it leaked (as the legend has it, I was too young to know anything about album leaks), it was apparently so bad that people thought it was a fake created to throw people/bootleggers off from what the album really actually was. I wasn’t trying to hear it…you couldn’t tell eleven year old me shit. As far as I was concerned, Encore was just as jamming as the first three albums. I got older, and as I got older and the blinders of fandom began to wear off, I started agreeing with everybody else: that Encore was a terribly bad mistake in a catalogue full of work that didn’t deserve to be placed next to it. But now that I’m even older than I was when I came to that conclusion, and now that we know more about that time period in Marshall’s life, I revisited Encore and came to a lot of new understandings that eleven year old me could’ve never wrapped his mind around, including that Encore may unequivocally be Em’s weakest effort, but it may also be his most interesting. Here’s why.