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Encore (Aftermath/Shady/Interscope)

As the title suggests, Eminem's fourth solo disc is a direct continuation of 2002's The Eminem Show. He fails to match the highs of his previous albums here, but Encore is still as compulsively listenable as The Marshall Mathers LP, the 1999 debut that rocketed Eminem from Detroit slums to national pop consciousness, establishing him as one of the top rappers of his generation.

Eminem has sold more than 20 million albums in five years, yet fame pisses him off just as working at Builders Square did. Like Kurt Cobain, he seems bent on driving away the audience that can't get enough of him -- the fans who keep him from his daughter and won't let him visit the bathroom in peace. Now a sober family man, Eminem struggles to become a mature Marshall Mathers, but he responds to the relentless scrutiny by surrendering to his homicidal Slim Shady persona. Between elegantly phrased dick jokes, Eminem samples an old Sid Vicious routine, imagining himself opening fire on his audience. If only this record succeeded in knocking us dead so succinctly.

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