Dissecting the Religiously Charged Subtext of Eminem's "Berzerk" Video
The thin veil between life and death was ripped apart earlier this week with the release of Eminem's music video for "Berzerk." The highly anticipated visual debut for the first single from Marshall Mathers LP 2 (to be released November 5th) features old-school graphics, Detroit, and a pixilated "So What Che Want" view of one of rap's greatest heroes. But above all, it is Eminem's desperate attempt to be released from the in-between and restored to life so he can restore hip-hop to it's former glory. The success of this venture can only be determined by us (and God, probably, who knows).
See also: Does the World Still Want Eminem?
Eminem wants to make it clear that he didn't just choose to be absent from the hip-hop music scene during one of it's most trying times--he's actually been dead for awhile. As if recording the "Berzerk" video on a VHS tape was not enough to prove his complete worldly detachment, he shows us the literal split between his head and feet (soul and body). It is a genius moment of devastation showcased in one artful split second.
But before the mourning of Marshall Mathers/Slim Shady/Eminem can begin, it becomes evident that all is not exactly lost. Eminem has not descended into the depths of hell (yet)--he is currently residing in a white-walled purgatory illuminated by studio lights and the boom of a giant (...Beats By Dre...?) boom-box. And, luckily for him, he is accompanied by
producer of "Berzerk" and otherwise-infamous music-master Rick Rubin Detroit-Purgatory-God, as clearly evidenced by his long beard, lack of shoes, and general appearance of apathy. Unlike real-God, Detroit-Purgatory-God is here to help.
But before this can be done, Eminem must confess and be forgiven for past sins. His atonement is illustrated by his erasure of self-promotional graffiti from a dark alley-way.
And that's it. That's all Eminem had to do in order to atone for past sins in the eyes of Detroit-Purgatory-God. No song lyrics were detracted. No emotional outbursts apologized for. No visits were made to past-or-present family members and friends. None of that Scrooge McDuck shit goes down in Detroit-Purgatory.
But as a gesture of good faith, Eminem volunteers to climb a ladder and fix the giant boom-box of Detroit-Purgatory for it's God. Despite the fact that all he does is turn a knob before jumping off the ladder and saying "Fuck it," the action is indicative of what Eminem plans to do upon returning to earth--fix the fuck out of hip-hop. It is a blessed and holy crusade--one that only someone with a strong enough white-savior complex could ever achieve. Eminem is our best shot--but does he really have the power to just come back?
The answer to that question will be decided by
an illegal game of street cards fate. As Detroit-Purgatory-God and Eminem sit down in a suddenly black-and-white film noir to determine his future, many questions bubble to the surface--is my neighbor changing his wi-fi password or is this video just shot in really shitty quality? why is this based in Detroit if it's supposed to be about the revival of Eminem? where did Kendrick Lamar go, and will Eminem swap places with him if he is allowed back on earth? None are answered.
Even Eminem's fate goes unsolved by the conclusion of "Berzerk." The video ends in a dissolve to the blank blue end-of-VHS-tape screen (OMG remember those!?) that Eminem mailed from purgatory to whoever put this on Vimeo. It will only become clear if Eminem has successfully escaped purgatory and regained a bodily form on earth once the next video drops--if there is one.
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