Eminem fights himself on his New Song ‘Houdini’: A review

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Slim Shady in Eminem
Slim Shady in Eminem's music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)

Eminem's latest and "last magic trick" comes in the form of a new single titled Houdini, which dropped alongside a music video today. The record was distributed to all major DSPs (Digital Streaming Platforms) via Shady, Aftermath, and Interscope Records.

Houdini acts as the lead single for his upcoming 12th studio album, The Death of Slim Shady (Coup de Grace), which is scheduled to release sometime in the summer, later this year. The cover for the single finds an individual wearing a Jason Voorhees hockey mask while dressed in a suit, performing a "disappearing act" on a microphone.

"GUESS WHO'S BACK? AND FOR MY LAST TRICK..."

The title of the track is a shout-out to the Detroit magician Harry Houdini, who was known for his death-defying magic tricks and escapist performances, which include the popular Chinese Water Torture Cell act. The magician would later pass away in 1926, at the age of 52, which is the same age Eminem is turning this year.


Bar-For-Bar: Breaking down Eminem's latest single Houdini

Alongside producer Luis Resto and collaborator Jeff Bass, Shady brings back a composition that heavily references a lot of his early 2000s music. Listeners get visual and auditory glimpses into Eminem's past discography, with songs like Without Me bringing back the legendary "Guess Who's Back" being used as a catchphrase throughout the track.

This past week, Em teased the release of Houdini with a promotional video shot alongside famous magician David Blaine, who advises Shady on the limits of performing crazy acts or stunts before biting into a wine glass. At the end of the video, Eminem (Marshall Mathers) announces:

"For my last trick, I’m gonna make my career disappear."

The music video was directed by Rich Lee and features guest appearances from Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Paul Rosenburg, Hallie Jade Scott, and Pete Davidson, amongst many others.

Filled with comic-inspired visuals that are reminiscent of the music video for Without Me, with Em even donning the iconic "Rap Boy" costume before heading out to defeat Slim Shady, the video is extremely nostalgic and humorous. The video has gained significant attention online, garnering over a million views since it was uploaded to YouTube today.

The song primarily revolves around Em moving away from the person he used to be (Slim Shady), although both individuals fight with distinguished flows throughout the track. Both versions of the rapper finally merge toward the end of the song.

Disclaimer: The following review is rated EXPLICIT. Reader discretion is advised.


(Intro)

Dr. Dre and Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Dr. Dre and Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"Guess who's back, back again? / Shady's back, tell a friend, Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Guess who's back? Guess who's back? / Guess who's back? Guess who's back? / Guess who's back? (Haha) / Da-da-da, da, da, da, da, da, da / Da-da-da, da, da, da, da"

The song is introduced by Em re-performing the iconic refrain from Without Me from his 2002 album, The Eminem Show.

While the intro plays, we're introduced to the storyline of the song, where Marshall gets a video call from Dr. Dre, who tells him about a portal from 2002 that had just opened in Detroit, leading Slim Shady to enter the present time. The discovery becomes "Breaking News," with major celebrities like Snoop and 50 citing how Shady has finally returned.


(Verse 1)

Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"Well, look what the stork brung (What?) / Little baby devil with the forked tongue / And it's stickin' out, yeah, like a sore thumb (Bleh) / With a forehead that it grew horns from (Look)"

We finally get the first verse, where Eminem metaphorically refers to him rapping over the mic as both himself and Slim Shady, likening himself to a devil spawn with a "forked tongue."

The devil horns are a reference to the promotional shoots for his Marshall Mathers LP2, which famously finds the rapper using his hands as "horns" on his head, which he recreates in Houdini's music video.

"Still a white jerk (It's him), pullin' up in a Chrysler to the cypher / With the Vics, Percs and a Bud Light shirt / Lyrical technician (Yeah), an electrician (Yeah) / Y'all light work (Haha)"

The catchy flow of the song is carried forward as Eminem highlights how, despite all the fame and wealth, he's still just another "white guy" who enjoys rap cyphers. He references his past of pulling up to clubs in his Chrysler just to rap battle artists to put food on his table.

The last line highlights how, although he perceives himself as a normal guy, he wishes for listeners to acknowledge his MC skills, with multiple entendres expressing the skill difference between himself and his competition.

Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"And I don't gotta play pretend, it's you I make believe (What?) / And you know I'm here to stay 'cause me (Why?) / If I was to ever take a leave (What?) / It would be aspirin' to break a feve' (Yeah)"

Eminem goes on to state how he never intends to quit rapping and making music, citing that the only time he would possibly ever take a break would be if he ever fell sick or had to take an "aspirin" to deal with a fever.

"If I was to ask for Megan Thee (What?) / Stallion if she would collab with me / Would I really have a shot at a feat? (Haha) / I don't know, but I'm glad to be back like"

Megan Thee Stallion gets a shout-out on the final bar of this verse, with Em hoping to collaborate with the Hiss rapper. He humorously jokes about whether she would let him feature on one of her tracks before citing that he's just "glad to be back."

The visuals for his first verse end with him wearing the Rap Boy suit before linking up with Dr. Dre, with the duo headed out to find and stop Slim Shady from wrecking more havoc.


(Chorus)

A screenshot from Eminem's music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
A screenshot from Eminem's music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"Abra-abracadabra (And for my last trick) / I'm 'bout to reach in my bag, bruh (Like) / Abra-abracadabra (And for my last trick, poof) / Just like that and I'm back, bro"

The chorus for the song is an interpolation of the Steve Miller Band's 1982 record Abracadabra, bringing light to the magic element of the track. The music video finds Em finally meeting up with Dre, with both rappers driving around the city in a Lambo, before getting into a playful fistfight over potentially letting Slim Shady get away.


(Verse 2)

Eminem wears his "Rap Boy" outfit in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22tVWwmTie8
Eminem wears his "Rap Boy" outfit in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22tVWwmTie8
"Now, back in the days of old me (When?) / Right around the time I became a dope fiend (Oh) / Ate some codeine as a way of coping (Mm) / Taste of opiates, case of O.E."

We finally witness the return of Slim Shady after more than a decade, with edgy bars floating over an infectious flow and cadence. He opens by addressing his drug addiction, which almost cost him his life back in 2007, calling himself a "dope fiend."

"Turned me into smiley face emoji (Woo) / My s--t may not be age-appropriate / But I will hit an eight-year-old in the face with a participation trophy / 'Cause I have zero doubts"

Slim highlights how the drugs would help him maintain a positive outlook on life and cites it as a potential reason for why he got hooked on opiates.

The topic then switches to Shady's music, with the rapper acknowledging his songs are not "age appropriate," metaphorically implying the shock factor of his tracks being played in front of young children.

Rap Boy (Eminem) scales the "communication tower" in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Rap Boy (Eminem) scales the "communication tower" in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"That this whole world's 'bout / To turn into some girl scouts / That censorship bureau's out to (Shut me down) / So when I started this verse, It did start off lighthearted at first (Hmm) / But it feels like I'm targeted / Mind-bogglin' how my profit has skyrocketed"

Slim explains how his re-appearance will result in the whole world turning against him and his music, much like the negative reaction the rapper received during the release of his highly aggressive track titled Kim, aimed at his wife, in 2000.

The end of the bar finds the rapper reflecting on the success his discography has had over the years, with Eminem being crowned the Best Selling Hip/Hop Artist of All Time. Em is also known for being the only rapper to make it onto the Top 40 list for the "best-selling acts" in history.

"Look what I pocketed, yeah, the s--t is just like y'all had been light joggin', and I've been runnin' at full speed / And that's why I'm ahead like my noggin', and I'm the fight y'all get in / When you debate who the best, but opps, I'm white chalkin' when / I step up to that mic, c*ck it then, Oh my God, it's him! Not again!"

Slim flexes his wealth in the final lines of his verse, referring to the 250 million dollars he's "pocketed" over the years by hitting the road running at full speed, leaving his competition behind.

He explains how placing a mic in his hand is much like handing him a loaded gun, citing his willingness to take shots at his "opps," which has resulted in them fearing going up against the Grammy-winning artist with 15 golden gramophones under his belt.

While the chorus plays again, the music video shows Dre and Eminem finally reaching the "communication tower" that Slim intends on hi-jacking. Em then proceeds to scale the tower to its roof, where he meets Shady for the first time.


(Bridge)

Slim Shady vs Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Slim Shady vs Eminem in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"Sometimes, I wonder what the old me'd say (If what?) / If he could see the way s--t is today (Look at this s--t, man) / He'd probably say that everything is g-y (Like happy) / What's my name? What's my name? (Slim Shady)"

The bridge finds Em pondering what would be Slim Shady's actual reaction to witnessing the world as it is today, before ending with a reference to the chorus of Marshall's 1999 breakout single, My Name Is.

Both versions of the rapper then square off in a finale showdown, with each landing a punch on the other at the same time, which results in Slim Shady and Eminem merging to form a new character who has Shady's signature blonde hair but Em's dark beard.


(Verse 3)

Slim Shady and Eminem merge to create a "monster" in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Slim Shady and Eminem merge to create a "monster" in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"So how many little kids still wanna act like me? (Haha) / I'm a bigger pr-ck than cacti be (Yeah) / And that's why these (What?) / Words sting just like you were being attacked by bees (Bzz)"

The now-merged personas of Em and Slim Shady rap on the third verse, expressing how, although throughout the years several rappers have tried to imitate their personalities, none can ever match up to his creative skill level or match his affinity for instigation.

"In the coupe, leaning back my seat (What?) / Bumpin' R. Kelly's favorite group (Uh), the black guy (Guy) pees (Pees, haha) / In my Air Max 90s / White Ts, walkin' parental advisory"

Marshall then proceeds to joke about R. Kelly's 2002 case, which found the R&B singer indicted for s**ually assaulting and urinating on an underage girl, by using a double entendre over the spelling of the iconic hip-hop and pop group called the Black Eyes Peas.

Marshall Mathers in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Marshall Mathers in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"My transgender cat's Siamese (Why?) / Identifies as black, but acts Chinese (Haha) / Like a motherf--kin' Hacky Sack, I treat (What?) / The whole world 'cause I got it at my feet (Yeah)"

This line appears to have been delivered by Marshall's "Slim Shady" persona, who was infamously accused of anti-trans and homophobic lyrics in many of his songs. The bar then expresses Eminem's unwillingness to conform to society's desired image of how he should behave.

"How can I explain to you (What?) / That even myself I'm a danger to? (Yeah) / I hop on tracks like a kangaroo / And say a few things or two to anger you, but f--k that, if I think that s--t, I'ma say that s--t"

He builds on this theme of unwavering loyalty toward his art by citing how he writes music that expresses his feelings and is ready to deal with the repercussions of his words and any of the negative reactions that his records receive.

Paul Rosenburg's Skit in Eminem's music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Paul Rosenburg's Skit in Eminem's music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"Cancel me, what? Okay, that's it, go ahead / Paul, quit, snake a-- pr-ck / You male cross dresser (Haha), fake-ass b---h / And I'll probably get s--t for that (Watch)"

Marshall then spends this bar making fun of longtime manager and friend Paul Rosenburg by playfully calling him out on the track. Paul also performed a skit at the beginning of Houdini, where he comically shared his distaste for Em's upcoming album, The Death of Slim Shady (Coup de Grace).

"But you can all s--k my d--k, in fact / F--k them, f--k Dre, f--k Jimmy, f--k me, f--k you / F--k my own kids, they're brats (F--k 'em) / They can screw off (Yeah), them and you all (Uh) / You too, Paul (Punk), got two b-lls, big as RuPaul's (Woah)"

The following bar finds Marshall taking shots at a lot of his close peers and friends, similar to how Slim Shady would humorously clown Dr. Dre in several songs.

On this track, Em calls out Dre, Interscope Geffen CEO Jimmy Iovine, his kids, himself, and the listeners before spending two lines to clown Paul one more time.

Marshall Mathers in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
Marshall Mathers in the music video for 'Houdini' (Image via Youtube/@eminem)
"What you thought you saw ain't what you saw (Nah) / 'Cause you're never gon' see me / Caught sleepin' and see the kidnappin' never did happen / Like Sherri Papini, Harry Houdini / I vanish into the thin air as I'm leavin' like"

Marshall ends the verse by referencing Sherri Papini, who faked her disappearance and kidnapping for three weeks in 2016 before being charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement officers and mail fraud in 2022, to allude to his theme of fake acts.

Harry Houdini is referenced as well, and Eminem ends the verse by citing how he will continue to reign as the greatest act of all time. The chorus plays one more time before the song ends.


The ending of the video finds Dr. Dre exiting the vehicle only to be replaced by Pete Davidson, who reassures Marshall of being a "great driver," stating he just got back his license.

The duo then speed down the city streets, with Pete managing to hit every single vehicle in sight.

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