Beastie Boy Adam Yauch succumbed to cancer in May 2012. But Detroit rapper Eminem is doing his part to keep Yauch's—and the Beastie Boys'—influential (but often lyrically dubious) legacy alive in his latest song, "Berzerk." Indeed, Eminem's first single from his latest effort, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, features sampled bits of two Beastie Boys' hits: "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)" and "The New Style."
Given the Boys' lofty stature within the hip-hop pantheon, Eminem's shrewd appropriation of their iconic songs is hardly surprising. Much more surprising—and much more frequent on "Berzerk"—is the continual sampling and looping of guitar tracks and vocals from Billy Squier. Specifically, Eminem (with help from über-producer Rick Rubin) borrows lyrics and licks from Squier's 1981 hit "The Stroke," essentially synthesizing a unlikely rock backing track with his signature wordplay layered over the top in syncopated rhythms.
In keeping with that retro rap-rock vibe, Eminem gets underway with a shout-out to the old-school way of doing business. "Now this s‑‑‑'s about to kick off, this party looks whack/Let's take it back to straight-up hip-hop and start it from scratch."
From there, the song staggers back and forth between rowdy exhortations to "go berserk" and bizarre bursts of bravado, as only Marshall Mathers can render them. The bridge, for instance, advises, "Kick your shoes off/Let your hair down and go berserk all night long/Grow your beard out/Just weird out (go berserk) all night long."
Said berserking gets even more antisocial (not to mention profane) in the chorus: "We're gonna rock this house until we knock it down/So turn the volume loud, 'cause it's mayhem in the a.m./So baby, make just like K-Fed and let yourself go/I say f‑‑‑ it before we kick the bucket/Life's too short not to go for broke/So everybody, everybody (go berserk) shake your body."
Eminem also unloads a nasty and explicit rhyme that references a woman's menstrual cycle and having sex. He meanly mocks Khloe Kardashian.
Bright spots on this frenetically rocking rap track are certainly fewer than its obscenities, but it's worth mentioning here, in light of Eminem's public battles with prescription drug abuse, that he raps about those struggles in the past tense: "Just like I did with addiction, I'm 'bout to kick it/ … Far as hard drugs are, though, that's the past." Still, an ambiguous follow-up lyric seems less clear regarding whether codeine abuse is also something he's left behind.
The video shows us clips of men fighting, spliced in among visual nods to the '80s as Eminem raps alongside his musical mentor, Rick Rubin. And it doesn't help us concentrate at all on the track's limited sense of restraint. Mostly, one gets the feeling that even if this newly sober rapper has embraced healthy limits in one area of his life, there are others that still need lots of attention as he invites fans to recklessly go berserk.
A postscript: ESPN has adopted "Berzerk" as the theme song for its weekly Saturday Night Football broadcast during the Fall 2013 season, ensuring that it will get plenty of exposure, if in an edited-for-TV sort of way.