A highly-anticipated Governors Ball highlighter, Marshall Mathers, professionally known as Eminem, drew some of the largest crowds of any performance throughout the three day festival. Fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the United States’ best-selling artist of the 2000s flocked to the stage, when all of a sudden, giant double red capital letter Es lit up the side screens, and were quickly replaced by a short film of Eminem himself. In the video, Eminem was portrayed as a giant clumsily picking his way across a city, stepping in cars, breaking buildings with sweeps of his colossal arms, and swatting and destroying helicopters that buzzed around his head. The video faded and Eminem came onto the stage shortly thereafter, his voice absolutely drowned out by the incessant screams of fans from all areas of the large lawn on Randall’s Island.
Eminem entered the stage wearing a grey hoodie—his signature moody look—coupled with a matching pair of shorts. Dramatic sounds and lighting bolstered his arrival, and as he began to rap, orange fireworks crackled and shot up into the sky.
Eminem was first joined by a hypeman wearing black sweats as bright lights flooded the scene and illuminated the rapper. At first, Eminem played newer tracks, but the crowd went wild when he performed a classic song, “Kill You,” off of his 2000 “The Marshall Mathers LP.” Performing the song with a minimalistic version of its haunting melody, Eminem’s vulgarity in his lyrics was underscored by his vehemence as he fiercely rapped into the microphone and paced across the stage. Eminem ended the song with a sharp cry of “Bitch, imma kill you!” before a startlingly loud gunshot effect rang out to punctuate the song’s conclusion. Directly after that, a flurry of fireworks shot into the sky as Eminem’s devoted crowd grew more and more excited by the minute.
However, at times, Eminem’s performance was greatly disappointing. He performed many newer, more obscure tracks, resulting in minimal reactions from fans who often grew listless and bored. Eminem was steadily joined by more of an entourage onstage, but often his counterparts’ endless bantering with and questioning of the audience members took painfully long amounts of time and detracted heavily from Eminem himself, much to the confusion of the crowd. At times, the crowd’s energy did not manifest beyond robotic head nods up and down as Eminem danced plainly and let guests onstage (such as Brookyln rapper Phresher) rap along with him, sometime alternating words in a cliched back and forth routine. At one point, Eminem bizarrely spoke to rumors going around about his alleged relationship with Nicki Minaj, screaming, “Nicki, let’s do this!” and “We go together.”
Keeping a festival-long pattern, Eminem made his political opinions known, performing “White America” and afterwards mentioning his displeasure and confusion with the current state of the world. He then performed a more metal-rock rendition of his 2013 “Rap God” off of “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” During the song’s third verse, in which Eminem notoriously raps extremely quickly, the crowd went wild, feeding off of Eminem’’s energy.
In an intense display, fireworks went off during “Sing for the Moment.” Eminem’s Governors Ball performance was noticeably less exciting than some of the other ones of the night, but Eminem added a spark to the set whenever he performed some of his older classics much to the crowd’s enthusiasm, and he seemed to perform more passionately whenever the crowd was more engaged. Eminem proved to be a sometimes exciting, though sometimes disappointing, conclusion to 2018’s Governors Ball.
—Staff writer Ajibabi O. Oloko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10 Questions with Hilton AlsHilton Als is a staff writer for the New Yorker. He wrote “The Women,” and recently published a new novel, “White Girls.”
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