There’s a reason the vault has become such a recurring metaphor. Implying impenetrable security, the term has been used to describe an artist’s hard drive – particularly one housing the glorious unreleased material. Yet with increased security comes an influx of adept safecrackers. Some camps, like Young Thug, Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, Travis Scott, and Kanye West have found everything from loosies to entire albums laid bare. For others, namely our subject in question Eminem, leaks have been an uncommon commodity.
Consider that fans still have yet to hear the elusive track playing in The Eminem Show’s “The Kiss” skit, though it has been mistakenly attributed to a freestyle. One would think that track would have been long released by now. For the longest time, the narrative surrounding the Shady camp’s vault was equivalent to a Fort-Knoxian security system. In the early millennium, artists like Knoc-Turn’al (Knoc’s Landing), Ras Kass (Van Gogh), and Bad Meets Evil’s own Royce Da 5’9” (Rock City) lost entire albums worth of progress to gun-jumping bootleggers. Slim, and by extension his mentor Dre, kept a tight-running ship. Of course, his studio albums ultimately fell victim to the process. But for the most part, his vault remains untouched.
The first major leak to strike the Shady camp occurred in 2003. To call what we know associate with Straight From The Lab massive would be an understatement. The leak, which brought the songs “Monkey See Monkey Do,” “Can-I-Bitch,” “Love You More,” “We As Americans,” “Hailies Revenge,” “Come On In (D12’s “6 In The Morning”)” and “Bully,” was an internet-breaking moment before the term was coined. The impact was so massive, it forced Eminem to re-record parts of Encore, inadvertently leading to an influx of goofier, no-fucks-given tracks. While fans have come to equate leaks with free money being tossed into a crowd, it should not be forgotten that a much darker side-effect often follows.
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From that point onward, a weakness in the Shady vault had been exposed. That’s not to say it was open for business; case in point, Relapse 2 remains tucked away indefinitely. Another major leak struck in the period following Recovery, after a particularly wealthy leaker named Koolo managed to procure a batch of unreleased Em tracks. It began with “I Need A Doctor,” and songs like “Cocaine,” “Difficult,” and the Just Blaze-produced “Fly Away” were among those that later surfaced. Some, like the hilarious “Wee Wee,” gained instant notoriety. Others, like the B.O.B-featured “Things Get Worse” (more on that later) and “Oh No” seemed like potential Relapse 2 cuts. For the second time, Em’s vault took a major hit, though he never spent much time dwelling; in fact, Em has seldom directly addressed the leaks at all, thus leaving their impact entirely speculative.
Recently, Em has once again found himself on the receiving end of a leak-spree. Though technically a Joyner Lucas song, “What If I Was Gay” featured heavy Em involvement, leaving the state of the song’s official release in flux; it wouldn’t be surprising to see Joyner swerve its release altogether as a matter of principle. Not long after, another Em song called “Everything” surfaced on Reddit, speculated as a post-Encore drop (references to T.I’s “Touch Down” pin this one to 2006 or 2007). Now, yet another brand new Shady verse has surfaced, channeling Inception: a leak of a leak. Said verse, which features alternate lyrics from “Things Get Worse,” has already been making headlines over its allusions to the Chris Brown’s domestic abuse toward Rihanna. “Of course I side with Chris Brown, I’d beat a b*tch down, too, if she gave my dick an itch now,” he raps, in a song that originally made reference to Angelina Jolie, Jessica Simpson, Carmen Electra, Dakota Fanning, and Natasha Bedingfield. Given that Em and Rihanna have gone on to collaborate on four separate occasions, many have raised an eyebrow at the offensive comment. Perhaps that’s why the verse was changed to begin with, as the lyric is nowhere to be seen on the original version.
In the past month, Em’s vault has already sprung on three separate occasions, leaving us questioning the methodology. Aside from the Joyner joint, the previous Em drops seem to stem from an earlier era, perhaps leftovers from the second major leak in 2011. As to the current state of his unreleased catalog, it remains for the most-part well guarded. Yet this recent batch does raise new questions about the ethics of pirate tactics and the ramifications that might arise as fallout. Will Em be left scrambling over unreleased bars from eight years ago? And more importantly, should fans make a conscious effort to avoid the vault altogether?
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