Arch Nemesis

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After three albums for three different labels, all of them unsuccessful and already out of print by the time number four arrived in 2005, Benzino certainly proved to all his many naysayers that he's no quitter. Sure, the man enjoyed little love from fans, and the only hype he seemed to enjoy was courtesy of his own magazine, the much beleaguered Source. Yet the self-proclaimed "arch-nemesis" of Eminem refused to pack his bags. In fact, he started up his own record label, ZNO Records, to release Arch Nemesis and continue his shameless exploitation of the Eminem beef, on the obligatory response track, "Look Into My Eyes," which the CD's back-cover packaging clearly declares a "response to Eminem's 'Toy Soldiers'" (just so you know). Moreover, he continues his likewise shameless bandwagon-jumping à la rap karaoke. For instance, "Bottles & Up (Thug da Club)" is a clear "Lean Back" rewrite that goes so far as to employ a facsimile beat from that megahit's producer, Scott Storch, and copy some of the song's lyrics, namely the signature "my niggas don't dance" part of the hook. Then there's also the 2Pac-from-the-grave collabo, "Trying to Make It Through," and the Lil Jon feature, "Dat's How It Goes," to point out some of the more obvious moments of uncreativity. Granted, a large percentage of commercially successful rappers bandwagon-jump like this, but in Benzino's case it's just so obvious. At least it'd be acceptable if he brought something original to the trends he's chasing, but he rarely does, instead simply mimicking whatever's worked well in the past, whether it's stealing Fat Joe's hook from "Lean Back," mocking Eminem's marching-band beat from "Toy Soldiers," or bringing aboard street-credible figures like 2Pac and Lil Jon to boost his own cred. Enough criticism, though. To emphasize some of the positive elements of Arch Nemesis, the album does boast some first-rate productions here and there, and you must commend Benzino for soldiering on despite the mountain of criticism flung at him from all angles over the past few years -- from fans, from critics, from the industry, from pretty much everyone but The Source. The man is either resilient, stubborn, or self-deluded -- or, more likely, a combination of the three. In any event, for the sake of hip-hop one can only hope that Benzino will eventually retire his tired Eminem warfare, or else retire himself. It's all just gone too far, far beyond being a joke, to the point of downright annoyance, especially for those folks tired of reading and hearing in the media about the ongoing "controversy."