Only a cynic would question Eminem's legacy. Even if he never makes another album, Marshall Mathers will go down as one of the greatest rappers to ever breathe on a microphone. For a decade and change, Eminem has been one of hip-hop's most skilled and conflicted rappers. He started showing his serious side right around Recovery. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 follows that same recipe, blending goofy freakouts with emotional weight. Em's music is starting to go deeper than homophobic slurs or digs at pop stars. When he takes that route these days, it's always disguised as a character quirk. Blame it on Slim Shady.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is about a middle-aged man who refuses to grow up. The songs reference his childhood. He's still pissed at his dad. He's finally screaming an apology to mom. Even the cover is a photo of his childhood home on Dresden St. in Detroit. Eminem wouldn't even know how to grow up if he could. Jay Z traded in his jersey for a suit years ago, and Nas suited up for Life Is Good. Slim Shady is still comfortable in his baggy jeans. "Turned 40 and still sag," he brags on "So Far…" That sentiment isn't just posturing; it's part of the Marshall Mathers/Slim Shady confusion.
Like all great writers, Eminem wields introspection like a weapon. Throughout MMLP2, he references his 10 million-selling masterpiece, lamenting that he lacks the ability to shock us anymore.
"I'm in a strange place/I feel like Mase when he gave up the game for his faith," he says on "Evil Twin." Later, he admits "I'm frustrated 'cause, hey, there's no more N'Sync/Now I'm all out of wack/I'm all out of Backstreet Boys to call out and attack." Don't be fooled, though. He goes on to call a certain celebrity a "slut" in the next bar.
The psychosis of Eminem's evil twin dominates MMLP2. But rather than simply rehash old themes, he gives them new life. "Bad Guy," for instance, finds Stan's brother Matthew avenging his bro's death in dramatic fashion. And you'll have fun picking out the references to his old material on songs like "So Much Better" and "Rap God."
In the days leading up to MMLP2's release, Eminem threw the press a curveball, claiming that MMLP2 is not a follow-up to The Marshall Mathers LP. "There won't be continuation of songs or anything like that," he told Rolling Stone. A red herring or not, MMLP2 has many familiar themes. With lyrics mostly revolving around familiar concepts, the experiments come in the form of production.
One half of the album serves up a brawny template that complements Eminem's vigorous vocals. The other half, however, is dominated by experimental pop soundscapes and dreary hooks. The biggest offender is "The Monster" with Rihanna, which retreads the concept and melody of their previous hit, "Love the Way You Lie."
MMLP2 doesn't have those stellar cuts you loved on The Marshall Mathers LP, but it has its own moments. "Rap God" is a dizzying lyrical exercise worthy of a college treatise. On "Love Game," Eminem and Kendrick Lamar nerd out with rhymes on rhymes on rhymes. You'll need Rap Genius just to keep up. As with all Eminem albums, you get a higher dose the more you consume the lyrics.
Eminem's seventh album doesn't veer too far from his usual themes: mayhem, jokes, vocal tics, introspection, all around weirdness all make cameos on this concept album. This time, he owns up to his mistakes and comes clean about the battle between his personas.
Eminem has grown more self-aware, more self-analytical, more self-introspective.
But he hasn't grown up.Top Tracks
- "Bad Guy"
- "Love Game"
- "Rhyme or Reason"