Words About Music
Eminem “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”
I doubt that I need to tell you who Eminem is. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock forever, Eminem is the alias of famous Detroit rapper Marshall Mathers who broke into the mainstream with his 1999 sophomore LP “The Slim Shady LP,” an album which established Em as one of the most talented MCs in the world of hip hop. He reached his early peak with his 2000 album “The Marshall Mathers LP,” a record that is consistently called a classic. Songs like “Kill You,” “Stan,” “The Real Slim Shady,” “Bitch Please II,” and “Kim” basically painted Eminem as a rapid-fire deliverer of words which just happened to be homophobic, misogynistic, homicidal, and incredibly dark. Controversy aside, “The Marshall Mathers LP” was funny, real, and a totally fascinating record. Unfortunately, Eminem hasn’t released an album that good since. He’s tried to rekindle past fire by being controversial, but usually ends up finding himself discussing the same themes over and over again as he became less and less interesting. In 2009 he came back after a 5-year album break with “Relapse,” a somewhat decent return, but it still found Marshall rapping about his mother, ex-wife, daughter, drugs, and celebrities in a pseudo-subversive way that was boring at this point. In 2010 he hit an all time low with the radio-friendly “Recovery,” an album mostly devoted to the same themes but with added pop-friendly hooks and uplifting anthems like “Not Afraid.” Well, once again, Eminem has returned with an album that was marketed as a return to form ever since the album’s title was released. So… let’s talk about it.
I’m sure Eminem anticipated high expectations when he decided to title the record “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” The first “MMLP” is a beloved hip hop record with some great tracks on it, and with everyone’s complaints about Eminem’s output since then, it must be exciting to finally have a record where he reverts back to the REAL Slim Shady, right? Well… sort of. Listening to “MMLP2” reminded me just how much of a jerk the speaker on “MMLP” was, and he comes across as even more out of touch on this record. We’d all like to think of Eminem as a self-aware rapper who knows what people want from him, but even when he markets his new album as a sequel to his best he can’t seem to get it right.
First, let me say, Eminem’s flow has not suffered any damage at all. Even in his old age (he’s 41) the dude can still spit with the best of them. He’s still making good use of his well-known internal rhyme schemes and he can make even a 7-minute track sound fun. Eminem’s true problem lies in the lyrical content, though.
Even with the best songs on this album, there is still quite a bit that is, well, cringe-worthy. Eminem just sounds like an awkward dad when he references people like “the ugly Kardashian” or Justin Bieber or Frank Ocean. He raps a few lines in Yoda’s voice, samples from Billy Squier, Joe Walsh, and The Zombies, and spends more time singing than anyone in their right mind would ever wish for. He calls himself an asshole and says that he’s insane so many times that if it were a drinking game then all listeners would be blackout drunk before they even reached the B-side. The lyrical content just gets so monotonous that it’s at least refreshing when a song like “Stronger Than I Was” comes on, which is a horrible song but is at least a different thing for Marshall.
Another thing worth mentioning is that the hooks are abysmal. Some of the female artists who sing the hooks aren’t even mentioned in the song title because they’re so interchangeable that there’s no point. The only reason Skylar Grey and Rihanna get mentioned in their song titles is because they’re more famous I guess. Any lady with a decent voice could sing these hooks really. The guy from Fun sings a better hook than any other guest on here merely because his voice is at least kind of different. The choruses are simultaneously boring and forgettable, and the verses themselves aren’t much better.
Sure, there are some good tracks on here. The opening track “Bad Guy” is a definite standout. It’s a sequel to “Stan” in which Stan’s little brother Matthew seeks revenge on Eminem for causing his family so much grief. I also think “Rap God” is a pretty good track, but mostly because Eminem sounds pretty cool when he raps fast. Otherwise, the obnoxious misogyny and homophobia make this song difficult to listen to. If it didn’t work well in 2000, it’s certainly not gonna work well in 2013, in the midst of a civil rights movement of sorts for LGBT people. I also enjoyed “Love Game” which features a rather catchy verse from Kendrick Lamar, who’s the only guest rapper on this entire album.
Overall, “MMLP2” is, well, a failure of a sequel. It’s not very shocking, it’s not very funny, and it bears a few nostalgic resemblances to the original “MMLP” but not many stylistically. The production isn’t really worth mentioning, apart from a few standout beats like “Rhyme or Reason” or “Berzerk.” It’s another misstep in Eminem’s career, and it almost seems stupid to expect anything better from him at this point. Maybe when he cuts the gimmicks and the faux-nostalgia of last decade he can release a worthwhile album, until then I’ll be throwing his albums out the window. I guess that’s why they call it “window pane.”
SCORE – 3.3
FAVORITE TRACKS – Bad Guy, Rhyme or Reason, Rap God, Love Game