The Marshall Mathers LP 2
It might surprise some of you that a metal guy like me actually anticipated this new album from the now global rap superstar, Eminem. But you might have also never known that I grew up listening to his music and have heard every album that he’s made since 1990’s Infinite. My personal favorite album has always been the first Marshall Mathers LP, as I got into the darker content of that record. Calling this a sequel and a return to form was a bold move on his part, but I’m happy to say that some of these songs do manage to capture some of the less popular themes that got him controversy in the first place. (Some might say that his fame came from that controversy.)
I think that the album’s bipolar opener “Bad Guy” says it best, experimenting with hip hop music by combining two distinct songs into one. This is a very unprecedented move for the rapper, but then when you see his experiments in rock like “Survival (feat. Liz Rodriguez)” and “Berzerk” you’ll start to notice that he’s really branching out. Yet there’s also “So Far…,” which seems to be a mix of southern rock and hip hop, and several more tracks full of the pop-influenced material that saturated Recovery. While Skylar Grey (“Asshole”) and Rhianna’s (“The Monster”) contributions might help his music to reach various pop circles, they sure won’t win him any points with the core hip hop audience. So yeah, you’ll have to put up with those songs despite how damn catchy they are – let’s face it, you came for a hip hop record, not a pop album. However, I definitely need to pinpoint “Rap God” as one of the best overall vocal performances I’ve ever heard from the man; it’s definitely the disc’s standout and many seem to agree on that. The vocal delivery here is an unreal, million mile an hour lesson in lyrical poetry akin to Busta Rhymes in some aspects. I didn’t know he had it in him to be honest, and I’m quite fucking impressed.
There are a few darker, more personal songs on the record like “So Much Better,” “Legacy,” and the album’s heart attack moment, “Headlights (feat. Nate Ruess).” This song is a tribute to his mother, who’s now suffering with cancer and it’s very much the antithesis of the now classic “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” which he references in the track, citing disgust when he hears it. He has also since removed the track from all of his live performances. I do believe that it will be a blow-up hit for him and he might even wind up performing it on the Grammys. The song is definitely of radio quality and should be hitting the airwaves eventually. Of course you’ve also got “Rhyme or Reason,” which references the same song (The Zombies – “Time of the Season”) that Necro also used on The Sexorcist (“Who’s Ya Daddy?”), as well as the party hit “Berzerk” and the slight horrorcore of “Brainless.” At least he’s trying to go back into that style somewhat, culminating in “Evil Twin.” Finally, the album’s got an unexpected moment in “Don’t Front (feat. Buckshot),” which sounds like it’s an outtake from Infinite. No one expected old school hip hop to surface on this album, but it did. And I can think of no better way to close the disc than that.
If you’ve got the bonus disc, there are five more tracks that I want to cover. “Baby” was definitely good enough to be on the original album, with its dark nature and is vintage Eminem for sure. “Desperation (feat. Jamie N. Commons)” was an odd turn for him though, mixing hip hop with what sounds like southern tinged modern rock. Some people might even think its country. But whatever it is, it didn’t work. “Groundhog Day” is one of the weirder tracks on the album, with “Beautiful Pain (feat. Sia)” being a very odd B-side. This song elicits the same feel as Rhianna first did on her appearance of Recovery for “Love The Way You Lie.” Another thing that I noticed about this one is how much Sia sounds like Rhianna in the track, and it’s so much of a resemblance that Rhianna should probably be talking to her lawyers about it. At any rate, this one could have been a major radio hit as it’s quite catchy and I think that Sia’s performance here is just too memorable to leave as a simple cast off. The last bonus track is “Wicked Ways (feat. X-Ambassadors),” which seems to feature the same gentleman responsible for the radio hit “Radioactive.” It is obviously another pop hit, on a disc that is about a quarter full of them.
However you want to spin it, Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 is definitely one of the rapper’s most unique and different albums yet. It really shows his maturation as an artist and how he is continuing to push hip hop music as far into the mainstream as it can possibly go. Some of you may hate, abhor and loathe this idea, but it’s most certain that he’ll definitely have no problems paying his bills for several decades to come. (Eric May)