Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
The Marshall Mathers LP 2. It took listening to this album to remind myself how long Eminem has really been around. With having been in the game for at least twenty years, millions of albums sold, and arguably being the most recognizable rapper of our time, the real Slim Shady has stood against the test of time and no album shows that any better than The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
Serving as the follow up to the original Marshall Mathers LP that was released back in 2000, there were very high expectations for this album just off of its title alone, not even mentioning for the artist himself. Eminem went on record to address these expectations and with album, we come to see why and how Eminem keeps the momentum going.
This album kicks off with “Bad Guy,” an album that can be broken into two parts and thankfully so – as far as intros go, the first part of this track was a bit of an uphill battle to follow. The beat itself is pretty scratchy and, as with most of this album, Slim really isn’t saying anything we haven’t heard (many times) before. The second part of this track, however, closes things off with a sound that we’ve come to know through the Eminem Show/Encore era of production. If anything else, this track serves as a pretty good lead in to the overall tone of the album.
As far as production goes, “Rhyme or Reason” is easily one of my favorite tracks of the album. With a nice, smooth, easy to listen to beat, it allows Eminem’s rapid-fire flow to blend in very well. As someone that isn’t a fan of Eminem’s singing – hook or otherwise – I can’t say too many bad things about how this track was handled. I want to say that the credit is due for Rick Rubin, who serves as one of the Executive Producers of this album, but I will get more into that later.
“So Much Better” goes on to serve as a reminder of how honest Eminem could be as an artist. Not only that, but this is one of the better showcases of Eminem’s exaggerated story-telling abilities. A question worth asking is what, if any, the real story is behind the song? It could be taken as some sort of track written with his ex-wife in mind but that’s really in the air.
Next up is “Survival,” a track where Eminem hits as hard this track’s heavy guitar riffs. With a feel similar to Queen’s “We Will Rock You” but with an obvious addition of Slim Shady to the mix, this track is just long enough to remind us what got us listening to Eminem in the first place. Interestingly enough, this flow is very similar to Kendrick Lamar’s, an artist who obviously was influenced by Eminem. It just goes to show what kind of impact Eminem has had throughout the years.
“Legacy” is one of the first tracks that really give credit to this album’s title. It has this really nostalgic Marshall Mathers LP/Eminem Show feel, more specifically a sound similar to Eminem’s “Stan” more than anything else. This time around, Eminem looks back on things as honest as we’d expect him to be but instead of rhyming through the Stan character, he’s speaking aloud in a way that shows that he wants to be appreciated for the legacy he has left behind and continues to build on today.
Despite its name, “Asshole” is definitely a surprising highlight to the album for me. A lot like the expectations I had with this album due to its title (and its artist), I had high hopes with this track due to its Skylar Grey feature. Being a late fan of “I Need A Doctor,” I was glad to see that the Eminem/Grey duo struck gold again this time around. Productively and lyrically, this easily stands as one of the best tracks that this album has to offer. Even though its title may keep it from being a radio single, this track feels almost too good not to pass up.
As it stands, “Berzerk” is my favorite track of this album and yes, the Ren & Stimpy reference played a huge part in that. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with Eminem with a Rick Ruben in his corner. As I mentioned earlier in the review, Rick Ruben serves as an Executive Producer of this album but this track best represents their creative meeting of the minds.
I really liked how Beastie Boys vocals were spliced through the instrumental seeing how, well, instrumental the Beastie Boys were to Hip Hop and more specifically to pave the way for Eminem to be the artist he is today. All and all, I don’t think it would be too strange to say that “Berzerk” is to Eminem what “99 Problems” is to Jay-Z. And for that I just want to state the obvious with saying that Rick Ruben, for all intents and purposes, is a modern-day genius.
Seeing how this song is a little over six minutes long, “Rap God” proved to be the most difficult song to review on this album seeing how there is so much going on here. Just to get it out of the way, this track deserves every ounce of praise that has been thrown its way. With that said, it has been a few years since Eminem released a solo album and in a post Kendrick/Control rap world, it didn’t hurt for Eminem to leave listeners with a reminder of who he is.
Unlike Jay-Z’s “Reminder,” however, Eminem obliterates everything in his path and makes it clear that 8 Mile was more than just a movie and that Eminem is, well, Eminem. With references from Superman to Waka Flaka Flame, it would be no surprise to me that “Rap God” will stand as track of the year for many.
“Brainless” brings things down a bit to the point where I could’ve sworn this came out of Relapse. Not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, but it is only inevitable that the track(s) following the last set of juggernauts would be a tough act to follow. Still…actually, that’s pretty much it. This is a track that really that doesn’t bring much to the table that wasn’t already there. With that said, it stands as an unnecessary addition to the MMLP2 track listing.
I have never been a fan of Eminem – or any rapper for that matter – singing, so it is understandable (at least to me) why I wasn’t a fan of “Stronger Than I Was.” I made it a point to say what I said when I covered “Brainless” and that was so I could emphasize the fact that this album’s main flaw is unfortunately the amount of the filler tracks and this one, in my honest opinion, is one of the biggest examples of that for better or worse.
“The Monster” featuring Rihanna serves as another one of the album’s singles for obvious reasons. I honestly lost count how many times Eminem & Rihanna have collaborated with one another on one another’s albums over the years, but as crazy as it sounds, this is probably one of the better Hip Hop/R&B duos since Ja Rule and Ashanti (yes, I went there). While not quite on the same level of “Love The Way You Lie,” this is a track I wouldn’t mind hearing again here and there but I’m sure the radio will have no problem with that one.
“So Far” is a track where we see Eminem getting his inner Kid Rock on and is a song that grew on me by the second and third listen. Practically begging to be on the Joe Dirt soundtrack, this track is a bit of an ode to White trash that only could Eminem could pull together. Combine that with a snippet of a Schoolly D sample as well as splices of Eminem’s own “The Real Slim Shady” and you’ve got a very well rounded Eminem track.
“Love Game” features Kendrick Lamar and that alone was enough to draw a lot of interest to the track. Two of Dr. Dre’s more prominent apprentices, it was wishful thinking on my part to think that Compton’s Own would produce this track – or anything on this album for this matter – but that didn’t turn out to be the case.
Still, Eminem and Kendrick deliver as expected this time around and while we didn’t get a full blown lyrical holocaust like we heard on “Control” earlier this year, you could hear that both artists were having fun putting this track together. It would be great to hear more from these two, with possible extended collaborations with Slaughterhouse, TDE, and who knows, maybe we’ll see things on the level of Watch the Throne (Good Thing) and Cruel Summer (Okay, maybe better).
“Headlights” is a track that has been a long, long time in the making which really goes to show how long Eminem has been in the game. For as long as I could remember, Eminem has not been shy about airing out the dysfunctional relationship he has with his mother. It’s brutally honest and shows that Eminem not only grew as an artist, but as a person as well. In a twisted sort of way, I relate this song to Kanye West’s “Hey Mama” and if listening to this doesn’t make you think about your own mom or maternal equivalent, then to say that you have deep rooted issues would be quite the understatement.
“Evil Twin” is the track that closes this album out and thankfully, it does on a positive note. Screw Eminem, Slim Shady is unleashed in a way that really feels more fitting for a Slim Shady LP2 than anything else. Eminem openly admits that he doesn’t have any intentions to go in on artists the way he did years ago and while this reminded me quite a bit of Recovery’s “Underground,” this track served more as an glorified outro than anything else. Anything and everything he didn’t get a chance to say earlier on this album as well as anything and everything he felt like touching on again was said here. All in all, it does a great job in closing in overall good album.
When it comes to this album, I’ll openly admit that I did a whole lot of comparisons to Eminem’s past work but with that said, I have a couple of words in my defense. Jay-Z said it best on “On to the Next One” when he said: “Hov on that new shit, niggas like how come? Niggas want my old shit, buy my old album.”
What I take from that is to those who look for more of what an artist had to offer, they should just stick to their older material. While I agree to that to an extent, the main reason why I am a fan of their music is because of their classic material. If MMLP2 came from a brand new artist, chances are that I wouldn’t give it the time of day. It goes without saying that these artists wouldn’t be where they are without their previous works, for better or worse.
With that said, Eminem openly acknowledged the expectations this album would be facing by naming this album the way he did and after being influenced by tracks Stan, The Way I Am, Real Slim Shady, and Kim among others, I justifiably had incredibly high standards for this album.
So, how did it stand up? I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way, but this felt more like “Recovery 2” than anything else. The Marshall Mathers LP-era Eminem is gone, that much is true but at the same time, suggesting that this album as a successor to the 1999 now-classic is a controversial gesture at best.
One of my more obvious issues with this album is the lack of production on Dr. Dre. This happened with Recovery, which wasn’t too bad seeing how that album turned out but I’m not as willing to look the other way this time around. Before I go on, I am well aware that Dr. Dre had a lot going on in his personal life, more than I could ever imagine but with an album as anticipated as MMLP2, I was really hoping for more than just Executive Production credits from Dr. Dre.
Lyrically, I can’t be too ignorant to the fact that it is only natural for Eminem to mature artistically. I mean think about it: if we heard more of the same of his older material, Eminem would come off as an extremely stagnant individual to say the least.
So while part of me appreciates Eminem older bodies of work (save for Encore and Relapse, which is a topic for another day), I am not bias enough to deny the fact that Eminem really went in on this one. More than anything else, this album serves as a Modern Day Marshall Mathers which, ironically, makes its title all the more fitting.