When an artist releases a singled entitled Rap God, it all but invites critics to come flocking like carrion crows. But when the artist behind the audacious title is one of the most venerated veterans of hip-hop music, criticism gives way to worship. So is the case for Eminem. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 marks the return of Mr. Mathers in a powerful way. And, like he has been known to do for over fifteen years, no subject is taboo and no one is safe.
The last time audience heard from Em, he was in a place of emotional and physical Recover; still producing brilliant music, but more melancholy than the usual fury for which he is known. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is the farthest thing from that! This album, like its namesake, is a mixture of ostentatious beats, acidic flow and lyrics so absurd that they inspire rounds of laughter and sheer pleasure. With this latest offering, the audience gets a chance to explore the delightful mania in the mad-genius mind of Marshall Mathers.
From the opening song, this album has the quality of classic Em. Bad Guy immediately situates us in a crime in process. Intentionally mysterious in the beginning, towards the third verse of the song it is revealed that the narrator is Matthew Mitchell, the revenge-seeking brother of the infamous Stan. The song crescendos into a grandiose sound that reveals this distorted internal conversation that seems to be destroying and recreating all the many personas- Eminem, Marshall Mathers, Slim Shady, even Stan- that have made up the cast of Ems music. Successfully recapturing the lightning trapped in a bottle, this song reminds us of all that made Eminem a hip-hop staple. Not only does this album feature epic, if not disturbing, storytelling , there are also frightening and violent skits, hilarious word play (with a nod to a certain small, green Jedi master from a galaxy far away), playful digs at pop culture (no Backstreet Boys in 2013? Thats fine, theres Justin Bieber) and some of the same weighty content of dealing with a broken family that made Eminem a relatable figure from the very beginning.
But as to not paint a picture of a rapper trapped by his own success, fans who have been listening to Eminem for years can appreciate the growth and development present in this album. While his verses still land devastating blows, you also can hear a tone of a remorse, reflection and forgiveness throughout the album. The result is a mature Eminem that instead of being full of blind, raging fury, is focused on his Legacy.
Musically, this album has excellent samples that add resonance. By brilliantly borrowing from other genres like The Zombies and Joe Walsh, or even hip-hop throw-backs like The Beastie Boys, Eminem goes further to steep the sound of the album in nostalgia. Indeed, adding even a further level of nuance, Em finds ways to sample himself, bringing in sounds and lyrics of such powerhouse hits like Criminal, Lose Yourself, and My Name Is. The decisive move to eschew the sounds of the times shows an Eminem above the fray of selling records, instead deciding to capture and recapture his audience with vintage Em.
Nonetheless, he does know the strength in collaboration to help expand his base while still making soulful music. Having experienced previous success with songstresses Skylar Grey and Rihanna, both have been invited back for the melodic A**hole and the energetic The Monster, respectively. Crown Prince of Hip-Hop Kendrick Lamar comes through on Love Game, matching Em with absurdity in lyrics, pound-for-pound. But the most significant feature comes from fun.s Nate Reuess on Headlights.
Headlights is a painful, poignant tribute and apology to Mathers mother, Debbie. This is easily the most touching song on the album, as his relationship with his mother has been previously marked by vitriol and poison. This record differentiates the Marshall Mathers from 2000 and the Mathers of today. A song that is as much reflexive of his soul searching as his skills as a songwriter, Headlights comes towards the end of the album as a complete showstopper.
Without a doubt, The Marshall Mathers 2 LP is a worthy sequel of its thirteen-year old predecessor. Oscillating between bawdy lyrics and piercing moments, this album is well assembled. For all the controversy that has marked Eminems career, at the center of his brilliance has always been his music. And with this album, so fully animated, Em sounds like he is in a healthy space, still able to create music that is relevant, relatable, and reflexive. Hail to a true legend, Rap God Eminem.
Best Tracks: Bad Guy, The Monster, Headlights
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Track 1: Bad Guy
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Track 12: The Monster
Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 2 Track 15: Headlights
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