Marshall Mathers returns with his first solo album in three years. He couldn’t have put more expectations on the album after revealing the title as The Marshall Mathers LP 2, the sequel to one of the greatest and most influential Hip-Hop albums of all-time. The last few years have been kind to Eminem commercially, but critically it has been another story. The mainstream listeners have loved his “Love The Way You Lie” and “Not Afraid” Pop-Rap songs, but in the process of gaining these radio listeners, Em has alienated his core fanbase. He hasn’t been the Slim Shady of old. After hearing the album title and how Kendrick Lamar’s wonderful album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, inspired him in the making of this record, hopes that the old Eminem had returned was at an all-time high.
MMLP2 is one of the most Jekyll and Hyde records I have ever heard. When it’s good, Eminem reaches brilliance that only the Detroit native could reach but when the album is bad, he just sounds horribly uninspired. The majority of the album is very enjoyable and some of it is downright brilliant. “Bad Guy” is an outstanding start to the record. The song has the Pop-ish hook that the world is used to from Eminem at this point, but it’s not overbearing or too radio friendly. It works on this song. When the second verse starts, it feels like the original Marshall Mathers LP. There’s no other way to put it: Eminem went crazy on this track. It’s the sequel to Stan – arguably Eminem’s most famous song – from Stan’s younger brother’s viewpoint. This is Em’s best song in five years, no competition.
“Rhyme Or Reason” and “So Much Better” continue the absolutely brilliant start to the album. This is the Eminem the rap world wants. He sounds fun, unhinged and back to his very best. The Zombies sample on “Rhyme Or Reason” is worked in perfectly alongside the insane lyrics. “Survival” was the first track that dropped from the album and it’s still as underwhelming as the first I listened to it: an uninspired Eminem rapping around a Skylar Grey hook. This track epitomizes one of the main problems with the album. Eminem has all these great lyrics and punchlines, but the hooks take away a lot of the appeal from the songs. “Asshole” and “Legacy” are lyrically great, but these pop choruses are annoying and grate after a few listens.
The album gets back on track with “Berzerk” and “Rap God”. The former, a blistering 90’s rap tribute and the latter, a six-minute onslaught. While both tracks are enjoyable, both suffer from dated references like Kevin Federline and the Fabolous/Ray J drama. This is unlike Em who usually has his finger right on the pulse of Pop culture. “Rap God” also suffers from a very needless hook, time that could be filled with even more bars of fury. “Brainless” joins the first three tracks as one of the best on the album. Allusions to being a serial killer and violence are littered throughout this song.
The next few songs are when the album hits its lowest point. “The Monster” is a boring attempt to rehash the appeal of “Love The Way You Lie” while “Stronger Than I Was” and “So Far” are almost unlistenable due to their sheer cringe factor. If these three tracks were cut from the album, Marshall Mathers LP 2 could push for one of the best rap albums of the year, even with the poor hooks on a few other songs, but these three kill any chance of that.
The most talked about track on the lead-up to the album, and definitely will be now that it’s been released, is the Kendrick Lamar-featuring “Love Game”. This track is awesome. It’s not what anyone expected and that was really cool. You could imagine this playing in a 50’s dinner. A video for this could be hilariously brilliant. A lot of people will detest this song, but it’s something different to what we expected and that is something that is tough to pull off nowadays.
The album closes with the huge anthem “Headlights” and the brilliant, Slim Shady resurrecting “Evil Twin”. “Headlights” is the example of a Pop-Rap record that works. Eminem apologises to his mother on this track, a weird and surreal moment for any long time Eminem fan. Nate Reuss is great on the hook and Eminem sounds mature, but not insincere like he did on “Not Afraid”. “Evil Twin” breathes life into the persona we all know and love, Slim Shady. The final line alludes to the fact that Eminem and Slim Shady are the same, so he’ll never really be gone – a really fitting way to end a very enjoyable album.
This record is probably the closest that the world will ever get to the Eminem that performed with a chainsaw and hockey mask at concerts as well as the BRITS and MTV Awards circa 2000/2001. People need to accept that Eminem isn’t that guy anymore. He’s the biggest rapper in the world and a cultural icon. These Pop songs, while not good, are a necessity for him and this is perhaps Eminem’s best album since his return to Rap four years ago. Is it as good as The Marshall Mathers LP? No. Is it a good, fun album to listen to? Yes. Really, that’s all I want from Eminem at this point.
Purchase: Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (iTunes)
Reviewed by Lee Conway // Edited by Ayo Adepoju