Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Record Label: Shady/Aftermath
Release Date: November 5, 2013
A few years ago, Eminem established himself once again as a dominant artist with the album Recovery, conveying a tone of pride and sobriety. This safer, more mature and agreeable shift in direction has also forced his colorful but virulent alter-ego Slim Shady to hide in the shadows. Yet, in The Marshall Mathers LP 2, a revisit to his immensely successful album, The Marshall Mathers LP, he reverts back to his old ways, sticking close under the wing of the formula that fueled his career for over a decade. This means that the same intricate lyrics, sharp on-point delivery and stunning word-play are still intact and up for display. He's multi-dimensional, mercurially emotional, cutely playful and at times brutally merciless toward his enemies and targets as you've come to expect. It also means that the content and subject matter of the album varies from nostalgic to dated.
From the beginning, "Bad Guy" is a sequel to his hit "Stan", which moves the lens to the perspective of Matthew who wants to exact revenge on Eminem for influencing brother Stan's suicide. Shortly after, a skit details exactly what happens after Slim Shady robs and kills a bank teller at gun point (following-up the song "Criminal"). At the end of this roughly 80-minute long album, Marshall Mathers and his alter-ego trade bars with each other in the intense song "Evil Twin", drawing similarities and contrasts with each other. This all sounds like fan service, because it is. Needless to say, if you weren't a fan of The Marshall Mathers LP, you probably won't enjoy The Marshall Mathers LP 2 that much, but if you did, you may very well take these homages kindly.
Characteristic of Eminem are also his vulgar lyrics, which unfortunately still aim at women and gays, and there are no shortage of them here. An entire song, "So Much Better" is a misogynistic diatribe against an unnamed woman, and he liberally uses slurs such as "f**got" which re-open old wounds between him and the gay community. In MMLP2's predecessor, explicit and provocative words were used as a grisly form of satire which accused American society of poor parenting, having a double standard on censorship between music and movies, as well being oblivious toward fantasy and reality within music. However, they serve no such purpose here, are unnecessary and inspire a dull feeling of déjà vu rather than any laughter or shock value.
The controversies that defined the turn of the 21st century are lightly touched upon here, as well as the controversies within the past album. The gap between his misogynistic lyrics and him being a father of a young daughter is addressed more than once. It is disappointing when on occasion an issue such as unfortunate nature of mass shootings (in songs like "A***ole" and "Rap God") is explained in a single sentence, but then the subject is immediately changed as if these kinds of statements were never said. "The Monster" featuring Rihanna, for example, talks about the troubles of mental illnesses yet fails to explain them in as deep of a manner as their previous collaboration "Love The Way You Lie" vividly explained abusive dysfunctional relationships. If you are fond of the original MMLP, you'll also note the many times he subtly refers to older lyrics he's written.
There isn't much detail to be found when it comes to outwardly attacking societal conventions, but when it comes to honest introspection of his shortcomings, past and personal issues, this is where Marshall Mathers thrives. If the first MMLP is an album made to fire away at society, MMLP2 points the gun inward. It is a jumbled hodge-podge of many different ideas, but one theme that does remain constant is Eminem's childhood and how the absence of his father affected him. The song "Headlights", is an apology toward his mother for the angry malicious lyrics in his older songs such as "Cleaning Out My Closet" which he admits crossed the line. It also bilaterally depicts his bother as a flawed human being but also a victim of her circumstances who tried her best to raise her kids.
Some of the songs on the record seem as if they were placed to add a semblance of variety or to expand the demographic that this album appeals to. This also conceptually muddles the album. "Berzerk" is a catchy anthem to return to old school hiphop, yet it's at odds with more modern songs such as "Survival" (a promotional single for the video game Call of Duty: Ghosts). Sample-based songs like "Love Game" (featuring Kendrick Lamar) and "Rhyme or Reason" are distinct, but also feel alien to the rest of the album. It's safe to say that MMLP2 doesn't try to be an album with a single focus, but rather tries its hand at a variety of things and touches upon it's predecessor on occasion. It's not a sequel, as much as it is an appendix. It provides closure toward any loose ends, whether they be serious, comical or outrageous.
MMLP2 is a success from a technical perspective, but confused and tired from an artistic one, as it's not really focused. If you can ignore it's inconsistencies, you can certainly appreciate the many parts of the album which are genuine and genuinely entertaining. Lyrically, he's returned to his old prime and at mid-age and it's entertaining to see him still revel in wickedness of his alter-ego, staying faithful to the course he had set years ago. At the same time, it's also apparent that he's hinged himself upon it with little way of escape. In the end, dedicated fans who have been hungrily waiting over the years for Slim Shady to make his return, will love this nostalgic retread. Everyone else might find parts of this act dated and less effective than they were 13 years ago, but there are still plenty of good tunes to enjoy here.
Overall Rating: 7/10
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