Album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Everyone has a select few artists which, with a single note or a simple melody, can evoke even the most detailed and immersive forces of nostalgia. For me, Eminem is one of those artists. I will forever remember the day when I was young and going to work with my father for the annual “take-your-child-to-work” day at the bank he worked at in downtown Detroit. That day was the same day I purchased Eminem’s—or Marshall Mathers the second—debut release, Infinite. Since that day, I’ve been hooked on every detail of his music that makes it so unique from other artists populating the hip-hop and rap charts. I experienced the hay day of the early 2000’s—where his material was flawless in every respect—to the low points that plagued the latter parts of the decade and the early points of this one; through thick and thin, I had always felt as if Eminem and I were, at least musically, inseparable—even if it came painstakingly through his releases Relapse and Recovery. However, with the release of the ambitiously-titled MMLP2 (that’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2), the long-dormant Eminem fan boy in me has awoken from its prolonged slumber: MMLP2 is a release which is comprehensive of Eminem’s talent in nearly every light—laden with club-banging singles and controversial, intense tracks, this release is one which will please fans of not just his recent releases, but his classics as well.
I loaded the album into iTunes, added the album art and mentally prepared myself. This is the follow-up to my favorite album by my favorite rapper, I thought. What if this sucks? I was anxious to say the least—perhaps nervous or terrified might be more accurate. However, from the very first line of “Bad Guy,” my fears were assuaged and my anxiety quelled. He’s back, I rejoiced. “Bad Guy” is one of many tracks—“So Much Better” and lead single “Berzerk” among them—that highlight the album’s brilliant production to accompany Eminem’s renowned lyrical prowess. “So Much Better” is bouncy and catchy, while “Bad Guy” is nothing short of addictive. In fact, a majority of the lyrical brilliance of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is laid on a foundation of brilliant beats that combine radio-friendly, club-friendlier bass with hooky instrumentation and sing-a-long dynamics that would put Sesame Street to shame. “Survival” is one such instance—a track which has a radio-friendly chorus that practically begs to be a single, but verses that slice the listener open with some of Eminem’s deepest cuts to date. The best part? Once the listener hears “Survival,” they’ll have a hard time un-hearing it; the song is built on a ground-leveling, anthemic beat that drives the lyrics home like a baseball off of Prince Fielder’s bat.
Fundamentally though, the beauty to be found in Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 lies in the lyrics—after all, it isn’t Eminem’s beautiful voice that keeps us coming back, nor is it necessarily the intricacy of the beats that keeps the listener hooked: it’s what he says. It’s this respect in which the listener can truly rejoice in the return of the Great White American Hope of the hip-hop game. Shy of the lackluster lyrics driving “Berzerk” or the goofy and innately immature “Asshole,” every track on MMLP2 is loaded with the same lyrical ingenuity which was present on the album’s predecessor. As a matter of fact, it’s close relation and constant reference to the “original” Marshall Mathers LP is one of the most wonderful things about the release. For starters, the skit “Parking Lot” picks up right where 2000’s “Criminal” left off—or “Asshole”’s shout-out to “Drug Ballad”—not to mention the entirety of “Bad Guy” and “Rap God” which drip with explicit (in every sense of the word) and subtle references to this release’s Y2K counterpart. Even the quirky track “So Far…” (that wouldn’t work if it were releases by any other artist) throws the odd nod to the Eminem we all know and love—the ones who this release is primarily aimed at—circa 2000.
Oddly enough, the sections where The Marshall Mathers LP 2 seems to fall short are the sections that were released as singles—specifically “Berzerk” and “The Monster.” The former is, to put it simply, boisterous and over-the-top in a way more reminiscent of the more mainstream-aimed Relapse (as opposed to the over-the-top nature of his other material). The latter—“The Monster”—bears witness to Eminem beating the same dead horse he did throughout Recovery and Relapse combined (“Asshole” and “Survival,” I’m looking at you too), and that dead horse is the over-use of the “let’s have a female pop star sing the chorus” strategy. While it does have its merit when employed scarcely, its presence throughout MMLP2 is far from scarce. While it is tiresome, the fact is that Eminem more than makes up for it with “Survival”’s anthemic nature, or “Rap God,” a song that sounds arrogant until the listener actually listens to it—the lyrical magnificence of this track is matched only by the flow with which Eminem weaves his wondrously written words, as if the dictionary was a spool of pure silk and “Rap God” is the blanket from which it is crafted. In light of the magnitude of brilliant, beautiful material Eminem brings to the table throughout the album’s 78-minute run time, the few (if not glaring) shortcomings are at least forgivable—if not ignorable altogether.
Abrasive? Check. Crude? Check. Offensive? You betcha. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is definitely not a family-friendly album: but it doesn’t try to be. For, while Eminem is seen here in his most explicit and care-free light for years, he is also seen in his truest and purest form with relatively little filler. His lyrics are brilliant, his voice catchy and the beats even catchier. It might not be the pure perfection of 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP, but it’s definitely close enough for comfort.
For Fans Of: …It’s an Eminem record.
By: Connor Welsh