Review Summary: Remember Me?
It must really suck to be Eminem nowadays. First of all, you're considered, by some, one of the brightest and most lyrically talented young star of our generation, and one of the most controversial. Because of your first three records (sans the demo Infinite, but I qualify it as the first), you're the fastest selling artist of the decade, and they solidified you in the world of rap as a superstar: and we need Eminem. Most remember the Slim Shady LP as one of the most incredibly witty rap albums released of its respective decades, and Marshall Mathers LP, this album, as one of the biggest selling albums of all time, an infamous sophomore attempt. Given its historical status (the fastest-selling rap album of all time), I highly recommend listening to Marshall Mathers LP without setting your expectations high, as that could be the best way to enjoy it.
Because The Marshall Mathers LP is good: it's really bloody good at numerous times. It's witty, lyrically complex, and well-produced. But every album Eminem has released has had expectations like none other: critics expect the album to be better than the next, possibly one of the reasons Encore was a bomb. This is a totally new take from the SS LP: totally ditching the Slim Shady persona altogether (sans The Real Slim Shady), and revealing a more chaotic atmosphere. Considering my undeniable respect for this white rapper, it may sound better on paper than it does in practice. But this is the other way around.
The album is dark, and haunting at times: it's not easy to listen to by any means. Eminem, in this album, consistently refers to himself as homophobic (Criminal), overly violent (Amityville), unstable (Under the Influence and I'm Back), and a misogynist, more than once (Kill You and Kim), not to mention a hell of a temper (The Way I Am). The production is heavier than the more playful Slim Shady LP, and more cutting-edge: such as the piteous acoustic work in "Marshall Mathers", the heavy use of sound effects and numerous instruments in "Stan", or the gritty, more odd mix of sounds in "Remember Me".
That being said, the fact that the MM LP isn't the happiest album is acceptable. In fact, it knows where to draw a limit. The first half of SS LP was more out-of-order than before ("I spit when I talk / *** anything that walks"), and sometimes resulted to shock tactics. There are still some of the funniest put-downs in rap history featured here, a great example shown in the last moments of the album in particular, that speaks volumes about the album's atmosphere, and a different view on life ("All I ever see is sissies in magazines smiling / Whatever happened to wiling out and being violent?"), interestingly enough. Moments like these are far from sparse in Mathers' second release, best proven in songs such as "Stan" and "Kim".
While it is incredibly gritty, MM LP is not perfect. One of the biggest flaws would have to be shock tactics that are laced in the album. An example is the Ken Kaniff skit, which is arguably an audio skit of a blowjob. D12 pops up in "Under the Influence", and while the song has some of the best lines on the album (Proof is able to perfectly rhyme flashback with other words 13 times), there is some real sludgy lines that are here, whereas the frantic speed of SS LP was nonstop. RBX and Sticky Fingaz's sludgy rapping brings down the gritty atmosphere in "Remember Me", and Bizarre could of been slashed from "Amityville". The album seems slow at first, and takes time to build, Stan aside. The second half is arguably more hardcore than the first six or seven tracks, and while the skits don't detract, the album would of been fine without.
There's also a slight, if not very, repetition that can pop up at times. Case in point: the words Double Barrel Gauge are repeated three times (Under the Influence, Marshall Mathers, B**ch Please 2), the skits are basically the same from SS LP (the Paul skit in particular), and Eminem brings up violence against women twice in the album (Kim and Kill You), the former more of an accomplishment in the face of music. If not, the fact that Marshall Mathers LP completely broke boundaries, of what you can and can't do in rap, made it an enjoyable listen.
The MM LP is still a highly enjoyable listen to a highly commercial album. I had never listened to it for years, thinking it was overrated and the hype was too much: but this album is brilliant in terms of wit, intelligence, and writing skill. If you're able to perfectly rhyme "Fag or lez", "Chris Wallace", and "mentally ill" more than twice, you know you're at the top of the game, or at least more so than others. Much thanks to Dr. Dre's talented hand in production, the album sounds incredible, more nostalgic than recent albums. And although the flaws are easily able to spot, some more than others, and it is more of a revelation than it is a majorly successful album, because this is the sound Marshall had been trying to get since Soul Intent.
It's a shame he got worse from here.
4 / 5
Witty, intelligent, hilarious
The gritty production of the brilliant Dr. Dre
Some shock tactics used
Guest stars can be a bit sludgy