Review Summary: The tragedy of Eminem.
Its difficult to understand what exactly happened to Eminem. I listened to Encore and there were times I thought it was literally a joke. I mean, the Eminem-norm is this very serious guy who, by the way he raps and his overall persona, wants to be taken seriously. But at the same time, am I really supposed to take a guy serious who wants me to stick a gerbil in his ass through a tube? I get it, there are those immature moments of the "Slim Shady" side of him that I guess we are supposed to laugh at. And I understand that, I do. But when it was done on The Slim Shady LP it was that two-sided, "I don't know whether to laugh because its a joke or to to be disturbed that Slim Shady might literally be telling Grady to stab her, grab her by the throat and kidnap her." It created this genuine interest that kept the listener intrigued. Then there was the socially conscious Marshall Mathers seen on MMLP who you listened to and realized that he understood how crazy he sounded with lines like "In the paper/ the news everyday I am/ Radio won't even play my jam/ 'Cause I am, whatever you say I am."
But as I look back to my thoughts on those albums, I realized what happened to post-2000 Eminem. He, simply put, became uninteresting. Encore didn't feel polarizing at all, it felt plagiarized; performed by some guy trying to be shockingly funny but you could tell that he was trying to do so. Relapse felt like Eminem realized this, but just couldn't do anything on the album that felt fresh at all, just kind of making another new
Eminem song. And while Recovery showed us the socially conscious Eminem that knew his past 2 albums we're horrible, he still couldn't really do anything besides say "I'm sorry" and even with that apology there wasn't a promise of anything better that followed it. Sure he said he would try to be better, but he never gave us a reason to believe it was possible. You see, Eminem thrived on his personality. That psychotic figure who you couldn't predict. And MMLP2 shows us that he is out of ideas to make himself anything but uninteresting.
MMLP2 proves this with every idea that the next song brings. "Rhyme or Reason" shows us that Eminem seems to think that we forgot that his upbringing was difficult, and was the reason he is crazy. Again
. "So Much Better" shows us that Eminem has a distaste for woman. A subject that has never been brought up in an Eminem song ever. And then there is the case of "Berzerk." Possibly the worst song of 2013, it finds Eminem calling out multiple subjects and people. Call-outs include the "Ugly Kardashian," Lamar Odom and Eminem saying that K-Fed is... overweight. It's not even the boring call-outs that make this song completely horrid, that would be to undercut the weight of the term horrid and its synonyms. Its the call-outs, the laughably out of place Billy Squier sample, the overall Beastie Boys-esque production that does not go with Eminem's flow at all, the eye-rolling pop chorus that's been plaguing Eminem since Relapse, and just the overall subject in general. The first line, "This shi
ts about to kick off/ this party looks wack" essentially is saying that the rap game is in bad shape and then proceeds to to say that its time to take it back to scratch which I assume is the reasoning for the sample. I assume that is the rational excuse for the horrendous sample. Its making me cringe just thinking about it. Yes, the rap game is wack Eminem. Its wack because of this song and this album. Elsewhere we see Em beating his chest(Rap God) and trying to survive in the rap game(Survival).
And the thing is, we've seen Eminem use the same concepts and still have the ability to make it interesting with the way he used his flow. Technically, Eminem has always been great, and could still make songs listenable just because of the way he contorted his flow, especially seen on Relapse. But that part of his game is almost completely lost here. The first and second verse of Bad Guy is poorly done to the point that I found myself wanting to skip it, which is made worse because the second half of "Bad Guy" is done really well. The production rising in the final verse and the insertion of police sirens to go along with Eminem tone actually changing makes it interesting, which is a complete contrast to the first half's boring flow and samey beat. But aside from this part and Eminem flexing his muscles on the last verse of "Rap God" where its cool to hear Eminem rap in lightspeed, the album more times than not finds itself in a very awkward state. There are many times when Eminem stops mid bar seemingly because he was spitting words out too quickly forcing him to take these really odd pauses while he waits for the beat to catch up. Its not a purposely done flow, its incidental; like the beat and Eminem just don't know how to coincide. And its not even that the samples are bad, because "Rhyme or Reason" is a really cool sample and so is the Fontana sample found on "Love Game," they just should have never found their way on a song with Eminem. Its a problem that plagues the album throughout. The Rick Rubin and Eminem pairing is very reminiscent to Lou Reid and Metallica. One that might have sounded good on paper, but once they got into the studio a light bulb should have appeared that maybe this isn't whats best for the album.
Marshall Mathers 2 is an album that I actually had some sort of hope for. But as I listened to each song I realized that it was a false hope conceived solely because of its name. Its sad, really, to see a titan such as Eminem die in a way such as this. I found myself feeling legitimately sorry for Eminem as I made it to the end of the album. The reason, much like what he is worrying about on "Legacy," is the question. And that question is this: What will Eminem be remembered for? There is no more hope after this album for Eminem ever improving, as this is more than likely his last album. So what is Eminem? That is the question the MMLP2 raised to me. Is he that rapper who has been lost for 13 years on what made him great? Or is he that guy that made SSLP and MMLP? Maybe I'll just go back and listen to the Marshall Mathers LP to remind myself that there was a point in time where he could have actually proclaimed himself "Rap God" without any snide remarks. Maybe I'll listen to those 2 albums and imagine 2013 Eminem never happened. Maybe he died in 2000. Maybe we are left to ask the "what if" question. "What if" he had lived past 2000, would there be more great Eminem albums? Instead we're left here in a universe where Eminem is very much alive and we don't have to ask the what if question. The question's already been answered. And its an answer that Eminem simply can't come to grips with.