Review Summary: Em may not have been a rap god since 2002, but The Marshall Mathers LP 2 puts him on the right track.
When Eminem announced that his next album would be a sequel to his legendary and undeniable magnum opus The Marshall Mathers LP
, my general response was mixed. Since post-Eminem Show
Slim is, frankly, nothing but an incomprehensible mess, why *** on a classic by releasing an inferior sequel? The original MMLP
was a game-changing album, and the substandard follow-up could tarnish its name. But at the same time, a sequel to his greatest album could be the one thing that drives him to make good music again. Building upon the dark, violent themes of the original might just be what sparks Em's creative outlet again.
The album actually opens up where the original The Marshall Mathers LP
left off; "Bad Guy" is the sequel to "Stan", and just might be one of the best songs on the album. The last two verses are pure excellence, showcasing some of Em's strongest flow on the album. It's a great contrast to the beginning of the song, which contained rather soft delivery and a repetitive beat. Em's storytelling on the track is fantastic though, and keeps you hooked in for the whole track. The skit "Parking Lot" follows, and it picks up at the robbery scene during the end of "Criminal". Eminem is finally shot and killed, and that might be a metaphor for his career. The ghosts of his past have finally caught up with him, and he can’t escape from his hole anymore. After so many horrible misfires, this might be the moment where Marshall gives up and ends his rapping days.
It's not that The Marshall Mathers LP 2
is a bad record; it just seems recycled and forced, taking all of the ideas from the original and reusing them again in an inferior form. In "So Much Better" he reminds us about how much he hates women and dreams of killing them, and if that subject matter seems familiar, it's because it's the same topic that he rapped about in "Kill You". The problem isn't that he's reusing the same subject material in "Kill You", rather, it's the fact that "So Much Better" doesn't do anything to distinguish itself as anything but a rehash of "Kill You". Weak lines like “My life would be so much better if you just dropped dead” prove that Em isn’t even trying to recapture the magic of “Kill You”, rather, he just reuses a subject matter that has been torn to pieces millions of times already. "Rhyme or Reason" tells us that his dad was a dick for leaving him, like we didn't have enough tracks detailing that out for us. Even "Berzerk" tries too hard to be the next "The Real Slim Shady", something that previous songs like "Just Lose It" or "We Made You" already failed at. Taking shots at the ugly Kardashian, Kid Rock and a fat Kevin Ferdeline, while sampling Billy Squire and doing his best Beastie Boys impression do nothing but show how uninspired Marshall has become with his diss tracks. He simply doesn't have the shock value that he used to have, and maybe that's because we've heard it all before.
But where The Marshall Mathers LP 2
suffers the most is… its hooks. Whether it be sung by pop stars, or awfully ‘sung’ by Em himself, too many of the album’s choruses drag their song down. “Rhyme or Reason” samples “Time of the Season” by The Zombies, and it seems completely out of place and forced (Eminem’s weak singing doesn't help matters either). The hook of “Survival” recycles old clichés like ‘survival of the fittest’ and ‘the winner takes it all’, and the track’s overall sound is one that wouldn’t be out of place on Recovery
, since his pissed-off delivery and tone haven’t changed at all. “The Monster” and “Asshole” feature Rihanna and Skylar Grey, respectively, and they’re easily some of the weakest tracks on the album. The former is the most radio-friendly song Em has released; its beat is one that sounds like it was off a pop record, while the chorus is typical Rihanna. Meanwhile, the latter suffers from horrible production and weak lyrical material. The album hits rock bottom at the Rick Rubin-produced "So Far...", which tries to be unique by adding in the guitar riff from Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good" in the background. However, it's completely out of place and doesn't fit in well with the rest of the song. To make matters worse, the song opens up with Em parodying "Life's Been Good", and the result is nothing short of cringe-worthy.
The thing is, when Marshall is on point, he produces some of the best material he's made in a while. "Rap God" has some of the best delivery on the album, and it's nice to see Em rap twenty words per second. Unfortunately, the beat is pretty repetitive and weak, and is easily the worst thing about the track. "Headlights” sees Mr. Mathers do something he’s never done before – apologize to his mother. After all the *** that he said about her, it’s heartwarming to see him be the bigger man and not hold on to past grudges. It’s one of the few songs that bring something new to the table, and because of that, it’s a highlight in the weak latter end of the album. “Legacy” shows the best of Em’s emotional side, and the striking piano chords hit all the right notes, adding to the sentimental factor of the track. The album closes its narrative with “Evil Twin”, a number that showcases one of the best beats on the record, wicked flow and nice lyricism. The track ends with a shocking revelation that exposes Eminem and Slim Shady to be no different (perhaps setting us up for a The Slim Shady LP 2
The Marshall Mathers LP 2
is a tough album to judge; Eminem has made some of the best raps since The Eminem Show
, and when he’s at the top of his game, there’s no stopping him. However, there are way too many weak tracks that prevent this from being a great album. As a sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP
, it hardly lives up to the standard set by his classic third effort, but honestly, did anyone expect it to? The Marshall Mathers LP 2
is inconsistent, it's experimental, and its hooks are grating, but it's a step in the right direction for Eminem. This album won't define his legacy, but if this is the last record Marshall ever puts out, he'll retire knowing that he ended his career with his strongest effort in the last ten years.