Review Summary: You see I'm just Marshall Mathers...
The MM LP is a "classic" for various reasons. One is because Eminem is so good. Time and time again, Eminem has completely topped charts worldwide. In just a matter of three years, he became the single fastest-selling solo artist of all time. The Marshall Mathers LP was the turning point in the white rapper's career: it broke through all kinds of boundaries and unleashed a new kind of fire in the genre that exploded onto the scene. It was completely and entirely different: it was vulgar, hilarious, and somber, somehow intertwining together in a fabulous package, finding a subversive way to punch through the taboos, with style. It broke all charts for a solo artist in a single year. It's the strongest adrenaline punch in the rap genre since 2pac's All Eyez on Me and Nas's Illmatic.
And it continues to hit the ball out of the park, nearly ten years later. The lyrical fire is explosive in the MM LP, with sick rhyme flows and ferocious details that would impress anybody, speechless, intertwining with extremely odd and catchy beats and excellent, crisp production. For the most part, Marshall Mathers LP highly impresses. For the most part, Marshall Mathers LP is a journey, radiating with sheer originality and infinite rhymes.
The album kicks off with the skit Public Service Announcement 2000
. It's basically the same as it was on Slim Shady LP, just with more language and a warning: this album is explicit. It's humorous to hear it: especially with the ironic last line, Em's message to the public: Sue me. After the intro, the album kicks off with Kill You
. It was an interesting mix of three-second keyboard beats and glockenspiel picks, then it stops, and kicks off again. It's not an impressive track by any means. It's good, having some really good rhymes (Put your hands down, bitch, I'm not gonna shoot you / I'm gonna pull you to this bullet, and put it through you), but it becomes pretty boring after the first verse.
Thankfully, up comes the third song, an extraordinary work of art. Stan
. This puts on Eminem's poetic and storytelling talent on feature in amazing detail, it completely melts into your mind when you're done. This tells the story of a volatile fan, named Stan. It's a perfect example of a follower gone wrong: he's addicted to everything Em does or says. The first two verses are written in letter form, with Stan writing to his hero (did I mention he's violent to his pregnant girlfriend") over heavy sound effects, such as tapping rain and scratching pencils. The third verse is hauntingly likable, with Stan finally going over the edge and taking his own life by driving off a bridge with his girl in the trunk, and the fourth verse is Em writing back to Stan too late, and the chorus is a harrowing sample of Dido's "Thank You". It's pure modern day art and poetry, forget what the media says. An absolute masterpiece.
The next song that follows up is the grand "Who Knew
". Over an odd mix of a heavy bassline and cymbal tapping, Eminem spits and sprays without going over the top, dealing with his responses to hypocrisy and media outrages against him, basically a "f/ck you" to them. A nice surprise, with one of the most amusing lines in rap history ("But don't blame me when lil' Eric jumps off of the terrace / You shoulda been watchin him - apparently you ain't parents). The next song is utterly terrific: The Way I Am
, an incredible piece of work, a song that bakes in its own hostility. Over a gothic beat mix of arpeggios, an unforgiving piano melody, and bells, Em lashes out masterful insults, a song that is 100% angry.
The Real Slim Shady
is the first single, and the most popular song, on the album. Over an almost cartoony keyboard beat, with Em taking on the Slim Shady persona again. It's almost identical to My Name Is, in several ways, but unlike My Name Is, it doesn't wear off as much, and isn't as over-the-top or ridiculous, but it's not up to his standards. On the upside, the fade-out clarinet instrumental is mesmerizing. Remember Me"
is a little more tolerable. Over a strange combination of creepy sounds, like the spray of graffiti, drum taps, bass riffs, and almost bell-like beats. To add to the awkwardness, there's two unneeded appearances from RBX and Sticky Fingaz. Their verses are acceptable, but this song is not superior by any means.
Thankfully, I'm Back
is the best song Em has taken on as the Slim Shady persona on the album. This one is Em dealing with his effect on the music industry. Containing one of the best riffs in Em's career, an odd mix of bass tempos and DJ spins, I'm Back is a surprising breath of fresh air. I used to give a - ***, now I could give a *** less / What do I think of suc-cess" / It sucks, too much press I'm stressed / Too much stares two breasts, too upset / It's just too much mess")
But one of the important standout moments of the entire album is the infamous title track, Marshall Mathers
. Over a haunting RBX-V7 acoustic (strangely similar to Still Don't Give a F/ck in SS LP), Em picks up on various subjects, such as his responses to ridiculous disses against him, family neglect, media controversy, but he does it in such a way that makes it extremely different from everything Em has ever done, Stan and Kim aside, even including an amazing four-note fade-out guitar solo at the end. Definitely a track for the ages.
It is, however tracks 12-14 where it starts to go back down. The Ken Kaniff skit is not only piss-poor and rushed, but grotesque and homosexual. So, I'll skip that. Drug Ballad
is a mish-mash that further expands the canvas of drug referencing into ridiculous rhymes and verses. Amityville
is a mixed bag. Over a unique 70's garage drum and mainstream bass sample of "Sorcerer of Isis" by Power of Zeus, the music in the background is actually quite good. Bizzare's appearance is completely vulgar and unneeded, and the comparison between the infamous town and the poor Detroit feels a bit awkward, despite the catchy chorus. (I did laugh when Em rhymes in the third verse, "This isn't Detroit, this is muthaf/kin Hamburger Hill!)
B*tch Please 2
is also a notable song. Containing an inspired deeeeep guitar line and crushing piano melodies by the doctor himself (Dre), Eminem is barely featured in this song. A total of four guest stars pop up: Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Xzibit get their own verses, and Nate Dogg sings the chorus. Snoop and his ilk do a great job at keeping verses entertaining, each being killer in its own unique way, with Eminem JUST scraping by in the end (though there's one hilarious line: Oh, you want me to tone it down" Then he lowers the pitch: Suck my f*kin d**k you faggot, is killer)
is probably the single most concept-defying song in rap history, probably of all time. It's a violent, emotional, odd story that is downright haunting. It's a nightmare within a nightmare. It tells the story of Eminem screeching at Kim for betraying him (she got pregnant without Em knowing), over a hauntingly evil piano line, a powerful drum sample from "When The Levee Breaks", and an emotionally twisted violin loop, and a remarkable ending, where Eminem cuts his own ex-girlfriend, and screeches "NOW BLEED BITCH BLEED! BLEEEEEEEEEED!". It's almost too unbelievable for words.
Unfortunately, Under The Influence
follows. It's another D12 song, as the whole group shows up alongside, rapping about how drugs have had an effect on their lives, and it completely loses any aggression and mournful nature, replaces it with downright stupidity. That's not to say it's all bad: Kon Artis and Eminem do a particularly good job, and the thumping bass melody is quite good: but it's overall filler.
And so comes the ending track, Criminal
. It introduces something new on the album: able to be extremely humorous, playful even, but manage to be encased in a great mix of violence and twistedness, not to mention a great mid-song "skit" where Em and Dr. Dre rob a bank.
The Marshall Mathers LP is NOT perfect. It's sometimes vulgar and otherwise over-the-top (You can forget the Ken Kaniff skit, Drug Ballad, and Amityville). But, The Marshall Mathers LP is an absolute classic. It's one of the single most influential albums of all time, both in the rap genre and in music itself. It's a cultural classic amongst many, and the success of the album was cataclysmic. It's witty, intelligent, humorous, scary, somber, and poetically inventive: it uses every bit of its potential to the fullest. So a 5 sounds just about right.
I don't exactly have the right to choose a standout, but the most definitive track would have to be Marshall Mathers. If you're looking for a well-written song, funny or somber, Stan
and The Way I Am
can please. For the SS LP fans, I'm Back
is a must.