The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is the sober Eminem’s strongest project to date, and though it’ll inevitably be compared to his previous works, it’s a radically different direction for the Detroit emcee. Eminem has definitely aged and matured, but the question remains: has his maturity caused him succumb to the mainstream instead of shaping it to suit his needs?
The Marshall Mathers LP dropped in 2000 and became the fastest selling solo album of all time, influencing a whole generation of artists with its unique and in-depth look into the bizarre world of Eminem. The album was sandwiched in between Slim Shady LP and The Eminem Show – two other classic albums that are every bit as influential today as they were a decade ago. The same cannot be said of the Detroit native's latest project, as it haphazardly sways between the old, anger-filled Eminem, whose controversial lyrics shocked listeners, to the sober, mature Eminem attempting to remain relevant in a genre that has clearly evolved since his time at the top. The image he aimed to portray on his last album was that of an evolved artist attempting to redeem his past ways, but this has been tarnished anew by the MMLP2, as half this album is filled with the sort of lyrical content that would have simultaneously outraged and garnered listeners back in the day. At this point, the shtick is getting old, and he can’t seem to escape it.
Still, Eminem shouldn't take all the blame for the album's dysfunctions, as there is no cohesion whatsoever in the production, the beats shuffling between country ("So Far"), EDM ("Asshole") and rock-rap ("Berzerk"). The Rick Rubin-influenced rock-rap tracks, instead of sounding like a throwback to the Beastie Boys era, feels lost in the album, as Eminem gets sucked into (and appears to prefer) the EDM and trap-heavy tracks – genres that his voice and flow just don't seem to fit. As mentioned, the production is scattered, non-cohesive and at times nonsensical, and though it was an honest attempt at a different direction, the album is clearly missing Dre's influence (he was only credited as the executive producer). Though some of the album was produced by Eminem himself, it feels like a failed experiment, as Em's flow, wittiness and generally brilliant wordplay gets lost beneath distracting instrumentals. The don't seem to complement each other.
Despite all the negative aspects of the album, this is the strongest Eminem has sounded lyrically in nearly a decade. Though there are times when he seems lazy with the rhymes, on the whole Eminem he proves he's still one of the best in the game, as evidenced by his verses on "Rap God", particularly his jaw-dropping, fast-paced lines near the end of the track. He seems to have regained his past lyrical mojo (despite the content of some of the lines) by bringing back the rapid-fire delivery and unique bending of syllables that propelled him to the fame in the first place. A reinvigorated energy comes through on this album, although the inclusion of sound-bites from The Marshall Mathers LP makes one pine for the Eminem of 2000 and an album of that quality.
The original Marshall Mathers LP delved into the world of a young, angry and somewhat psychotic Detroit rapper who was both coming to terms with newfound fame and dealing with past issues; Eminem was pissed, and spitting about it on the mic was his therapy. More than a decade later, the act has gotten old and the chastisement of women, the blatant, unnecessary homophobia and the crass jokes are all futile, as it's not the message his last album relayed. Half of the MMLP2 falls in line with his evolved image, the other half being a throwback to an Eminem (Slim Shady) whose "death" he was previously attempting to reiterate. He's clearly trying to find his place in a game that has grown into a beast he can't bring down to Earth, as which he did with the release of The Marshall Mathers LP. With pop culture references, the mocking of celebrities and society and inimitable wordplay, this is indeed a typical Eminem album, but it’s lacking the consistent and genuine anger, strong production and most importantly the cohesion and uniqueness of his previous projects.
(Read all the words to The Marshall Mathers LP 2 at gotbars.com.)