Review: 'Marshall Mathers LP 2' - Eminem Keeps Hip-Hop Alive And Well On MMLP2
November 5th, 2013 10:47am EST
It seems like a decade since hip-hop was considered to be “dead” – well it’s nearly been a decade actually. Nas went so far to memorialize the genre on his 2006 album Hip Hop is Dead. Again, in 2013, we have a rap vet who takes a similar perspective that the genre has fallen on hard times due to playing up dumb, meaningless clichés. While it is arguable (depending on who you ask) whether Eminem is truly the “Rap God” as he asserts, what is true is that rap definitely has its less ‘artistic’ MC’s. In other words, rap has went so ‘stupid’ it’s gone plumb ‘dumb’! Sure, Eminem is known for his twisted sense of humor and irresponsible inappropriateness, but he does possess a gift for words, raw or not. Perhaps not as shocking as the original, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 definitely infuses an injection of creativity and artistry into the game. “God” may push it, but Em is definitely still an MC to beat.
“Bad Guy” unsurprisingly stars MMLP2 with a bang. Eminem holds nothing back, and we… well most of us wouldn’t have it any other way. “Can I hold grudges, mind is saying ‘let it go, f*ck this’ / heart is saying ‘I will, once I bury this b***h alive / hide the shovel and then drive off in the sunset’” (Notice I said ‘most of us’). As always, Eminem has some issues with women, much like he did back-when, and he basically admits it – or Sarah Jaffe does on the hook: “I flee the scene like it was my last ride / you see right through, oh you had me pegged the first time / you can’t see the truth but it’s easier to justify what’s bad is good / and I hate to be the bad guy, I just had to be the bad guy.” Even so, he’s still killing it: “I am your lack of a conscience / I’m the ringing in your ears / I’m the polyps on the back of your tonsils / eating your vocal cords after your concerts…” Yep, he’s a bad guy alright.
After the obligatory skit (“Parking Lot”), “Rhyme or Reason” samples “The Time of the Season”, incorporating that signature Eminem pop-rap. Here, Eminem is still dealing with his various issues, which started at the beginning apparently: “My mother reproduced like a Komodo dragon / and had me on the back of a motorcycle / the crashed in the side of locomotive with rap, I’m loco…” It’s perhaps nothing fans haven’t experienced in some way or the other, but still remains fascinating. “So Much Better” is just that, even more electrifying than the opening duo of full-length tracks. Women get no respect, whether its “…my d**k’s on strike so all that love sh*t is null and void / b***h I’m a droid, I void cupid stupid wasn’t for [use your imagination here] you’d be unemployed…” or “Getting sick of these girls, girls, girls / oink oink oink you f**king pigs…” But he atones for his irresponsibility, sorta at the end: “I’m just playing b***h, you know I love you…” Um…
“Survival” benefits from its old-school hip-hop sound, intact with guitar. The hook is simple but effective, courtesy of Liz Rodrigues: “This is survival of the fittest / this is do or die / this is winner takes it all / so take it all”. As for Em, he raps as if he has a chip on his shoulder for sure: “They say I was washed up, and got a blood bath / I’m not a rapper, I’m an adapter, I can adjust / Plus I can just walk up to a mic and just bust…” You need no chip on your shoulder Em, you (and us) already know you’re the shhh. “Legacy” goes autobiographical, stitched together by opening verse lyric “I used to be the type of kid that, would always think the sky is falling…” Basically, Eminem raps and brags about his ‘come up’: “…thought I was full of horse sh*t and now / you f**king worship the ground in which I am walking…” He also throws in a pretty cool football allusion too.
Still that “0 and 16 Lions offense” aside, Eminem and a guesting Skylar Grey know that Eminem is an “A–hole”. According to Grey’s hook, “everybody knows that you’re just an a–hole / everywhere that you go, people wanna go ‘oh everyone knows’”. If you had your doubts about Eminem’s a-hole status, well he confirms it: “So what if the insults are revolting / even Helen Keller knows life stinks…” (she was blind and deaf, not devoid of smell). After that, there’s no stopping Eminem with juggernauts “Berzerk” and of course the crown jewel, “Rap God”.
“Berzerk” is true to its title – it’s BESERK! “We’re gonna rock this house until we knock it down / so turn the volume loud, cause it’s mayhem ‘til the A.M. / so baby make just like K-Fed and let yourself go…life’s too short to not go for broke / so everybody, everybody (go berserk)” Eminem is definitely in ‘rare form’ and rides the Billy Squier sample of “The Stroke” like a champ. He gets his ever potent one-liners in including “But I done did enough codeine to knock Future into tomorrow…” and “sh*t-head with a potty mouth, get a bar of soap lathered”, both courtesy of verse three.
If “Bezerk” is awesome, “Rap God” is freaking epic. The hook varies slightly, but the beginning’s the same: “I’m beginning to feel like a rap god, rap god / all my people from the front to the back nod, back nod…” Across three verses Eminem ‘schools’ us. On verse one he touts his flow (“Made a living and a killing off it / ever since Bill Clinton was still in office / With Monica Lewinsky feeling on his [again use your imagination] / I’m an MC still as honest / but as rude and as indecent as all hell”) while on verse two he talks influences and disses sucky MC’s (“Everybody want the key and the secret to rap immortality like I have got / well, to be truthful the blueprint’s simply rage and youthful exuberance … hit the earth like an asteroid, did nothing but shoot for the moon since”). On verse three, he goes “H*A*M*”, ripping critics, skeptics, and some fans (“Innovative and I’m made of rubber / so that anything you say is ricocheting off of me and it’ll glue to you / I’m devastating, more than ever demonstrating / how to give a motherf*****’ audience a feeling like it’s levitating)”. Lady Gaga said it best… “Eh, there’s nothing else I can say.” (See How Eminem Devastates the Competition on “Rap God” for full, in depth analysis).
After being a savant of sorts, Eminem has now become “Brainless”: “…I’m a use my head as a weapon / find a way to escape this insaneness / mama always said ‘Son if you had a brain, you’d be dangerous’ / guess it pays to be brainless”. As expected, Eminem let’s it roll whether tis references to being a “space cadet”, “Tourette’s”, or “look[ing] like a freaking wuss, a p***y…” My favorite lyric has to be from verse three: “I’m ‘bout to clean house, yo / I’m Lysol, now I’m just household / outsold the sell outs, freak the hell out / Middle America, hear them yell out…”
“Stronger Than I Was” sports more of a ballad-like rap sound with a harmonic progression that is more pop/R&B rivaling. The vocal production itself sounds more like Recovery’s hit single “Not Afraid” if one is searching for a comparison. “But you won’t break me / you’ll just make me stronger than I was / before I let you, I bet you I’ll be just fine without you,” he sings on the hook. “And if I stumble, I won’t crumble / I’ll get back up ad uh / and I’m a still be humble when I scream f*ck you / cause I’m stronger than I was…” The biggest rub? Length. “The Monster” atones for that, clocking in at just over four minutes and receiving the assist from Em’s buddy Rihanna. Perhaps it’s not quite on the same plane as say “Rap God” or maybe even previous collaboration “Love the Way You Lie”, but it gives Eminem another commercial hit sure to hit home more with a pop audience than a hardcore rap one.
“So Far…” continues to show Eminem on autopilot, criticizing technology of all things: “My apologies, no disrespect to technology / but what the heck is all these buttons / you expect me to sit here and learn that / f*ck I gotta do to hear this new song from Luda? / be an expert at computers…” Old soul / old-school perhaps? He gets a brilliant assist from Kendrick Lamar, which must be a testament to how Eminem feels about the young west coast MC’s rapping. As remarkable as Eminem’s own twisted rhymes are, what is equally remarkable is Lamar’s versatility to match Eminem’s intensity on his guest verse: “Chlamydia couldn’t even get rid of her / Pity the fool that pity the fool in me, I’m a live with the game of…” Still, hard to top Eminem: “…Snatch that b***h out her car through the window, she screamin’ / I body slam her onto the cement, until the concrete gave and created a sinkhole / bury this stink-ho in it, and payed to have the street repaved…” OUCH!
Penultimate gem “Headlights” brings in fun. frontman Nate Ruess who proves to be yet another excellent collaborator with Eminem. He initiates with a bang, in the spirit of the Detroit MC: “Mom, I know I let you down / and though you say the days are happy / why is the power off, and I’m f**ked up?…” Eminem essentially seems to backpedal from his hatred of his mother some: “… Now I now it’s not your fault, and I’m not making jokes / that song I no longer play at shows and I cringe every time it’s on the radio…” Closer “Evil Twin” contrasts the brighter sounding “Headlights” with maliciousness – and who would expect an Eminem album to end any other way? Even if Eminem shows more maturity, who doesn’t want to hear the side of his “evil twin” since “This darkness comes in me / and comes again / that ain’t me / he’s just a friend who pops up now and again…”
The verdict? There will never be another The Marshall Mathers LP; that’s a certified rap classic that both changed and devastated the game. That said, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 definitely kicks plenty of the young rap MC’s butts, no questions asked. It definitely runs long at 80 minutes, but at least it’s a superb 80 minutes with no filler whatsoever. Em, you get my blessings…not in a blasphemous way though!
Favorites: “So Much Better”; “Survival”; “Berzerk”; “Rap God”; “The Monster”; “Love Game”; “Headlights”
Verdict: ✰✰✰✰½Eminem | The Marshall Mathers LP 2 | Aftermath | US Release Date: November 5, 2013
Photo Credits: Aftermath