Shady’s back, tell a friend…
Released 5th November
In the world of rap music, few events are as hotly anticipated as the release of a new Eminem album; having sold close to a quarter of a billion records, he’s remained one of the world’s most influential pop culture icons ever since he inspired outrage and adoration alike with his breakthrough record The Slim Shady LP. Since then, his work has always seemed to follow a strong thematic thread, with 2002’s The Eminem Show being followed by Encore, as well as the extended narrative arc of Relapse and Recovery. Within this ongoing narrative, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is his first direct sequel, reflecting on – and paying tribute to – what is perhaps his best loved set of songs. The decision to release a second instalment of the album that inspired a nation to “not give a fuck” was undoubtedly a risky one, and while it will never have the impact and appeal of the original, TMMLP2 is largely a worthy follow-up.
Opening with the ambitious seven minute murder story ‘Bad Guy’, a continuation of The Marshall Mathers LP’s landmark single ‘Stan’, the dark and at times uncomfortable tone of the original is re-established early on. ‘Brainless’ and ‘So Much Better’ continue to harken back to the vintage Eminem sound, the latter of which being the latest example of his infamous misogyny. However, overall, the album is surprisingly eclectic musically, thanks in part to the large rotation of producers, most notably Eminem himself and Rick Rubin. Singles ‘Survival’ and the Beastie Boys-inspired ‘Berzerk’ are refreshingly modern and upbeat, signalling that his celebrity-name-dropping-in-a-funny-accent tendency in his lead singles has mercifully come to an end. ‘So Far…’ and ‘Love Game’ are some of the most fun and light-hearted tracks he’s released in years, whilst ‘Legacy’ and ‘Headlights’ – a startling and affecting apology to his mother – are exactly the kind of frank emotional outburst that has won him the trust and respect of his listeners for the last two decades.
That being said, as with most of Eminem’s recent records, the definite highs are accompanied by some cringe-worthy lows. First and foremost is ‘Stronger Than I Was’, which straight off the bat is the worst thing to happen to music since the Crazy Frog; a soppy Bieber-esque piano ballad that sees Em’s nasal whine of a singing voice take centre stage for five wince inducing minutes, it’s both out of place and unnecessary. ‘Asshole’ – the other main culprit – sounds tired, with a flat, uninspired chorus, and filled with dated Insane Clown Posse and Gwen Stefani disses; a minor offense, but it’s hard to imagine the Eminem of old being so out of touch.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 works as both an album in its own right and as a companion piece to the original; overall, it’s a welcome change of pace from the self-help preaching of Recovery and, despite its flaws and the inevitable comparisons that will be drawn, it’s at least good to hear Eminem start having fun again.