Saturday, December 14, 2013

Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP 2" -- A Review

Well this has been a long time coming. Eminem hasn't always been a welcome addition to my musical library. When I was 16 I used to hide The Eminem Show under my pillow like one hides a naughty magazine. So I've been a pretty big fan for about a decade, and took the time to listen to every album released.

I offer a brief sketch of his (single) studio works in order of worst to best, excluding of course MMLP2.

Infinite -- while certainly entertaining in a "aww how cute look how far you've come" way, most of the album listens as well as a metal scrub brush.

Relapse -- it may just be me, but this album struck me as incredibly out of place in regards to Eminem's story. Coming out of addiction and depression, and to release this album felt like a bit of a slap in the face. Plus, the really obnoxious accent he brought back wasn't welcome in the first place for me. However, Beautiful is one of my favorite tracks and highlights the needless addition of the other 19 songs.

The Slim Shady LP -- this may get me in some trouble, but I didn't care for this album when I was in my prime immature stage. Despite the borderline obnoxious tone, I still find it in my heart to enjoy My Name Is.

Encore -- most likely the most schizo Eminem has ever been, with half the album sounding like a confession and the other half sounding like a series of raps designed to appeal to children. Still, Mockingbird, Never Enough, Like Toy Soldiers and Yellow Brick Road remain among some of my favorite tracks.

The Marshall Mathers LP
-- I didn't listen to the entirety of this album until a few years ago. I must say, listening to this all the way through helped. The Real Slim Shady, The Way I Am, and especially Stan offered a serious of dark tracks packed with emotion. I will admit that much of the content has made me uncomfortable as of late, and I have never been able to listen to Kim; I find it too emotionally traumatic.

Recovery -- this is the album I wish Eminem had released instead of Relapse. While certainly not in his lyrical prime, Eminem nonetheless shows a strong introspection that was sorely needed in Relapse. My favorite tracks include Not Afraid, No Love, Space Bound, Cinderella Man, 25 to Life, Talking 2 Myself and Love the Way You Lie.

The Eminem Show -- frankly, this album was the one that hit me square in the head. Combining the hit-or-miss introspection in his previous works with the aggression needed to hit my adrenal glands, Em simply nailed this one. A perfect mixture of rage and regret. 'Til I Collapse, White America, Business, Cleaning Out My Closet, Sing for the Moment and Without Me are still on my main Em playlist.

Onto the actual MMLP2 review.

The way I structure my film reviews doesn't really work here, so I have created something new. Hope you are able to track with me.

THE CROWN

Flying above the album, judging it from a special perspective, the album is fairly strong. It includes a mixture of tracks and perspectives, and doesn't overstay it's welcome. While I find myself cringing during certain tracks, overall my thoughts are generally positive. I won't be speaking on every single track, as I prefer to focus on the best representations of each category.

THE GOOD

The highlights are several fold. Eminem's lyricism and introspection are welcome as usual, and he delves into deeper territory than before.

Before I can jump into the specifics of the album, I must begin with the opening track, Bad Guy. A sequel of sorts to Stan, this track is the most difficult one to sit through, and is thus the most rewarding. It sets the stage for the remainder of the album. While I don't want to spoil it too much, the finale completely subverts a majority of his rapping career in terms of themes. The homphobia, misogyny, all of it is presented as something he is now entirely aware of. The final two minutes is the most self-eviscerating and scorching minutes of music I've ever heard. Its simply something waiting to be experienced, and you do yourself a disservice if you miss it.

Legacy, with its haunting chorus, is a strong compliment to Eminem's reflection of bullying in his past. Nostalgia suits him well, and we're given glimpses into his childhood.

While Survival isn't particularly innovative like Bad Guy, the rock track works nicely and helped me press twenty extra pounds while at the gym. So it suits itself well, and I find myself enjoying it.

Berzerk, as I mentioned a while back, took me a few listens to get it. Once that happened, its become one of my favorite tracks. The energy and free-falling fun is far too fun to ignore. Rick Rubin nailed this one.

Rap God is another track I reviewed and my opinion has grown. It is lyrically insane and the beat works nicely while running. His 97 minute blitzkrieg in 15 seconds is, well, something to behold.

Stronger Than I Was is an incredibly vulnerable tale of Eminem and his wife Kim. The vitriol is largely absent and this almost reads like a letter of regret to someone who hurt him. The openness reveals the humanity behind the guy who wrote Kim. While hope is in short supply, the track is revealing and the sung chorus is laden with emotion.

In the same way, Headlights (sung by the dude from fun. so don't let that be a negative) nearly had me in tears, I can't lie. My wife, who enjoys some of Eminem, found it incredibly moving. So, just keep a tissue nearby.

So Far … is funny and, well, just damn odd. Its a clear throw back to Slim Shady. It depends on how much you enjoy Slim. I don't like him, but this had me laughing, especially with the country vibe.

While The Monster isn't as good as Love the Way You Lie, Rhianna always sounds nice when paired with Eminem.

THE MIDDLE

Asshole is one of those tracks that probably sounded great on paper, but doesn't lend itself to multiple listens. The throw back to his rapping past where he was, well, an asshole isn't really worthwhile. But, that said, the beat is beastly and Skylar Grey is good as usual.

Eminem sings on Rhyme or Reason. While I enjoyed the chorus interpolation, the lyrics are relatively uninteresting and I haven't found myself listening to the track again. Of course, his references to his father provide a bit of food for thought.

Brainless is curiously listenable, even though I hated hated hated it when I first heard it. The story telling of Eminem's past is intriguing, but the beat really bothers me still.

Love Game is most like the most offensive track in regards to Eminem's view of women. The sexualized lyrics aren't atypical of rap, but they feel out of place. That said, holy crap some of these lines are hysterical. Kendrick Lamar echoes Eminem nicely, and this brings to mind Kendrick's freestyle that got him in hot water.

THE BAD

Parking Lot is annoying, even if one understands the context of the skit. Its simply unnecessary.

So Much Better claims a pretty epic beat, but the tirade against a woman (lover? general women?) is tired and eye-rolling. Likewise, Evil Twin is Slim Shady gone wrong.

CONTEX/NT

While the homophobia and misogyny is unneeded, Eminem shows an acute awareness of this. Instead of being an album that celebrates such things, at most all we can claim now is that he is inconsistent.

END

Despite some severely obnoxious tracks and unfortunate content, Eminem nailed this one. The introspection has been lifted almost to center stage and Eminem's production is unique, curious and most often compelling. Lyrically and technically, he's as good as he's ever been and in the case of Rap God and Bad Guy, far greater.

Where does MMLP2 fit into my above scale of worst to best albums? I'd stick it as better than Recovery and beneath The Eminem Show.

4 stars out of 5.

--Nick

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