Eminem is a person who doesn’t really need a summary to describe him. You already know who he is, and where he’s been. The plan is not to restate what has already been said time and time again about this self-proclaimed “rap god”. However, this new LP’s predecessor has to be brought up. The original Marshall Mathers LP is arguably one of the greatest hip-hop statements of the 2000s. Vivid imagery, fast flows, and loads of character is what made the original so captivating. Thirteen years and six albums later, Marshall is definitely not the same person as he was in 2000. Along the path he took to get to this point, he had a few weak moments, questionable choices, and a few partnerships. He relapsed, recovered, and found his muse with this new record.
Naming the record The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is already a risky move. It could either enhance or tarnish Em’s relevance and skill. However, this new album proved the former. Never has he sounded this inspired since The Eminem Show.
“Bad Guy”, the first track on the record, starts off a bit shaky, with Em’s flow broken up and slowed down by the instrumental. But when the third verse hits, the song’s purpose becomes a lot clearer: it’s a sequel to a fan favorite off the first MMLP, “Stan”. The ferocity in his words in this verse lets you know that the Eminem that we all know and love has returned. “Parking Lot” is a continuation of the closing track on the original MMLP, “Criminal”, with Em committing suicide after a bank robbery.
“Rhyme or Reason” heavily samples the Zombies’ 1968 hit “Time of the Season”, and deals with Em’s relationship with his father. The Zombies sample wonderfully glides beneath Em’s vivid lyricism. “So Much Better” is an example of classic Slim Shady misogyny, and ends with him saying, “I’m just playin’ bitch, you know I love you.” ‘Sound familiar?
“Brainless” is a Relapse-esque account of Em’s insanity, and “So Far” is Em talking about his reputation with the media and his fans, and includes a clever play on the “onion rings” line from “The Real Slim Shady”. “Love Game”, which features fellow labelmate Kendrick Lamar, is an extremely goofy track about a love-hate relationship. Kendrick goes into territory he never went to before, rapping silly lines over a Wayne Fontana sample. It’s a clear highlight on the record.
“Headlights” is an extremely unexpected change of pace for the record. Marshall talks about a major issue that took over many tracks on the first MMLP: his mother. It’s a tearjerker that shows him apologizing to his mom, and regretting not saying “I love you” to her a long time ago. “Evil Twin” is a fantastic closing track that clears up confusion about his Slim Shady persona.
Although there are many highlights on this record, and Em’s lyrical abilities are at a high point not reached since 2002, there are some moments that don’t quite reach that level of greatness. More specifially, the hooks. The hooks on this record, when not sung by Em himself, end up sounding soft and uninteresting. “Legacy” sounds like a Recovery-era throwaway, “The Monster” is a tailored-for radio, skippable track, and “Survival” should have not gone past Call of Duty. Furthermore, “Berzerk” sounds like a rushed Licensed To Ill imitation.
To conclude, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is not a sequel, but rather an example of Eminem’s progression and maturity. It’s truly remarkable how, at 41 years old, Em still can maintain his relevance and secure his place as one of hip-hop’s greatest. Despite a few missteps, this record turned out to be very impressive. It’s not a fantastic record, but it’s surely far from a terrible one. Eminem fans can go to sleep at night, knowing that Slim Shady isn’t dead.