Album Review: The Marshall Mathers LP 2WonkeyDude98 Mini-Description: In my twentieth album review, I look back at Eminem's attempt to top, or at least match, his past legacy; and how he succeeds.
Best Songs: "Bad Guy" ft. Sarah Jaffe, "Rap God", "Headlights" ft. Nate Ruess, "Legacy" ft. Polina, "Rhyme Or Reason", "The Monster" ft. Rihanna, "Stronger Than I Was", "Evil Twin", "Love Game" ft. Kendrick Lamar, "So Far...", "Brainless"
Worst Song: "Survival" ft. Liza Rodriguez
There's no easy way to review this album.
Eminem is a figure in music culture known amongst all, whether you love or hate him, or both. He started off basically untouchable with his one-two-three punch of the Slim Shady LP, Marshall Mathers LP, and Eminem Show (we don't talk about Infinite here...). For me at least, it wasn't until his sophomore album the Marshall Mathers LP that he really started to click with me, one because I think the Slim Shady LP did not age well at all despite being very good, and half because it was pure unfiltered darkness with an atmosphere that could only be described as apocalyptic. It was raw and very much violent and juvenile, but it was all the better for that. The Eminem Show is my personal favorite of the three, for displaying Eminem at even more personal and raw heights, still keeping the rage that kept the Marshall Mathers LP captivating, but also went further to vary the production style and tone. It was a masterclass, very near perfect.
Then Encore happened.
And here's a secret.
I think it's a great album.
Yes, the middle of the album is super uneven and contains three of his worst ever songs (Like That, My First Single, and Big Weenie, in case you were wondering), but I actually found Just Lose It and Rain Man pretty funny in an awful sort of way, and everything else on the album featured Eminem at his absolute smartest and wisest. It was a flawed effort, but a great one all the same.
I wish I could say the same about the abomination that was Relapse. It showcased everything I never wanted out of an Eminem album. It was trying so hard to recapture the magic of his first few albums that it ended up being juvenile and eyeroll-inducing. Other than Deja Vu and Beautiful, everything on Relapse ranged from slightly above mediocre, to being some of the worst songs of the 2000s.
Then came everyone's favorite punching bag album Recovery. And while it wasn't as good as anything from the Marshall Mathers LP to Encore, it was still a great album that showed Eminem maturing on several levels, it was a breath of fresh air to hear Eminem go 100% introspective for once with no exceptions. However, it led to many new issues that would end up cropping up more in later years. His production got starkly shifted to match the tone, but that ended up meaning that for the most part, it had to become dour and clunky, and a lot of the creeping elasticity of his earlier work was lost, and many people took issue with the nasal bark that Eminem decided to pick up, the only real issue I had with it was how unchanging it was throughout, even into the great mess that was his Bad Meets Evil mixtape (you all might want to go check my worst songs of 2011 list if you wanna know what I think of THAT).
When he made an album under the name of the Marshall Mathers LP 2, everyone started to become skeptical. I mean, he had over a decade of very uneven albums that were rarely not good, but each brought their own batch of issues. How did he handle it?
Well, very well! In fact, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 might just be my favorite Eminem album. Taking elements from every one of his albums and making it come together into one collective whole. It's not the all-star classic that Eminem missed his chance to make, at least not the original version, but it is still amazing, and much better than most people make it out to be.
Now, the production is a little bit....okay, it's not perfect, but it is still quite potent. The MMLP2 follows a bit in the vein of Recovery, but it is much more colorful and varied than that album could hope to be. But yes, I will acknowledge that while this is his most sonically enjoyable work, the first Marshall Mathers LP and Eminem Show are arguably better crafted. The melodical compositions are much slicker, louder, and more synthetic than his past work (see the crunchy guitars on So Far or the whirlwind of drums on Ahole), and that can work both in and against Eminem's favor. On one hand, it makes his music more easily accessed beyond his psychotic themes, mainly because he has a bigger array of sounds to bring. On the other hand, it makes it harder for most people looking for those themes, as Eminem is sometimes backseated to his production.
That's saying a lot, because Eminem is absolutely bent with putting himself on top here. His flow has never been more impeccable, and his rhymes have never been more overwhelmingly great, especially on Legacy, where the entire song rhymes with "sky is falling". He still has that Recovery-esque shout in his voice, but there's a lot more movement and distinctive that makes it differ from the his unchanging 2010 self. Eminem shows that he isn't a pushover when it comes to how he complements his production either, because whatever beat he has, he rides it spectacularly, whether it be the squeaking anthem Bad Guy, the more trap-based essentially-freestyle Rap God, the tighter bellow of Rhyme Or Reason, the piano-driven songs Headlights, Legacy, Brainless and Stronger Than I Was, or the unabashed rock songs Evil Twin, Berzerk, The Monster, and even Survival, the latter of which is the weakest song here just because the heavier rock elements, well, they aren't quite as interesting.
And when Eminem's not rapping, there's someone singing, and I'm probably one of the few people who can actually tolerate it whether it's Eminem on Rhyme Or Reason, Brainless, So Much Better, and most notoriously Stronger Than I Was (where I am somehow the only person who can stand Eminem singing 3/4 of the song), or one of the many, many female vocalists/male samples that he uses for his hooks, which respectively include A. Skylar Grey, Sarah Jaffe, Polina, Liza Rodriguez, and Rihanna, and B. I actually can't identify yet lol
There's only one guest MC on this album, and it's the almighty king of not-so-underground hip-hop, Kendrick Lamar. We'll get to him later when we talk about lyrics and themes, but for now I have to question his importance on Love Game other than to one-up a rapper who has yet to gain really incredible ground swell....and in saying that I now realize that it was a great idea to feature him of all people.
Now, we have to get to lyrics and themes. In case the title and the cover art didn't make it snap into focus already, this is a revisitation album. A record for Eminem less to rest on the legacy he's created, but rather tie it together. My personal favorite song on the album, Bad Guy (and possibly his best song period) is a great way to encapsulate this, as it shows Eminem returning to (or rather, it returning to him) the realistically fictional character he created and killed, Stan, and....you know what? I think I'm gonna let you listen to the monolith for yourself, it's too good to spoil.
Other songs do this in other ways. Rhyme Or Reason interpolates a Time Of The Season sample to spit on the ground Eminem's father walked on in the most vicious and theatrical way possible, progressing Eminem's states of mind thinking about how he knew his father...well, didn't, until the final verse where he slates his father for not being there. The other "reconciliation" song is Headlights, one of the best songs here, where he joins with Nate Ruess to apologize to his mother after years upon years of bashing her and threatening to assault and murder her. Not exactly forgiving her actions towards him in his youth, but rather wishing for them to become together again, as Debbie Mathers has grown old and Marshall Mathers has become wiser, it's the album's moment of true clarity.
Or Stronger Than I Was, So Much Better, and Love Game, all of these songs about failed relationships, the former two perhaps roughly about Kim. The first song shows him crooning over a humble piano number and a beat that crackles around the edges, where Eminem talks in Kim's perspective about how complex and ugly the divorce was, and how they both felt about it. Eminem gets shockingly real with this, even when the bridge after the rap verse kicks in bringing those "UH" sounds with it. The second song plays it a bit more comical, describing a woman cheating on Eminem with several other rappers, and despite the weak first verse, it's still hilarious in its howling, almost mocking drama. The third one features Kendrick Lamar as the two try to top each other as being misogynistic tools who can't keep a relationship to save their lives, and the more they say the more hilariously horrific it becomes.
But most of the album is aimed at the audience, whether it be direct or not. If he's not proving to his audience that he still has it in Rap God (love the song, but for a guy as talented as you that's kind of unnecessary), or showing the very worst parts of being famous in So Far..., then he's dealing with himself. This whole album is a gateway from Eminem all the way to Slim Shady. Laughing at those who actually took his violent fantasies to heart, showing that he's a man behind the bleach(ed hair), and showing us that Eminem and Slim Shady are the same, for better or worse. Instead of being the main focus of his music, Shady is an omnipresence.
This is most apparent on two songs: The Monster and Evil Twin. The former, as stated by Rihanna on the chorus, showcases Eminem coming to grips with his alter ego, and additionally, how this alter ego has affected his own life, and his fame. The latter song shows him wearing Slim Shady like a badge, going extremely hard to blend the two personas, until the final line ending the album by saying that, in the end, Eminem, Marshall Mathers, and Slim Shady, they're all the same.
Compared to what this album really has to offer, I just said I whole bunch of nothing. But I'll say it again; this is Eminem's best album. If only the deluxe songs were here to push this album into double-digit territory, but since I can't... 9/10. Shady's back, tell a friend and check this out.
This is WonkeyDude98, and next is Chris Brown. Couldn't I just leave TheDoubleAgent's latest video to descrige my thoughts? No? Ugh...
No Wicked Ways in the best tracks? Dude why! But great review. Which CB review? - ProPanda
It would have been my 3rd favorite if it wasn't deluxe.
Fortune. Which means Trumpet Lights is going to get beaten harder than Rihanna was.
I can't believe I reduced myself to that joke... - WonkeyDude98
I didn't know it was bonus - ProPanda
I loved MMLP2. It was probably one of my most favored rap albums during the time with Legacy being my pride and joy - Mcgillacuddy
I liked Survival a lot as well - visitor
I think MMLP2 was a great comeback from Slim Shady, but I'll still pick MMLP1, it's just so savage and over the top it's impossible for me to hate it. Great review mate. - UltimateHybridX