When people get annoyed that artists aren’t doing their old album styles anymore, I just laugh. Doesn’t anyone besides me understand that artists grow? We wouldn’t have half the artist we have today if somebody hadn’t changed their sound from their first, second, third albums. Growth is inevitable. And no one knows this more than Eminem. Of course, part of this annoyance from people is because he called his new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2. People have been saying this is his worst album, and it sounds so pop, but do you really think he cares? He’s happy to be alive. He’s doing music. Despite the haters, despite the ridiculous things people will say, Eminem has, in fact, released the best possible sequel to his most iconic record.
“Bad Guy” is one of the multiple tracks throughout the deluxe 21 track edition of MMLP2 that Em refers back to the original record, even referencing certain lines he rapped back then. It’s a brilliant circle of lyricism and verbal content, and if this is just one big publicity stunt (as he mentions during the opening cut) it’s a fantastic one. “Bad Guy” ends with Em describing his own death, murdered by none other than himself. It’s a continued focus on shredding the old image and embracing the new. However, the Shady demons continue to come back and haunt him, thus forcing the overdubs of Shady to return.
The beats throughout MMLP2 are more stripped down and less produced than what we’ve been used to from newer Eminem. This is not Recovery 2. This really feels like what exactly it is. A newer sequel to an 11-year old record. But the same Marshall Mathers is here, and his flow has never been better. On Recovery, it was single after single, overall. It was a conglomeration of cuts throughout the studio sessions Eminem had gone through. We could all hear it, and it sounded like a much more polished and pop-friendly Eminem. MMLP2 keeps some of the deep, dark sounding production, but overall, between Rick Rubin, Dr. Dre and Em himself as producer, they’ve created the world that would follow the original MMLP.
“Rhyme or Reason” uses “Time of the Season” from The Zombies on the entire cut, and gives it this haunting sound to it, with Em channeling his inner demons as well as the continued return of Shady. The anger is back and on fire even more than before, most evidenced on tracks like “So Much Better”, with his usual name drops and the deep Dre style beat, except guess who produced it? Eminem. In fact, none of the beats are done by Dre. Yet they have that distinct Detroit, old school style to them. Obviously Mathers has improved on his production skills, and none more so than this track or “Headlights”, a song for his mother Debbie, which features Nate Ruess from fun., and works as an (albeit anger-infused) apology to her, for the things he said back in the day. “Survival” sounds like something off of Recovery, with the solid pop/rap sound to it, but it’s still as fiery as anything else on here. “Legacy” reminds of something from Encore, with the snare style stripped down beat, and paints a picture of the demons that have plagued his own legacy.
“Berzerk” is the closest thing we’ll have to “Without Me” or “My Name Is”, but the retro sound and bombastic beat is solid and allows Em to “bring it back to that vintage Slim”. Then we’re presented with the six minute epic of “Rap God”, which is Eminem’s most ambitious track ever. In addition, Eminem has made another #1 hit out of his collaboration with Rihanna, through “The Monster”. Cheesy lyrics and odd beats (as well as a country style beat) flood through “So Far”, which references “The Way I Am”, and Em’s next collaboration features instant star Kendrick Lamar on another simplistic beat for “Love Game”. The most interesting thing about the 5 bonus tracks is they sound even more like the original MMLP, none more than “Baby”, with the deep bass and clap, as well as Em’s basic hook.
In essence, let’s put the haters aside. This is where we are: Eminem got clean, and he’s still as good as he used to be. In fact, now that he’s clean, I’d say he’s even more diabolical and ridiculous with his lyrical verbiage than ever before. Make sure you don’t want your feelings hurt if you’re a celebrity, because there’s even more name drops than ever before, and in even more degrading ways than we’ve heard previously. That being said, MMLP2 is Em’s best work, simply put. His lines are more intensive and longer than ever, with the average track coming out to 5–6 minutes, which is the way it should be. Say what you will. The more you say, the more likely Em will feature a line about you on his next record. If we get one.