The world of rap has always been a young man’s game. And maybe that’s why Marshall Mathers, aka, Slim Shady, aka, Eminem is out to prove that, despite his age, he isn’t coming close to slowing down.
Not that 41 is old – to compare, Snoop Dogg is 42 and Jay-Z is 43. – but the idea that Eminem has been losing his touch has followed him since Encore, and for each subsequent album after.
His best response to that is with Rap God, where he dismisses any insinuation that he’s slowing down by spitting the fastest rhymes he’s ever delivered in the middle of the third verse. Fifteen years and eight albums later, Eminem hasn’t lost a thing.
But he has been doing some reflecting. This album serves as a sequel to 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP where the bulk of it is retrospective on his own memories and actions – an answer-back, or an update.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 opens with Bad Guy, in itself a sequel to one of his signature songs, Stan. In it, Eminem sings from the perspective of Stan’s little brother Mathew, who is out to avenge his sibling’s death, which he blames on Eminem. He plots and kidnaps him, forcing Eminem to recall all that he’s done so far: “I also represent anyone on the receiving end of those jokes you invent,” and to ensure he goes out with a bang: “Unless it makes an impact then don’t bother/So before you rest your case/Better make sure you’re packing a wallop.”
From there, Eminem recites his memories as a bullied kid in Legacy where he goes from questioning why he’s “so differently wired” to “Now I think the fact that I’m differently wired’s awesome.”
He acknowledges his position in the public eye with the song Asshole, where he admits “Don’t think I ever stopped to think I was speaking to children,” understanding and relating to the power of his words as a parent himself: “If anyone ever talks to one of my little girls like this I would kill him/Guess I’m a little bit of a hypocrite.” But despite admitting his faults, he vows to not change.
Even so far as to have not let fame change him too much, as he pays homage to his life in Detroit in the Kid Rock-like So Far… and playing both sides of the fame game in The Monster.
The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem’s album from 2000, to which MMLP2 is a sequel of
The biggest revelation is that he apologizes to his mother for anything and everything he’s said, thought and done in Headlights. Em says in the first verse, “my mom probably got it the worst, the brunt of it,” as he challenges his old perspective and corrects his old thoughts. Though, he still has it in for his father on Rhyme Or Reason.
Despite the reflections, Eminem still finds the time to release humour and pop culture references, although many of them are rather dated.
Sometimes appropriately so, when in hindsight: “I’m frustrated cause ain’t no more N’Sync/now I’m all out of wack/I’m all out of Backstreet Boys to call out and attack.”
Others make him seem slightly behind the times: “So baby make just like K-Fed and let yourself go,” in Berzerk making him the first person to mention Kevin Federline since he did it the first time on We Made You in 2009.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 might be Eminem’s most conscious record just because of how much he summons from what he’s said in previous records. It’s not as intense in its delivery via the production as Recovery and doesn’t pack the wallop of the original MMLP or The Eminem Show, but his approach is enough that this album brings him to new ground as he ties up loose ends while vowing to be the same rapper he was when he first emerged.
1. Bad Guy
2. Parking Lot (skit)
3. Rhyme Or Reason
4. So Much Better
7. Asshole [featuring Skylar Grey]
9. Rap God
11. Stronger Than I Was
12. The Monster [featuring Rihanna]
13. So Far…
14. Love Game [featuring Kendrick Lamar]
15. Headlights [featuring Nate Ruess]
16. Evil Twin