I’ve listened to Eminem’s newest album, Marshall Mathers LP 2 about six or seven times since I downloaded it, and the album gets better and better the more I hear it. However before I took my (electronic) pen to the (electronic) paper for a review, my good friend from Hofstra, Harry Giza, approached me wanting to write a full review of the album. Harry has a wide range in taste when it comes to music and film and has even written his own material. He is currently in the process of making a video series on reviews for said subjects and more (That may appear on this blog). Harry is a bright and intelligent young man who I was sure could capture my feelings towards MMLP2 and review it better than I could. Therefore, Harry will be providing you with his review of the album. Fair warning, the review is a bit lengthy; but rest assured Harry’s writing is a great read and he definitely captures the essence of what Eminem is trying to convey. So without further adieu, here is Harry Giza’s review of Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2
When I was in 3rd grade, Eminem infested America. His face was on the TV, his songs were on the radio, and his diabolically dirty verses were spread across what appeared to be every innocent pair of lips in the country. My parents told me to never listen to him; my dad has always hated “that rap music” and my mother at the time was so panicked that if I even listened to one note of “The Real Slim Shady” I would turn into a necrophilia – loving, misogynistic demon of a lad.
Despite turning into my mother’s worst fear, I still listened. I choked my ears with his words, staying after school just so I could hang out with the kids that had “The Eminem Show” and “Encore” on their IPods. I was floored by this guy and all the stuff that he had gone through: marital troubles, drug problems, growing up poor, working the worst of jobs and living without a father. I am from white America -a suburb of a suburb – and I still had a connection to what this guy was talking about. Not only that, but he was theatrical. The voices he used had as much range as his stories did. The violent gospel he preached made as much sense as anything else I heard in school or from my own parental units.
I ended up not just obsessing over Eminem, but hip-hop in general. Slim Shady lead me to A Tribe Called Quest, MF DOOM, Lupe Fiasco, Jedi Mind Tricks and my main man Snoop. As strange as it seems, it was the blonde haired white boy that led the blonde haired white boy to obsess over black guys spitting over Lou Reed tracks and Pharrell-produced beats.
So, when I heard that he was making a sequel to my favorite album of his, I was terrified. To me, Eminem has always made consistent albums – even with his tepidly subpar “Relapse” and the boringly anthemic “Recovery,” the guy managed to drop a whole lotta fantastic bars on each. But making a sequel to one of the greatest rap albums of all time? Yeezus Christ! Even I had slimmest faith in him.
That is no longer the case. “The Marshal Mathers LP 2” is a prime example of why Eminem, a 41-year-old man, can hold the title of rap god.
One of the things to keep in mind with “MMLP2” is that despite the singles that lead up to it, as well as Rihanna’s bubblegum banging, this is an album for Eminem fans. As tough as it is for some older listeners, myself included, Eminem is thinking about the kids instead of destroying little girl and boy groups like he craved back in day. He gives as much inspiration to kids then as he did now while maintaining as much offence as he always had (sometimes in different ways. Age has not hurt but helped form Eminem a larger fan base; a group with many different ethnicities, years of existence and menagerie of different tastes.
Right from the start, he lays a wall of waste straight at his fans with the track “Bad Guy;” a semi-sequel to the classic track “Stan.” The song builds – going from tacky and unpolished skimps of lyrics to a hammering hard-balanced diet of crisp wordplay and honest sentiment. The song is about Stan’s little brother Matthew Mitchell (initials M.M.), his brotherless adolescence, and his revenge for Stan’s demise.
Bad Guy is the longest track on the album and another example why I say this record was made strictly for the fans. Marshall Mathers takes a look at Eminem, Slim Shady and every single phase he has ever gone thorough in the first track alone.
After “Bad Guy” I already felt satisfied. I lost myself in every single reference Eminem spit, whether it was to older songs, his ex-wife, relationships, still being labeled homophobic, his double standards with women, my dude Frank Ocean, and even making fun of himself titling “MMLP2” for publicity alone.
My mouth was on the floor already and I was only one song into the album (it stayed there too). With the next song, “Rhyme or Reason,” “Time of the Season” by The Zombies is sampled. I almost died of excitement. He takes a psychedelic 60’s sample and, despite already being a huge fan of his, really makes it work. However, the sample does not just work musically, but also fits the core of the song’s meaning – Eminem’s relationship with his father. The Zombies were popular when his dad was young and for Em to rewire the music his father grew up on into some smooth rap bars is the ultimate fuck you to the man that left him at just eighteen months old. He even takes the infamous Zombie opening and turns it into a mockery of abandonment:
“(What’s your name?) Marshall
(Who’s your daddy?) I don’t have one
My mother reproduced like a komodo dragon”
When I heard that, I was laughing as hard as I did in the library after school. The wit he spit lit a flame in my nostalgic heart. That same flame was lit again on the song “Love Game.” This was the most anticipated song on the album. The reason? Kendrick Lamar and Eminem rapping together. Every single fan was expecting this to be a dark, dank and destructive disservice to everybody on the planet; Reddit, Rolling Stone and even /mu/ were hyping this thing as if it was guaranteed to be the Charlie Murphy darkness it was thought to be.
Not only does the track detail the women, sex lives, and opinions of love the two have, but it is also a light one. “Love Game” is one of the funniest rap songs I have heard in awhile (a complete 180 from what was expected). Kendrick mocks his own voice, Eminem makes fun of hoes passed quicker than blunts Snoop smokes, and it all makes me feel bubbly inside. You know the two had a blast writing this song because the enthusiasm the two curb into their lines is absolutely incendiary. I highly recommend a listen.
However, not everything on this return is as orgasmic as I make it out to be. While I don’t hate anything here, the track “So Far…” is an example of rap/rock music snobs will be shitting on for years to come. To me the instrumental doesn’t work, though I like verses and that odd sing-sang-sung of a chorus.
One of the key issues with this album is that Rick Rubin (the Don Corleone of producing music), turns the volume loud and the words softer that they should be on “MMLP2.” After all, this is a follow-up to an Eminem album – the words are everything. And while “Rhyme or Reason” blew my mind, the beat behind “Rap God” is just bad. Originally, when I heard it as a single, I thought there was a point to it. “I get it! The beat is so bad that it mocks the rappers of today who care more about the beat than the lyrics. Eminem, you ironic devil!” Not true at all. It sucks too because Eminem at one point raps 97 words in 15 flat seconds – a feat a roid-raged Busta Rhymes may not even hit – an average of 6.5 words per second.
Another gripe of Giza’s goes towards “Monster;” Eminem’s bubblegum pop song. Unlike some critics (looking at you Pitchfork), I absolutely love that Rihanna hook. It is short, sweet, and what it needs to be. My main complaint is towards Eminem’s weak bars here. Compared to “Love Game” and other songs on the album, it seems Eminem just shoved his words in here like Hot Pocket filling and expects us to eat it like deep dish Chicago pie.
While I would love to continue talking about this album, I want to end with my opinion of the song “Headlights.” This was the track I was scared of. Why? Nate Ruess, lead singer of Fun., sings the hook. Before I heard the song, I thought: “WHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHYWHY? WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME MARSHALL? I STOLE YOUR CD’S FROM F.Y.E GROWING UP TO HEAR YOU! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!”
After I heard the song, I wanted to listen to all of Fun.’s discography. Nate Ruess has a very theatrical voice and having him on the song matches Eminem’s surprising honesty towards his history with his mother that much more real. The song details his failure of being a good son, the harsh and infinitely brutal words he attacked her with on earlier albums, and her failing mental health. Eminem has talked about being a father before, but by paralleling his hyper-violent past work towards her with the only time she met her grandkids (she snuck into his driveway) hit me. This song is an apology to a woman that Eminem spent a majority of his career destroying. I can’t believe how much it works, so much so that I got emotional, dawg.
While I could get nitpicky and discuss every thing on the album (believe me, I could) I won’t. All in all, “MMLP2” is the return of the “Ah, wait, no way, you’re kidding. He didn’t just say what I think he did, did he” Eminem I grew up on. He stays violent, theatrical, smart, and refrains from conforming to the “beat is everything” disease that has infested hip-hop today. Sure, he doesn’t talk about corpse-fuckery and his words aren’t as chaotically drugged as he once was, but the album is the most shady Shady has ever been. Eminem kills himself, revives himself, picks himself apart and reassembles himself like Voltron the way Woody Allen made a lifetime off self-deprecation.
It isn’t perfect, but good lord is it fun.