Album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Once upon a time, in the prehistoric land of dial-up internet, “enhanced” CDs, and who Christina Aguilera fellated first (Carson Daly or Fred Durst?), Eminem ruled supreme.
Since 2002’s The Eminem Show, Marshall Mathers hasn’t released anything of relative depth or artistic ingenuity. So it isn’t all that surprising that, in 2013, the 41-year-old emcee would dip into his own pension of pastiche to cash-in on the namesake of his finest and most visceral release: The Marshall Mathers LP.
Aside from similar artwork and the fact that its a branded as a sequel, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 couldn’t possibly be any more different from its predecessor. Where MMLP was authentic, volatile and exciting, MMLP 2 is a hodgepodge of calculated, unimaginative ideas sandwiched between boring, predictable production.
The few instances of actual sonic cohesion on the project exist only within the four tracks produced by Rick Rubin. Unfortunately, Rubin’s exiguous arsenal on MMLP 2 doesn’t extend much beyond flipping one tired rock sample after another and laying back on the couch to watch Em drown himself in his own triteness. It almost sounds as if Rick and Em made a pit-stop at a diner, ripped a card out of a 1960s jukebox, and promised the manager they would use four of the songs on the album in exchange for a couple cheeseburger deluxes.
In that hypothetical but plausible case, nobody really won. Especially not the unapologetic Slim Shady loyalists who ventured out of their moms’ basement for the first time in weeks to purchase blonde hair dye, 2-liter bottles of Mountain Dew and all the other accoutrements necessary to prepare for this release.
“Rap God” serves as one of the lone bright spots on an album largely marked by an internal crisis of identity and purpose. The self-proclaimed hip-hop deity flaps both his majestic wings and gums at vacillating speeds on the six-minute track, soaring to altitudes of technical prominence that remind us of what originally endeared us to this perverted psychopath with the bleached hair.
On “Love Game,” Eminem is pitted against Kendrick Lamar, his most relevant lyrical competition. Much like Em’s “No Love” collabo with Lil Wayne off Recovery, the most anticipated track on the album fails to fulfill its lofty expectations. The song is conceptually flawed, bogged down by the incongruous Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders sample and Marshall’s own juvenile junior-high ideals:
“You confirmed my low end theory, though/ Should’ve known when I made it all the way to third base/ And that was only the first date, coulda made it to home plate.”
Even conscious Kendrick’s verse is infected by Em’s penchant for nugatory d*ck jokes and misogyny, perhaps best explained as a ghastly byproduct of diffusion:
“I told that bitch I’m a sucker for love, you’re a sucker for d*ck/ Suckin’ d*ck in your momma’s tub ’til your granny walked in…Cops pull us over, they just wanna know if you gargle, singin’/ I hope she’s good enough, meanwhile you’re chasin’ her/ Chlamydia couldn’t even get rid of her.”
The cover of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 portrays the same image as its prominent prequel, Marshall’s childhood home in northeast Detroit. The abandoned, tumbledown house is boarded up and surrounded by an overgrowth of ivy, symbolic of the career path of the tragic hero it represents; closed to new ideas and asphyxiated by arid artistic endeavors from the Y2K.
Eminem is a middle-aged father whose lyrical lexicon still fails to branch off from his conceptual roots of misogyny, homophobia and empty boasts. Being a great rapper goes beyond the skill of actually rapping; one needs to have a few original thoughts and feelings to fall back on. Eminem was a great rapper when there was actual emotion behind what he was rhyming. These days, Em’s bars are chiefly detached and void of any veritable sentiment. He is an artist who is painting with the turpentine-soaked brush of his audience on a canvas devoid of any strokes of his own.
2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP, brought Eminem’s whimsical white-trash rhymes to the forefront of mainstream consumption; his grimace-inducing punchlines providing nonstop jolts up the spine of American pop-culture.
Thirteen years later, the only thing shocking about Em’s eighth album is the existing notion that we should still care.