Since enjoying his mainstream breakthrough in 1999 with The Slim Shady LP, Eminem has consistently sold millions of records with every album he’s released. 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP is his biggest-selling album to date with over 27 million copies sold worldwide. Not bad for an artist who was labelled a one-hit wonder upon the release of breakthrough single My Name Is. To date only one two of Eminem’s studio albums have sold under 10 million copies – his debut Infinite in 1996 and 2009’s Relapse. Eminem’s last album was Recovery in 2010 which spawned the massive single Love The Way You Lie and re-established the rapper’s prominence in the music industry.
Last week Eminem returned with his eagerly-anticipated and much-buzzed new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Prior to its release the rapper was keen to point out the album was a re-visitation rather than a sequel to 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP. Talking to Rolling Stone magazine last month Eminem discussed the album saying, ‘There’s not gonna be, like, continuations of every old song on there or anything like that. To me, it’s more about the vibe, and it’s more about the nostalgia.’ Obviously the title has put expectations pretty high so it is really worthy to share the name of Eminem’s biggest-album to date?
As is the way these days, there are two versions of The Marshall Mathers 2 LP; a standard edition 16-track and a 2-disc 21-track album. The album opens with the 7-minute Bad Guy which features the vocals of singer Sarah Jaffe providing a harmonious contrast to Eminem’s sharp lyrics. Originally Dido was going to collaborate with Eminem once again on the track but the rapper decided against it. What Bad Guy does is remind you of all the reasons you fell in love with Eminem in the first place as he pokes fun at himself and the perceptions that people have about him. He’s as outspoken as ever and unapologetic as he switches between his different characters.
Ahead of the album’s release Eminem has teased fans with several tracks. Survival was released in conjunction with game Call Of Duty: Ghosts whilst Berzerk, Rap God and The Monster featuring Rihanna were all released as singles. Three of those songs have peaked in the UK Top 5 with The Monster topping the charts. What was clever about the release strategy is that each of the songs shows a different side to Eminem and highlighted the variety on the album. Berzerk was a mish-mash of samples with hip-hop fused rock beats, Survival features vocals from Liz Rodrigues of The New Royales and is a more commercial beat-heavy track, and Rap God is pure hip-hop with Eminem spitting some seriously fast rhymes. The Monster is the most commercial of the lot with Rihanna’s striking chorus instantly recalling Love The Way You Lie before Eminem takes it to the next level with his verses.
There’s only one skit named on the tracklist, Parking Lot, which helps to recapture the feeling of The Marshall Mathers LP and makes way for plenty of great music. If you listen right to the end you’ll find another skit hidden after the last track. Rhyme or Reason samples The Zombies’ Time of the Season and features Eminem rapping as Star Wars character Yoda for part of the track, Asshole features Skyler Grey and military style beats, and Brainless combines tinkling piano with chunky beats. There’s a surprising moment of honesty on Stronger Than I Was where Eminem sings about being beating his many battles and coming out stronger at the end of it. It reminds you that the rapper is only human too.
Our favourite track on the album is the balls-out of So Much Better where Eminem captures the darker side of Marshall Mathers as he sings ‘my life would be so much better if you would just drop dead’. It doesn’t quite reach the disturbing heights of The Marshall Mathers LP but it’s still amusing and disturbing in equal measure.
On the deluxe edition of the album there are an additional 5 tracks including collaborations with Sia (Beautiful Pain) and Jamie N Commons (Desperation). The best track is the pure hip-hop of Wicked Ways which once again showcases Eminem’s skill as a rapper as he hurtles through lyrics seemingly without taking much a of a breath.
Likely The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will be offensive to some people. These are likely the people who will listen to what Eminem says on the surface without taking the time to understand his message. What Eminem raps is very rarely as straightforward as it seems and it’s actually pretty boring to hear the outrage every release from religious groups, music critics and the like. Once again the album has Eminem accused of being homophobic, which he isn’t, and whilst his use of gay slurs may be offensive to some this gay reviewer doesn’t have a problem with it and understands that Eminem is playing a part not voicing his own views.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is as damn-near close to being as good as The Marshall Mathers LP as possible. It was never going to be a better album but it’s definitely towards the top of Eminem’s studio albums pile. He may be 41 but Eminem isn’t showing any signs of letting his contemporaries take his crown. Unapologetic, full-on and outspoken Eminem continues to be the best rapper in the game and we’re glad he’s back with such a strong offering.