‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ Eminem
Don’t be fooled: Eminem’s latest, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, is not a sequel to his gloriously unhinged 2000 rap masterpiece, The Marshall Mathers LP, as the title initially implies. Instead, it’s a summation of a mission statement, a revisitation of what the 41-year-old rapper has done best in 15 years at the center of the maelstrom that is pop culture.
Unlike Recovery, his Grammy-winning 2010 comeback album where he laid bare his battles with drugs and depression and reclaimed his lyrical and commercial dominance, MMLP2 is a return to a more confident and familiar Marshall Mathers.
Everything he’s done best is here, from noirish murder fantasies with devilish twists to big-chorus pop songs with moments of great humor, anger, fear, self-reflection and verbal virtuosity impossible to untangle in just a few listens.
It’s satisfying on every level – as a story, as poetry, as a performance – and it’s also filled with hidden meaning and insight into how Eminem views his own fame. Few in rap reach this complex level of artistry, and listening to it unfold when compared with the often monochromatic world of popular rap in 2013 makes it even more vital.
Eminem has always been at his best on his storytelling songs, and opens MMLP2 with one of his most meaningful. On Bad Guy, he revisits Stan, his song about fan obsession from the original MMLP. This time around, Eminem’s protagonist is Stan’s brother, Matthew, who’s playing out a revenge plot in which he turns all the rapper’s vitriol back on him.
Toward the end of MMLP2, Mathers stuns in another way, penning an apology to his mother, Debbie, the target of so much anger over his recording career.
He’s at his best on the cuts that chop up chunky classic rock songs in unexpected and clever ways.
He pulls off an Evel Knievel-level stunt by rapping and singing over Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good, turning it into a pro-Detroit anthem among other things. And that leads us right into arguably the most-anticipated song on the album, Love Game, featuring the indomitable Kendrick Lamar.
The two lay down verses so dense over a sample of Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders’ Game of Love that they’re dizzying and will take dozens of listens to tease out the meaning.