The release of a new Eminem album is a BIG deal. Since bursting onto the scene with his studio debut The Slim Shady LP way back in 1999, the Detroit artist has worked hard to cement himself as the world’s greatest living rapper. Moving from the serious (Just Don’t Give a Fuck) to the comedic, yet highly intelligent My Name Is, Eminem’s appearance on the scene, whilst initially met with critical-confusion, followed on to being met with worldwide acclaim.
However, it was that album’s follow-up, The Marshall Mathers LP, released just over one year later, that drove home not only deeper autobiographical context, yet drove more introspect regarding Eminem as an artist, focusing less on his self-proclaimed ‘Slim Shady’ moniker. From the acclaimed Stan to the infectious and addictive Drug Ballad, The Marshall Mathers LP, quite rightly, earned its place as one of the greatest rap albums of all time.
Then came The Eminem Show, which, whilst not as acclaimed as it’s predecessor, showed a more accomplished side to the rapper, with some simply stunning standouts which still stand the test-of-time in today’s day and age (from Without Me and Superman to the haunting Hailie’s Song and the Dr Dre-produced My Dad’s Gone Crazy).
What followed, however, seemed to signify less of an impactful Eminem as we’d seeing prior. Encore, released some some years after The Marshall Mathers LP, was less autobiographical, focusing more on external aspects away from the rapper’s own turbulent background. With lead single’s Just Lose It poke on Michael Jackson’s molestation cases, Mosh led a critical assault onto the Bush administration. The album was greeted favourably, however many felt it had lost the seemingly vulnerable Mathers that we’d been exposed to over the past half-decade.
Clearly Eminem felt this, and after announcing a short-spelled ‘retirement’, returned with Relapse, and follow-up Recovery, within twelve months of each other, four years later. Met with luke-warm appreciation, both albums were seen to signify a more commercial side and therefore often lauded by critics and fans alike.
Fast-fowarding to 2013 however, Eminem surprised the world with the announcement of new album The Marshall Mathers LP 2, or MMLP2, for short. The announcement was instantly met with the understanding of pressure; both for Eminem to return with a product-offering as deep and coercive as his early efforts, along with having to live up as a true sequel to his 2000-standout original due to the new album’s title.
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Eminem responded to these ‘concerns’, by stating that MMLP2 is “not necessarily a sequel, as much as it is a revisitation…. So 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.”
And he’s right. Whilst outspoken in the past, MMLP2 delves deeper into Eminem’s subconscious whilst offering a rare look inside his own world. It’s a fairly conceptual piece of work too, with rockier, edgier elements clearly influenced by co-producer Rick Rubin. None other states that claim more than Survival. The track, featuring New Royales-vocalist Liz Rodrigues, was unveiled as the promotional single for the new Call of Duty: Ghosts video game, with Eminem’s aggressive raps against distorted heavy bass guitars harking back to the rapper’s Recovery LP.
The last few years between albums have seen big change in terms of music-consumption trends; EDM’s impact into the charts, globally, has led to more and more artists from other genres utilising electronic tones in a bid to drive commercialism, however it’s refreshing to hear that Eminem has stayed focused on what he knows best, and that’s strong archaic beats. Additionally, his lyrical ability shows no signs of declining with age (as seen in the reminiscent Rap God), whilst the impeccable The Monster, featuring multi-collaborator Rihanna, shows Eminem still knows how to create that radio-friendly hit.
Moreover it seems that Eminem is fighting hard to prove he is still the best in the business, with MMLP2 containing further exciting collaborations. His partnership with industry heavy-weight Kendrick Lamar on Love Game is simply one of the most exciting records we’ve heard to come from Shady’s camp in a long, long time, and harks back to the ‘simpler’, more tongue-in-cheek days of debut The Slim Shady LP, whilst the hook on Beautiful Pain,, where Mathers partners with acclaimed Australian singer-songwriter Sia, will grab you on first listen. Unfortunately however, the track is only available on the ‘Deluxe’ edition of the album, one of the five bonus tracks listeners will receive if they choose to ‘go premium’.
Rubin’s rock-influence is further inspired by single Berzerk, which Eminem showcased in partnership with Beats By Dre; listening carefully you can begin to realise what Eminem means when he says of the album “it’s more about the vibe, and it’s more about the nostalgia” – Berzerk has clearly been influenced by 90’s rap, and the end result is simply wonderful.
There are lulls however. Headlights, whilst still shining with Eminem’s strong lyrical-rhyming ability, sounds fairly staid, and too ‘simple’; it’s a clear album-filler. The same goes with So Much Better…. so much better it isn’t.
However, Brainless and So Far seem to bounce back and clearly help to shape why MMLP2 is an incredibly strong album. Eminem has always been first to meet reality with humour, and non more-so than the latter track; with Em going back to his Shady ways with raps such as “Got friends on Facebook all over the world, not sure what that means, they tell me it’s good”.
Skylar Grey of course makes an appearance on MMLP2; her sweetly-soft folk/rock dulcet tones fortunately help soften As*hole, helping to revitalise what could be seen as a fairly monotonous track, however it’s unfortunate her writing abilities aren’t seen anywhere else on the record.
Nevertheless, “not necessarily a sequel, as much as it is a revisitation” hits the nail on the head precisely. MMLP2 may not be the sequel we were hoping for, but it’s a brilliant return to form for the Detroit rapper. It seemingly fits in between The Eminem Show and the original Marshall Mathers LP, and whilst it may not be up to the standard of the ‘original’, the bar was set so high back then that it’s unlikely any rap album could ever come close. This does, though. Shady’s back!
Hit the links below to download MMLP2 now.