Eminem has proved time and again that he is a technical and lyrical genius, despite the recent dip in quality of his last few albums. Hopes were sky high when the rapper announced that his next album would be a sequel to his wildly popular album, The Marshall Mathers LP. Unfortunately, this sequel, appropriately titled The Marshall Mathers LP 2, shows no room for improvement for this now-sober father of three. Instead, MMLP2 serves as a portal back in time to where Eminem’s lyrics were filled with misogyny and crass humor, things that have been built upon and enhanced by other rappers who have since done it better.
What is most confusing about Eminem going back to his roots with MMLP2 is that it in every way contradicts the progression that he has made throughout his career. He began as a young punk with lyrics that both shocked and insulted millions of people. But his last album, Recovery, was his path to redemption after his addiction to prescription drugs. Despite his homophobic lyrics, at the 2001 Grammys Eminem performed with openly gay Elton John, who rocked a pink polka-dot suit. He has made all of these progressions in his life, so one would think that instead of treading backwards, he would only move forward, but he did the exact opposite. The whole album feels contradictory, like he’s run out of ideas, so he has to go back to the past that he has tried so hard to overcome.
This being said, the album isn’t a complete mess. Eminem can still spit with the best of them, and his talent is still apparent throughout MMLP2. “Bad Guy” begins the album with a lengthy epic that starts the album off right, with production that fits his style and lyrics that flow and make sense. “Love Game”, the highly-anticipated collaboration with Kendrick Lamar, is another winner, starting off a bit slow with Eminem’s first verse but only getting better with Lamar’s following lines and Shady’s final verse.
While Dr. Dre sits this album out, simply labeled as executive producer, most of the production is created by Shady’s own hand. The songs produced by Shady are arena-rap feeling, which makes it all the more jarring when Rick Rubin steps in. Rubin and Eminem either really click, or miss the mark completely. “So Far…” samples Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good” and Schoolly D’s “P.S.K. (What Does It Mean)” and Shady tears apart the song, which proves to be one of the shining moments on MMLP2. But then we get complete messes like the first single, “Berzerk”. “Berzerk” has Eminem rapping like he’s trying to be the Beastie Boys, and while the rap-rock sound of Rubin’s production may have worked in “So Far…”, it sounds terrible in the single.
We also get yet another Rihanna collaboration, and while “Love the Way You Lie” may have worked on an album like Recovery, “The Monster” is far from inspiring. Then there is one of the most eye-rolling choruses heard in a rap album this year in the form of “Asshole”, which features Skylar Grey belting about how Eminem is an asshole. Do we really need a song like this inserted into an album already filled with vicious call-outs at celebs and homophobic rants? We already know that Eminem isn’t the nicest guy, and making a song about it takes the listener out of the album’s flow.
All in all, MMLP2 is just another example (after Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail) of the rap legends of the last generation fading away. Eminem is clearly struggling for ideas, and in a world where rappers like Tyler, the Creator and the rest of Odd Future have made the horrorcore rap style their niche, it makes it only more obvious that Shady can’t keep up. If you’re a true Slim Shady fan and disagree entirely with my views of MMLP2, go back and listen to some of his classics. Then listen to what you think are the best songs on MMLP2. It is clear when looking back at Eminem’s discography that he started off hot, but his flame has been slowly fading. If he’s going to break any new ground, Eminem is going to need to stop treading ground that he walked on 13 years ago and take some steps forward. Otherwise, albums like MMLP2 will begin crowding what was otherwise an amazing rap career.