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It has been thirteen years since I managed to persuade my mum to buy the Marshall Mathers LP (before it was subsequently taken away from me after ten seconds of playing). Ever since that moment, my love for Eminem’s music has evolved from forbidden pleasure to full blown admiration. The first MMLP is one of the few albums I revisit over and over, so when the news broke about a sequel, my reaction was akin to the one my eleven year old self had all those years ago.
It exceeded expectations.
Yet this is not a rehash or an attempt to cash in on a sense of nostalgia from people such as myself. This is the culmination of nearly two decades worth of trials and tribulations and battling both demons inside and out. His past two albums (Relapse and Recovery) introduced the world to a tortured and unsure character compared to the angry, bitter and aggressive Eminem of before. This album manages to merge both of these incantations and the result is his best work since the first MMLP.
In this album the listener gets the sense that Eminem is back. It is self-assured, confident and defiant. The track ‘Rap God’ echoes similar opinions that Kanye West articulated in ‘I am a God’ on Yeezus (the closing line being ‘Why be a King, when you can be a God’). Both these artists have clearly transcended the industry, and while Kanye created a commercially difficult album with his freedom, Eminem stuck to what he does best: showing the world that he is THE master lyricist.
The best track on the entire album may just be the first track ‘Bad Guy’. This is a direct sequel to Stan from the first MMLP. Whilst the support from Skylar Grey isn’t as haunting as Dido, Eminem elevates the track and maintains the horrifying violence whilst simultaneously denouncing his own use of homophobic and misogynistic language in the past. You can’t help but put this track on repeat; it is so layered and complex that one listen isn’t enough.
The album is co-produced by the best in the business: Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin. They both know how to capitalise on Eminem’s strength and do so by providing beats that aren’t overbearing. On the whole I think they seem a little shallow compared to the punchier beats on the first MMLP, but this only illuminates Eminem’s skill further as he maintains the listener’s attentions all by himself. There are of course some exceptions, such as the incredibly catchy ‘Love Game’ featuring Kendrick Lamar (where a sixties inspired backing is a real toe tapper) and ‘Survival’ (which is just as rousing as ‘Till I Collapse’).
There are so many examples of masterful wordplay and anecdotes to reference them all, but I will finish with one thought; that the gunshot heard at the end of the skit ‘Parking Lot’ may just have been the killing off of the old Slim Shady. In its place is an Eminem who has matured into a whole different monster.
A better one.