But Slim, What If You Win?: A Review of ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’

By Brent Glass

MMLP2

That’s why they call him Slim Shady, he’s back, he’s back.  That’s why they call him Slim Shady, he’s back, he’s back. 

He’s back, mucka luckas!  I, for one, could not be happier.  Since Recovery I have been patiently waiting for a track to explode on.  Excuse me, I meant patiently waiting for his next album.  Marshall became quiet shortly after the buzz from Recovery had faded.  Then, when no one expected it, he came out with a mind-blowing single; most recently “Berzerk.”  And in an instant, Eminem was back at the forefront.  This album is important for the legacy of Marshall.  While Recovery was almost perfection, one cannot forget the monstrous failure of Relapse.  Having a mediocre record after Recovery would not add luster to his rap career.  However, I can tell you with full confidence that Eminem did not fumble his recovery.  The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will, at least in my mind, be the rap album of the year – if not the album of the year.  STREAM IT HERE on iTunes.

1.       Bad Guy

“Bad Guy” was a great opening track to The Marshall Mathers LP 2.  Over seven minutes long, it had the most obvious ties to The Marshall Mathers LP (1); it was essentially a sequel to “Stan.”  Eminem does not rap as himself or his alter ego, Slim Shady, but rather as Matthew Mitchell.  The listener doesn’t necessarily realize who the words belong to until halfway through the song but fans of MMLP will eventually make the connection that Matthew Mitchell is Stan’s little brother.  Those people no doubt also remember the line, “You could have at least signed an autograph for Matthew.”  “Bad Guy” is the story of Matthew’s revenge for his brother, Stan’s, death.  Within, the listener hears Matthew wrestle with how Stan’s death has reverberated throughout his life, never fully healing.  Next, Matthew takes action and abducts Marshall from his home and murders him.  While taking Eminem to his final resting place, Matthew notices a song on the radio, “Wait, here comes my favorite lyric: ‘I’m the bad guy who laughs at people who die’” – a tie to the song “Criminal” from MMLP. 

Finally, the listener hears something a little different than anything heard from Eminem.  He begins to rap with a demonic voice echoing his words, still talking as Matthew, offering a haunting dialogue directed at all of the shortcomings, contradictions, and sins of Marshall Mathers.  The listener is soon informed that Matthew Mitchell and Stan were simply metaphors; Eminem and Shady battling it out for who would have ultimate reign of the legendary rap career.  5/5

2.       Parking Lot (skit)

“Parking Lot” was a fun continuation of a scene that took place within the song “Criminal” from MMLP.  In this skit the listener hears Slim get bailed on by his getaway driver, shoot a dog, and then eventually shoot himself to avoid being arrested.  There is probably much symbolism that could be expounded upon, but one thing is certain: It’s great to have another skit on an Eminem album.  5/5

3.       Rhyme or Reason

This was definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album.  Em sampled a great song with “Time of the Season” by The Zombies and had a lot of fun along the way, including rapping a couple bars in a Yoda voice.  Your music usually has them.  But waned for the game your enthusiasm it hasn’t.  Follow you must, Rick Rubin my little Padawan.  Beyond the playfulness, this track was a rhyme gold mine.  Rhyming criminal, genitals, and emerald, and listener can tell Em is at the top of his game.  Similarly, he reminds the listener that while he is not the same person he was when he made the first MMLP he can still spit like he did in 2000.  5/5

4.       So Much Better

A common theme among Eminem songs is the hatred of women…  This theme was broadly applied in “So Much Better.”  The song employed a relatively basic but gripping beat.  Immediately the listener wants to like the song.  Historically I have scoffed at those who claim to like songs because they “like the beat.”  I’m not completely contradicting myself, however, when I say that the beat definitely did most of the coercion.  The rhymes were great as well, featuring the dark humor with which Marshall fans have become accustomed.  5/5

5.       Survival

A solid track but nothing that Eminem fans haven’t heard before.  Made for the newest installment of Call of Duty, “Survival” is similar to “Won’t Back Down” from Recovery, which was also made for a Call of Duty game.  The hook is quite catchy, backed by an arena rock guitar, but “catchiness” is not what I listen to Eminem for.  It was not a terrible track but in bored me in some ways.  4/5

6.       Legacy

This song was a nice change of pace.  A “rap ballad,” “Legacy” tells the story of young, ostracized Marshall Mathers.  Bullied as a kid, Marshall grew up thinking that he was “differently wired.”  At first, that fact bothered him but as the song reveals, his different wiring made him who he became.  Now I think the fact that I’m differently wired’s awesome.  5/5

7.       Asshole (feat. Skylar Grey)

I predict this will be one of Em’s most popular songs off the album.  It begins with the beat of a rock anthem like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and then transitions into a poppy hook sung by Skylar Grey.  Grey has contributed to the hook of many popular hip hop songs such as “I Need a Doctor” by Dr. Dre and “Words I Never Said” by Lupe Fiasco as well as releasing her own full length album (under the stage name Skylar Grey) this year, Don’t Look Down. 

The content of this song is interesting.  Within, Marshall exposes contradictory nature of his rap content and expectations of exposure for his daughters.  He rapped, though I don’t believe it, that he never “stopped to think I was speaking to children.”  He went so far to say, “Only women that I love are my daughters.  And sometimes I rhyme and it sounds like I forget I’m a father, and I push it farther.  So father forgive me if I forget to draw the line, it’s apparent I shouldn’t of been a parent; I’ll never grow up.”  4/5

8.       Berzerk

His first single of the album, “Berzerk” opened the door the possibilities of what this album could be.  Save a select few, I don’t buy that many people thought Eminem would make a song that conjured images of the Beastie Boys; but that’s what he did.  This song was the first look at what a Rick Rubin-produced Eminem would sound like, and it was good.  Backed by Billy Squire’s “The Stroke,” Shady took the listener on a trip to the nineties while still managing to take some jabs at contemporary celebrities like Lamar Odom.  Conversely, there are a few juvenile jokes, even for Eminem.  The epitome of such is summarized with this line, “This is your jam, unless you got toe jam.”  Eh, you could do better than that, Em.  4/5

9.       Rap God

Slim’s second single for The Marshall Mathers LP 2.  The track was welcomed with rave reviews for the lyrical content and speed of the rhymes.  At one point, Mathers rapped 97 words in fifteen seconds, immortalizing him in the game of rap.  A focal point (to me, anyway) is the reference to “I’m Back” from the first MMLP.  Censored originally, Eminem recycles another lyric to test the waters.

You get too big here they come trying to censor you; like that one line I said on “I’m Back” from the Mathers LP1.  Where I tried to say I take seven kids from Columbine, put em all in a line, add an AK-47, a revolver and a nine.  See if I get away with it now that I ain’t as big as I was.

That is Slim Shady doing what we expect him to do: push buttons and take it to the next level. 5/5

Rap God

10.   Brainless

“Brainless” is one track that sounded like it was belonged in Mathers LP 1.  It would fit perfectly between “I’m Back” and “The Marshall Mathers.”  The song begins with “Eminem has a full line of chainsaws… perhaps a frontal lobotomy would be the answer.  If science can operate on this distorted brain and put it to good use society will reap a great benefit.”  The rest of the track followed suit; Eminem rhymed about how he has a screwed up mind.  Then Slim came in and it was a different story.  The rhymes became about the greatness he has achieved in the game of rap.  5/5

11.   Stronger Than I Was

I think this was my least favorite track from the entire album.  Simply put, I thought it was boring, forgettable, and I really don’t like when Eminem sings the entire song.  2/5

12.   The Monster

“The Monster” was one of my least favorite tracks.  Admittedly, it was because I thought it was way too “poppy.”  Eminem’s verse wasn’t bad, I just write this one off as the pop-lover’s gift.  3/5

13.   So Far…

Definitely one of the best tracks.  Obviously produced by Rick Rubin, this song sampled “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh.  When I originally heard this I thought (as I’m sure many people did) that it was Kid Rock; except (sorry Kid) a better version of him.

It was obvious that Eminem returned to humor in his music this album.  While Recovery had its moments, it was nothing close to The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, or The Eminem Show.  This song was the brightest spot of his humor on this album.  Rapping about his apathy toward adopting technology, his Southern roots, and his fans, Eminem created an innovative track that recalled an earlier song.  Deep into the song, Eminem’s voice changes to Shady, the beat becomes very familiar and he said, “The other day someone got all elaborate and stuck a head from a f**kin dead cat in my mailbox.  Went to Burger King, they spit on my onion rings.  I think my karma catching up with me.”  The record scratched and the song went to the main hook from the sample.  It was fun.  5/5

14.   Love Game (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

What a fun track!  Most rap fans have heard of Kendrick Lamar by now.  A relatively new name in rap, Kendrick has made quite an impression for himself, most recently announcing he will be touring with Kanye West.  It is certainly worth noting that Lamar is the only rapper Eminem collaborated with on his non-deluxe album; obviously Marshall respects “K-Dot.”

Again, this Rick Rubin produced track sampled a great song in “Game of Love” by Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders.  Having that appropriate Motown feel, Eminem tells the many failures of his love life but lets the listener know that he will probably always keep playing the game of love.  Equally impressive was Kendrick Lamar’s verse on the bit.  5/5

eminem-rick-rubin

15.   Headlights (feat. Nate Ruess)

This is probably the most unexpected song on the whole album because of the content.  The first MMLP was an angry and dark album, similar to most of Eminem’s work, especially in regards to his mother, Debbie.  This song is an apology.

Nate Ruess, the leader singer of fun., kicks off the song with a fun.-esque melody setting the stage for the most heartfelt track on MMLP2.  Recalling the negative songs he has made, the mental problems his mother struggles with, and the absence of his father, Marshall Mathers lets his mom know that he loves her simply because “she’s his ma.”  5/5

16.   Evil Twin

I like this song.  The beat is nothing fancy, nor is the hook, but the lyrical content is intricate and fun to listen to.  Obviously, Eminem’s evil twin is Slim Shady, the psychopathic criminal fans have come to know and love.  The Marshall Mathers LP 2 has many hints that Slim Shady is on the way out because of the change in Marshall; that’s one of the possible symbols I mentioned in the “Parking Lot” skit.  However, “Evil Twin” gives the listener hope that no matter the change in Marshall’s personal life, he will always have that evil twin, much crazier than himself who raps like no other.  There is also a small reference to “My Name Is” from The Slim Shady LP which I loved.  Hi!  Faggot… 5/5

The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was fantastic.  The lyrical content was as good as it has ever been and those who hunger and thirst for “old Eminem” received a healthy portion.  Overall I give it 4.5/5

Eminem

Brent Glass is a Michigander who graduated from Eureka College in May of 2013. He spent time at the Sagamore Institute in Indianapolis, IN (a non-partisan think tank) where he worked on political economy pieces for Detroit, MI and Elkhart, IN. Additionally, he spent the summer of 2012 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, working on social media management. Currently he is working as a freelance writer for Sagamore Institute, creating a social media management business (Connect You Consulting) and working full-time as a Management Assistant to the owner of a car dealership. He plans to further his education in the fall of 2014 in either economics, public policy, political science or business.

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