The Marshall Mathers LP 2
The first three albums by Eminem suggested a clever if immature/irresponsible rapper – whether you like him or not he’s been an influential MC, his penchant for accented fragments, for chiming along strong internal rhymes all the time, the way he bends the line right around on itself. You can’t argue with his technique. And The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was almost sold entirely on that jaw-dropping party-trick that is Rap God. He spits so fast, no one else can do that – everyone else will be trying – he must be good. Right? Right?
Well, Eminem hasn’t been good for a lot longer than he was ever good. But like that matters. He’s doing better numbers than most – his albums have charted, they sell, he (presumably) keeps finding new fans.
And his rub-the-tummy-while-patting-the-head raps seem to still wow so many. No one is really caring all that much about the fact he has nothing to say – it’s all in the way that he says it.
But surely, after “gimmick” albums that play up his demons and play to his audience here he is committing that worst sin – admitting, with the album’s title, that he’s fresh out of new ideas. There’s actually – really – no reason for this album to be titled up as any sort of sequel to the record that was his breakthrough and is his masterpiece. Beyond the cynical move of attracting sales.
The only thing – really – that links this one to that is Eminem’s worst trait: homophobia. Homophobia that he must announce – that he’s seemingly so proud of.
And even if I defend to my death his right to say what he wants I still find little to actually like on this album. Rap God and Bezerk and Rhyme or Reason all sound like party-tricks rather than good songs; you know the way something like Stan was actually a good song.
Also some of Em’s taunts sound far too far beyond juvenile. Mocking Insane Clown Posse’s Mirrors is like shooting a giant fish-shaped barrel from a foot away. But also he ends up sounding as silly as the clowns he’s trying to parody. Same with shouting out about Monica Lewinski. Strange, dated, irrelevant references – and too-pleased-with-himself commentary, calling out his favourite lyrics just before he spits them, justifying his cussing, cursing and – yes (even) his homophobia.
I can see the appeal of wanting to like an Eminem album – and I can hear that this is better than anything he’s done in a while, if you ignore the bits that are grossly insensitive – that still sound, at best, like an overgrown teenager, a juvenile and just focus in on the sound of his flow, the style of his flow. But production-wise this is dull, as dated as those silly jibes and taunts he throws. And it’s overly long. And man, he just sounds old. When the album opens and he tries his best to set up some new horror-show on Bad Guy it’s really just a hollow show. And he sounds like the old guy.
All of this trying-to-be-super-clever ultra self-awareness just shows a silly show-off. And that’s at best. For the most part this smells – badly – of a guy trying too hard to shrug off any issues of relevance, and showing, ultimately, that he’s never been capable of harnessing his obvious weakness – fear – incapable of turning that fear into anything resembling a strength.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 didn’t need to happen. That’s its biggest crime.