Over the past 15 years, very few artists have attained the level of success that rapper Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem, has reached.
Since bursting onto the hip-hop scene with his Grammy-winning album and alter ego phenomenon The Slim Shady LP in 1999, his career has skyrocketed into superstardom. With more than 80 million albums sold worldwide and headlining music festivals and tours around the world, it is clear that Eminem is one of the most popular artists of this generation.
One of Eminem’s best-selling albums was The Marshall Mathers LP released in 2000, selling 1.76 million copies in the first week and becoming the fastest-selling album ever by a solo artist. More personal than his previous work, MMLP had Eminem discussing the hardships of his life from childhood to his newly found celebrity status while maintaining the comical style of rap that made him popular.
This formula worked extremely well for his early music, and it appears that he is bringing it back for a sequel.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2, his first album since 2010’s Recovery, sees Eminem reaching into the hip-hop archives to create an old-school hip-hop sound that can take listeners back almost 20 years. Much of this can be attributed to legendary hip-hop producer and album collaborator Rick Rubin, who has worked with hip-hop icons such as the Beastie Boys, Run D.M.C. and Jay Z.
Rubin’s influence was immediately evident on the album’s lead single, “Berzerk.” Produced by Rubin, the beat features retro-sounding drums and old-school disc jockey scratches supplemented by rough electric guitar, not to mention samples from the Beastie Boys’ classic hit “Fight For Your Right.” Eminem’s aggressive rapping style complements the hard-hitting beat perfectly, and though the song might not be every listener’s favorite, it sets an interesting tone for much of the album.
Eminem creates one of the more hilarious songs on the album over Rubin’s classic production with the song “Love Game” featuring Compton’s own Kendrick Lamar, the only rapper to make a guest appearance on the album. The beat primarily consists of samples from Wayne Fontana and the Mindbender’s 1965 hit “Game Of Love,” giving it just enough of a hip-hop makeover to bring it to 2013 without losing the essence of the song.
Even with a strong focus on an old-school sound, MMLP2 has its fair share of pop-influenced songs that are very radio-friendly.
“The Monster” brings back Rihanna for another hook that attempts to recreate the success of their smash hit, “Love The Way You Lie.” The song addresses the media and the expectations that are put on them, referred to as the “monster” that they have befriended and tried to get used to. Eminem’s first line explains his frustration very clearly, stating, “I wanted the fame, but not the cover of Newsweek / Oh well, guess beggars can’t be choosey.” The song transitions from speaking about his own problems to hoping that his music can positively affect at least one other person’s life, saying, “It’s payback, Russell Wilson falling way back in the draft / Turning nothing into something, still can make that.”
Another song that fits this mold is “Headlights,” which enlists the help of fun. frontman Nate Ruess to sing about the emotional troubles of a single-parent household. Eminem uses this song as somewhat of a reconciliation with his own mother, whom he has represented very negatively — to say the least — in his music for many years. Despite the many horrible things he has said about his mother in the past, he admits that she is still beautiful to him for the sole reason that she is his mom. He even mentions the fact that he does not play the song “Cleaning Out My Closet” at his concerts anymore and he cringes “every time it’s on the radio” because it is so harsh. The song is portrayed as Eminem writing this message to her as the plane he is on is about to crash, bringing his true feelings and emotions to the forefront.
With the album focusing on a wide range of sounds and emotions, a track as simple as Eminem dropping punch line after punch line for six minutes can showcase his lyricism better than anything else. “Rap God” gives us exactly that, with a strong yet simple beat that Eminem proceeds to take over. The highlight of the track, however, is Eminem’s super-fast delivery during the middle of the third verse, with lyrics coming so quickly, that it is hard to keep up, but extremely entertaining to listen to.
Overall, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is more than simply a sequel to its predecessor. MMLP2 touches on many of the same themes from the previous album, but Eminem expands on them with a much more mature and understanding point of view. He is not the same person he was when he created MMLP, so it is unfair to expect the exact same material. The growth between the two albums is evident, and it really is a delightful journey. Though his anger might be less prevalent in his rapping style throughout the album, the overall range of emotions is very present. Comparing the two albums is difficult, but it is fair to say that Mathers has created a very worthy piece of work to add to his already successful resume.
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