Much like everyone, I went into listening to The Marshall Mathers LP 2 with little expectations of it living up to the original– which was one of my personal favorite albums of all time. Upon multiple listens I can safely say my expectations were wrong. Not only does Eminem‘s MMLP2 live up to the first, but it’s some of the best work Eminem has ever recorded.
The project opens up with “Bad Guy“–a song penned as if it’s written by Stan‘s little brother Matthew. Much like his older brother Stan, Matthew‘s obsessed with Eminem. Matt is out for revenge and feeling like his life is garbage because he had to grow up without his older brother whose suicide was brought on by his own Eminem obsession. Matthew eventually traps Em in his trunk and does 90 on the freeway, ironically just like his brother Stan did while his girlfriend was screaming in the trunk. After referring to older Em songs like “Desperados,” Matthew tells Marshall this is for Stan and Frank Ocean (who we can assume he was also a fan of with the clever Swim Good reference) before he drives off a bridge.
“I’m the bullies you hate, that you became”
On the second part of Bad Guy, Matthew transforms from a character to a voice in Eminem‘s head that represents anyone he’s ever offended. This is Eminem at his best. Bad Guy recaptures the feeling you had when first hearing Stan. The song will take a few listens for you to fully take in the whole story Marshall just blessed you with.
Parking Lot is a skit that takes place directly after Eminem robs the bank on the original Marshall Mathers LP classic “Criminal.” The skit is perfect because on the outro of Bad Guy, Em says “as we pick up where the last Mathers LP left off,” and this skit literally picks up where MMLP left off…Criminal. For a sequel to a classic like The Marshall Mathers LP was, this is how you open it. Perfect skit to take us from the album’s opener to “Rhyme Or Reason.”
On “Rhyme Or Reason” Eminem goes off on everything, including his father, who he doesn’t consider as a dad. He opens the track saying his mother produced like a komodo dragon–a species capable of reproducing asexually. If you want to act like somebody doesn’t exist, that’s how you do it. The beat samples “Time Of The Season” by The Zombies and captures the feel of an older Slim Shady record. Shady‘s rhyming ability is incredible. Em‘s Yoda impression even impresses on this one.
“I got 99 problems and the bitch ain’t one, she’s all 99 of them I need a machine gun”
Eminem‘s “So Much Better” is about a woman who cheated on him with Dre, Drake, and Lupe Fiasco. Life would be so much better if she dropped dead as far as Marshall is concerned. It’s unknown who the woman Em is rapping about on this one (if she even exists), but the track ends much like “Kill You” from the original MMLP, with Em saying he’s just playing. This is a great album cut and its catchy chorus is simple yet effective.
The next track on the album is the Liz Rodrigues featured Call Of Duty: Ghosts theme song “Survival.” This song is an anthem, but it would better suit a Recovery 2, and not MMLP2. If you were a fan of “Not Afraid,” this ones for you. The song is by no means bad. In fact, it’s good. Really good…but this is far left from the theme of the album.
Eminem follows up Survival with “Legacy“–a track about being different. The song plays on a young Marshall who is “wired different” that’s been through it all and later figures out that being different is what makes him so special. The track features Boris on the chorus, who helps the song succeed at being a perfect fit for the album.
Asshole sounds like it could have easily fit on the original Marshall Mathers LP album. Eminem disses Insane Clown Posse, and Asher Roth on this Skylar Grey featured track that plays on all the backlash of the original MMLP‘s musical content as support all while quoting himself from “My Name Is.” Why is Skylar on this? Em‘s “thanks for the support, asshole!,” is good enough. Skylar‘s appearance adds nothing, but it isn’t bothersome.
“Berzerk” served as MMLP2‘s first single and reintroduced to the blonde rapper we all know and love. The song pays homage to some of the greats, all while a rebellious Em does his thing with triple-entendre punchlines. The pop friendly chorus with a Billy Squire sample everybody’s familiar with doesn’t hurt neither.
“Why be a king when you can be a God?”
The only purpose of “Rap God” is to remind you that Eminem still got it. The witty album cut features Marshall spitting rapid-fire flows and switching it up when he feels. While many rappers consider themselves kings, Em feels he’s a step above them…a Rap God. Want to be a lyricist? Study this.
Marshall recalls being bullied in school on “Brainless.” The track is like an angry souped-up version of the Slim Shady LP cut “Brain Damage.” Eminem‘s rhyming ability is amazing, and on this one he rhymes the word orange effortlessly just like he taught Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. This one stands out effortlessly.
On “Stronger Than I Was” Eminem sings (yeah you read that right) about a relationship that went sour. A song like this tries to make you feel the same way “Halie’s Song” on The Eminem Show did, but it fails to deliver until Marshall begins rapping…three minutes in. You go into this one with no warning. On the first listen I expected Em to begin rapping early on and was in shock after listening to him sing for three minutes straight. Eminem singing isn’t a high point of the album, but the content is still there. It’s just best when he raps.
The Rihanna featured track “The Monster” is easily the worst addition to The Marshall Mathers LP 2. The chorus is beyond cheesy, yet pop radio friendly. Eminem‘s rhymes are good, and so is some of the content, but the yodeling and Em‘s background singing is an annoyance and it holds the track back. The Monster is unsurprisingly a single from the album and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it take over the radio the way “I Love The Way You Lie” did.
“Got friends on Facebook all over the world…not sure what that means, they tell me it’s good”
“So Far…” features a fitting sample of Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh‘s 70’s solo cut “Life’s Been Good” and it’s easily the most nostalgic feeling songs on the album–even though Em rhymes about modern things he don’t understand such as Facebook friends and how to download new Ludacris songs. Marshall combines the perfect amount of wit, lyricism, and references to the original Marshall Mathers LP to make it a stand out.
For “Love Game” Eminem and Kendrick Lamar went in a completely different direction than expected. The song feels very nostalgic much like other songs on the album, but it also feels different from anything Em has ever recorded. The Kendrick Lamar feature is appreciated, but it’s not the same King Kendrick we heard on “Control.” Love Game fits the project well and the rhymes are dope. The Wayne Fontana sample is great and overall the song is too, but let’s hope to hear these two again on a more aggressive track one day.
“…to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though, cause you ain’t even get to witness your grand baby’s growth”
“Headlights” is easily the most powerful song on The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and one of the greatest songs Eminem has ever recorded. Em rhymes about many things that divided him and his mother throughout his early life and rap career. 41-year-old Marshall isn’t as stubborn as he once was. The track is a tribute to Debbie Mathers, who he thanks for playing the role of both his Mother and Father. Nobody expected this one. Nate Ruess of FUN. takes the song to another dimension with his chorus.
“Sometimes I listen and revisit them old albums often as I can and skim through all them bitches…to make sure I keep up with my competition”
Eminem ends the album as his ruthless “Evil Twin.” Marshall samples his longtime friend Royce Da 5’9″ on this one and it’s fits perfectly. Em reminds us that he’s at the top of his game. Competition? There is none! Of course unless Slim Shady is counting himself, and in this case he is. The top four line will make your jaw drop. A solid track to end the album with and leave us wanting more. The commercial for The Marshall Mathers LP 2 says “welcome home for the last time.” Let’s hope if Eminem continues to pump out music he doesn’t completely abandoned this sound which could be considered home.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 promised to be a revisit of something many of us grew up loving and it does just that. If you’re a fan of Eminem‘s earlier work, as well as his aggressive more serious style introduced with Recovery, you’ll be satisfied because this album is the best of the both. Em‘s sounding like himself again, mixing the good with the bad, and not taking away the bad and only feeding us the good. The deluxe album features five bonus songs and every one of them are great. If you’re buying The Marshall Mathers LP 2, chances are you’re shooting for the deluxe version and if you do, you’ll have no problem making the album better by replacing songs such as “The Monster” and “Stronger Than I Was” with “Beautiful Pain” and “Wicked Ways.”
Pros: Eminem’s embracing his original sound we fell in love with, Quote-friendly bars, Solid production, Meaningful lyrics, Emotion, Personal topics
Cons: Skylar Grey on “Asshole”, The Monster, Too much singing on “Stronger That I Was”
Timeless Tracks: Bad Guy, Headlights, So Far…, Brainless, Rap God, Love Game, So Much Better, Evil Twin, Rhyme Or Reason