BWW Reviews: EMINEM's The Marshall Mathers LP 2
The Real Slim Shady has, at long last, stood up again. His release of Encore in 2004 began a downward spiral of music quality due to heavy drug addiction. The death of his best friend, DeShaun Dupree Holton, also known as Proof, only exacerbated his problems.
However, this death, while it worsened his addiction at first, also helped him recover. As he was in and out of rehab during the years 2006 and 2007, Eminem began to believe that Proof was his guardian angel, and, after he left rehab, he began working again. However, the result was different than many expected, and was something only die-hard Eminem fans enjoyed.
Relapse was very much a Slim Shady album-he seemingly killed off all other alter egos in favor of 70+ minutes of Shady's most macabre fantasies. The problem with Relapse, was that it was more extreme and graphic than anything Eminem had done with Slim. Each Eminem album up until the point of Relapse contained one extremely graphic Slim Shady song, but Relapse was made up almost entirely of these songs. The album was not received very well for one reason: it lacked both the polish and balance of his three best (The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show).
Recovery was a step in the right direction for Eminem, as he began to dabble with more emotionally deep and mature lyrics, while still finding the balance he was known for. Now, 9 years after Encore and 13 years after The Marshall Mathers LP, fans have what they've been looking for since The Eminem Show. The Marshall Mathers LP 2, or MMLP 2, is a return to form for both Eminem and his alter ego. The album sees rap's favorite anti-hero making a triumphant return to the darkly comical world he introduced us to back in 1999, when he released The Slim Shady LP. But, where many would use the 2 in the title as a reason to make a legitimate sequel, one that continues many of the songs, Eminem decided to "revisit" the themes that made SSLP, MMLP, and The Eminem Show so enthralling.
The references to the original album are frequent, as well. "Bad Guy," the album's opener, is told from the perspective of Stan's younger brother who blames Eminem, and comes to act out his revenge. Yet, outside of his referential lyrics, Eminem has also clearly stepped up his game. His flow is the best it has ever been, as "Rap God" makes clear. At one point, in "Rap God's" 3-minute-long third verse, Eminem raps: "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." This piece of the verse contains the crux of the album, which is that of revisitation.
When Eminem released the original MMLP, he was very new to rap. Now, it's been 14 years since his mainstream debut, and he's in an entirely different place than he was when he released the first. This allows Eminem to craft a highly reflective album, on which Eminem openly makes fun of himself and the circumstances he's gotten himself into. But, it also allows him to craft one of his deepest tracks ever. On "Headlights," which features fun.'s Nate Ruess, Eminem crafts a sincere and touching apology to his mother, who has been a target of his fury for years. This song is beautifully poetic, and stands in stark contrast to previous hit "Cleaning Out My Closet."
The album shines, though, as always, when Eminem is crafting raps that allow Slim Shady to indulge in his psychotic impulses, without ever going over the top. Congratulations Eminem, you have finally done it. Guess who's back?