If you didn’t like Shady antics before, stop reading now. If Marshall Mathers is unconditionally your Messiah, you might also stop reading now. This review is for those who are on the fence about a certain rapper who shares a name with a shellac-covered candy.
Well, the real Slim Shady stood up again on the new “Marshall Mathers LP 2.” The fact that not one, but two albums now bear his name is a testament to the fact that he is exactly what he claims to be: “a rap god.” But that doesn’t mean you have to pray to him. You don’t even have to take his word literally. In fact, if “MMLP2” is the Testament, it might be best not to.
Whereas 2010’s “Recovery” was one of the most honest and introspective glimpses into the rapper’s life, rife with struggle and addiction, “MMLP2” returns to Slim Shady’s characteristically heinous, vulgar, and sophomoric id. With track titles like “Bad Guy,” “Asshole,” “Brainless,” “Evil Twin” and “Monster,” it’s not much of a secret that ‘Nem is still pissed off.
Opener “Bad Guy” is an angry revenge track depicting being kidnapped by Stan’s brother, referencing the classic track named after that character.
“So Much Better” boils down to wishing a certain female figure in Marshall’s life would “just drop dead.” It’s angry. It’s vile. And it’s true to form. Few artists can make listeners feel as dirty, deranged and maniacally delighted as Eminem. But it’s precisely this insanity, whether genuine or feigned, that really makes his music bipartisan.
On the one hand, he is inexcusably (or at least pretends to be) sexist, chauvinistic and homophobic. On the other hand, he is, without a doubt, one of the most talented lyricists in hip-hop history.
True to form, “MMLP2” is well-stocked with witty wordplay and, make-you-think-twice-and-then-laugh lines: “I’m driving drunk because she drove me to drinking.” That lyric encapsulates a lot about Eminem: poor people skills, great rhyme abilities.
While his lyricism has always been consistently sharp, “MMLP2” lacks cohesion in its production. With 16 songs, the record feels self-indulgent and bacchanal. A handful of the tracks (“Berzerk” and “Survival”) sample ‘80s hair-bands, including Billy Squier’s “The Stroke,” to the effect of sounding like trashy party tracks with dime-store distorted guitar licks. Compared to the Zombies-sampled “Rhyme Or Reason” and the confessional “Headlights,” the raucous Detroit-rock tracks sound cheaply produced and entirely unnecessary in the album.
That same apologetic “Headlights” — perhaps one of the best tracks on the album — stands out in context of the record for its honesty and lack of outward anger. The album certainly could’ve been pared down to a more cohesive end, subtracting the banal party tracks that add nothing to the record.
While the record may not feel consistent, it does nothing to harm the rapper’s reputation. By this point, he’s basically untouchable. His raps-per-minute gauge is still redlining. He is still forging some incredibly solid lyrical performances. He even brought the Yoda Rap on “Rhyme or Reason.”
He has matured a little, but he obviously has not let go of shock-value antipoetry. So in sum, “MMLP2” is pretty good for what it is — another hair-raising Eminem album with some terrible tracks and some terrific ones. His disciples will follow this rap god unconditionally and the nonbelievers won’t reconsider. The point is, it’s not a record to change anyone or anything. There will be no converts.
Title: “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”
Label: Aftermath, Shady, Interscope
Release date: Nov. 5, 2013