Eminem’s most recent album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” is a very difficult album to review for me. Eminem is not an evolving artist, his style hasn’t drastically changed over the years, if it has at all, but it does fluctuate between the serious hard-hitting rhymes and the jokester “Slim Shady” persona that bags on celebrities and jokes about drugs, mental illness and death. If MMLP2 has one great failing, it is that Eminem doesn’t seem to know what he wants this album to be.
It’s hard to listen to MMLP2, without looking back at Eminem’s first two albums, The Marshall Mathers LP and The Slim Shady LP, and in that way MMLP2 is a rousing success. I’ve never listened to an album that had so many references to an artist’s first albums, and never done so well. Whether it’s the sequel to “Stan” in “Bad Guy”, the “Criminal” reference in “Rhyme or Reason”, or the “The Real Slim Shady” beat dropping into “So Far…”, this album is full of nostalgia that will have Eminem fans blowing the dust off of Eminem’s first two LPs and giving them another go.
The album itself is full of very high points. “Bad Guy” may be the second best song that Eminem has ever released behind its storyline predecessor, “Stan”. The full circle storytelling, where Eminem imagines his own death at the hands of Stan’s younger brother brings the album in on such a high note, that it’s actually difficult to judge the rest of the album when it creates such a high standard for itself. “Bad Guy” is followed by the album’s lone skit, which other than continuing the brief storyline introduced in “Criminal” from The Marshall Mathers LP doesn’t really seem to have any meaningful purpose. This juxtaposition is representative of the album as a whole as the rest is a roller coaster ride of each of Eminem’s styles. There are great serious tracks to be heard here the best (not including “Bad Guy”) are a hate rap at his walkout father, “Rhyme or Reason” and a surprisingly heartfelt ode to his mother in “Headlights”. The lighthearted and fun tracks are evident as well whether it be “Love Game” (which I already wrote about) or “Rap God”. In terms of adding more great tracks to an already extensive catalog of good songs, MMLP2 does not disappoint.
For every high point in the album, however, there are low points. The bonus tracks should be relegated to “Encore 2” if Eminem ever records it. “Baby”, “Desperation” and “Groundhog Day” are all so average that they would have been better off not even having been included, and serve to drag down what was a very good album until then. Sprinkled in amongst the good tracks at the beginning are “So Much Better”, “Berzerk” and “Asshole” which feel more like the annoying tracks that I had to fight through on Eminem’s “Relapse” album. Add in the mind-numbingly bad “Stronger Than I Was”, where Eminem sings 75% of it, and there are really a lot of tracks here that really take away from the great ones.
OVERALL RANKING: 8/10
In short, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” falls well short of the brilliance and front to back playability which was “The Marshall Mathers LP”. For every great track there seems to be an average or even poor track to go with it. Eminem’s last album, “Recovery”, was a great album because the tracks all felt like they went together and had a deeper meaning when taken as a whole. MMLP2 seems more like a series of tracks thrown together with a bow wrapped around it named after Eminem’s debut album. MMLP2 is NOT MMLP, but it speaks to Eminem’s talent and place in the hip-hop world that even with all the low points, he manages to throw together a very good album. If you strip away the bad stuff, you are left with 10 or so fantastic tracks, which is more than you get out of most mainstream hip-hop albums.
Must have tracks: “Bad Guy”, “Rap God”, “Love Game” & “Headlights”
Don’t even bother: “So Much Better”, “Asshole” & “Stronger Than I Was”