1. “Bad Guy” Produced by: Part 1: S1, M-Phazes Part 2: StreetRunner
2. “Parking Lot” (skit) Produced by: Eminem
3. “Rhyme or Reason” Produced by: Rick Rubin
4. “So Much Better” Produced by: Eminem
5. “Survival” Produced by: DJ Khalil
6. “Legacy” Produced by: Emile Haynie
7. “Asshole” (featuring Skylar Grey) Produced by: Alex da Kid
8. “Berzerk” Produced by: Rick Rubin
9. “Rap God” Produced by: DVLP
10. “Brainless” Produced by: Eminem
11. “Stronger Than I Was” Produced by: Eminem
12. “The Monster” (featuring Rihanna) Produced by: Frequency
13. “So Far…” Produced by: Rick Rubin
14. “Love Game” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) Produced by: Rick Rubin
15. “Headlights” (featuring Nate Ruess) Produced by: Emile Haynie
16. “Evil Twin” Produced by: Sid Roams
Most of you guys know how passionate I am about film, and/or just storytelling in general. Anything that can take me out of my world and enrich me to another place even for five minutes is just pure bliss to me. Movies can do this, but even a great song can do the same thing. Music has a ton of common similarities with film as far as striking an emotional cord or making you think about something that you’ve never experienced. This is one of the many music artist who can take me on a journey just as much as a cinematic theater experience can.
Love him or hate him, Eminem connects with listeners because he has a story to tell. I’ve told people in the past that if you put together every album this guy has made, you would have an autobiography written by the man himself. It’s easy to say this guy is an idiot without reading between the lines, but the truth is, this guy is super intelligent, and his latest effort proves Eminem as an artist has a ton of substance left inside him.
The last time we had a Marshall Mathers LP, the world went absolutely nuts over the controversial lyrics he showcased. Almost everyone became a target on the record, including his wife, mother, and yes Dr. Dre even was killed on the album. The record sent shock-waves through the cultural zeitgeist unlike ever before, having the gay/bi sexual community turn against the artist for various comments on the record. Not to mention the famous track where he brutally murders his ex-wife Kim Mathers on the aggressive track “Kim.”
When the sequel, Marshall Mathers LP 2 was announced, my first thought was, “oh no,” because naming the record that brings so many expectations as well as implications of what kind of album to expect. After many listens to the new album, I have to admit this was a great move by the powerhouse rapper. On first play through, MMLP2 sounds like a generic follow-up to the record that made him a star, but on repeated listening it becomes clear how many parallels piece directly together with the original album.
The first track Bad Guy is a solid example of what I mean by digging deeper. This song sets the thesis for the entire album which is a very meta exploration. First time I heard this track, I thought it was Em’s way of taking his anger out on the negativity MMLP brought into his life, and I wasn’t fully wrong. However, take a closer look and you see this is a sequel to Stan about the obsessed fan who writes Eminem psychotic letters and kills himself and his wife at the end of the song. Stan Mitchell’s little brother Matthew is all grown up and exacting his revenge against the artist that ignored his brother. Here is a snippet of the writing:
It’s just me, you and the music now, Slim/I hope you hear it we are in a car right now/Wait, here comes my favorite lyric/I’m the bad guy who makes fun of people that die/And hey, here’s a sequel to my Mathers LP/ Just to try to get people to buy/How’s this for publicity stunt? This should be fun/Last album now cause after this you’ll be officially done/Eminem killed by M&M/Matthew Mitchell, b*tch, I even have your initials/I initially was gonna bury you next to my brother, but f*ck it/Since you love you’re city so much/ I figured, what the f*ck the best place you could be buried alive is right here
It’s clear Bad Guy serves as a way for the musician to confront his own mortality right from the start, especially in regards to how he jokes about death, but never thinks about who he effects. The interpretations on this track are endless and it’s one of the greatest album openers he’s ever had.
Rhyme or Reason and Headlights sees Eminem confront the drama with his parents in a manner we haven’t seen before. The original MMLP had twisted dedications to his mother, Debbie and even raped her in the first track Kill You. The sequel paints a whole different side of the artist who now realizes the troubles stem from his father who left him and his mom alone when he was a child. Rhyme or Reason has Eminem rapping over a sample of The Zombies, about the neglectful ways of his father, and how he might not be so angry if he stuck around. Then we have Headlights, which is the first real apology to his mother Debbie we’ve ever heard. On that song, he conveys his regret for making the song Cleaning Out My Closet, and explains how being a father has made him realize how much she went through. It’s definitely one of the strongest tracks on the record.
The album isn’t without its faults. Berzerk and Survival are basically tunes prepared for promoting the album. They’re still great jams, but both songs have radio bait written all over the production. This isn’t too surprising though considering, The Real Slim Shady was used the same way on MMLP 1 and didn’t represent the tone of that record at all.
One song I feel is out of place in the record is So Much Better, which has the artist using some of his callback misogynist lyrics from the first album. Most of the record Eminem is using satirical humor about the things he used to say on his records, and how he would kill anyone who would use the same words towards his daughter. Yet, here is the one track where he pulls a ton of his old habits out and says a ton of derogatory terms in reference to a girl who is acting like a “slut.” If this is a serious song– and I’m not certain it is– then it contradicts a lot of greatness on the album.
The rest of the album is a very self-reflective perspective on the impact The Marshal Mathers LP had on his career. Most of this can’t even really even be understood fully on one listen. Asshole featuring the lovely Skylar Grey, shows the rapper reflecting on his impulsive nature during the peak of his career.
Came to the world at a time when it was in need of a villain/An asshole, that role I think I succeed in fulfilling/Don’t think I ever stopped to think I was speaking to children/Everything was happening so fast/ It was like I blinked, sold three million/Then it all went blank, all I remember/Is feeling ridiculous cause I was getting sick of this feeling/Like I am always under attack man/I could have stacked my sh*t list to the ceiling/Women dish him but really thinking/If anyone ever talks to one of my little girls like this I would kill him/Guess I’m a little bit of a hypocrite.
Then we have The Monster which is the second collaboration with Rihanna, is a solid effort but not as good as Love the Way You Lie. That said, it didn’t need to be. I believe this track is a response to the single The Way I Am, where he shreds his frustrations out about the downfalls of fame. Here Eminem has a greater awareness of the fact he wished for success but should’ve expected the repercussions of fame from the beginning.
Wanted to be left alone in public excuse me/For wanting my cake, and eat it too, and wanting it both ways’/ Fame made me a balloon cause my ego inflated/ When I blew; see, but it was confusing
By far my favorite track on the record is Stronger Than I Was which is sung from the perspective of Kim Mathers. It’s so simple that it becomes brilliant. Once you realize the track is Kim’s words it adds so much depth to the original MMLP. He will never be able to take the song Kim back where he killed her, instead, he let’s the relationship come through his voice by singing her pain, because she can never sing or rap about him. A lot of songs have a deeper meaning that can’t be understood right away. I swear I get something new every time I hear this record. What’s funny is most people are going to judge it at face value on the first few listens, which I’m sure Em planned it that way.
Uh, we were Bonnie and Clyde/No, on the inside you were Jekyll and Hyde/I, felt like my whole relationship with you was a lie/It was you and I, why did I think it was ride or die?/Cause if you could’ve, took my life, you would’ve/It’s like you put a knife to my chest and pushed it right/Through to the, other side of my back and stuck a spike, too/Should’ve, put up more of a fight, but I couldn’t/At the time, no one could hurt me like you could’ve
Adding to this, I think that’s why you never hear the name Kim on the record or on Stronger Than I Was, because he probably feels he owes Kim that after what he did to her on the first MMLP record. Thus, singing as her acknowledges the pain he caused her and gives her a voice.
Other tracks that will take a few listens to grasp the complex lyrical nature. One of which is Love Game, which features Kendrick Lamar. I’m just going to say this song is too damn funny in all the right ways. Most are going to hear the song and think he’s ragging on a girl again, but this time it’s a girl trying to kill Eminem and the lyrics are hysterical, especially from Eminem. Lamar has a terrific verse on the track, but is almost completely overshadowed by the insanity Em delivers on the final verse. The second one being Rap God, is either Eminem showing off, or just absolutely the best lyrical spazzed out accident ever produced in rap or hip-hop. Either way, it’ll take a few times to get exactly just what the hell is said in some of these verses, especially when he goes “beast mode” in the middle.
When I first heard the The Marshall Mathers LP 2, I must say I was disappointed. I thought Eminem made an album that should have never shared the same name as The Marshal Mathers LP. I was wrong on so many levels. This is the level of intelligence rap should always strive for. Every time I press play I hear something new that ties directly into the original MMLP. That’s what makes this one of the great records of 2013. There are a ton of Easter eggs from the original album that most listeners will have a great time searching for, and Eminem challenges you to seek them out.
In summary, don’t expect a dark record like the original. This is Eminem looking back in the mirror at the mistakes he made and examining the influence that the album had long ago. It’s a very meta study of himself and his legacy in hip-hop.