When Eminem released Relapse in late 2009, it was touted as a major comeback since his drug rehabilitation after 2005's Encore. However, Recovery takes the cake, despite the multiple flaws in the album, it was the real comeback for Eminem, not Slim Shady. Then in August this year, Em teased fans with snippets of what would be his first single, Berzerk, and announcing that his next album would be "The Marshall Mathers LP 2". If I make it so, then this album would mark the return of both Eminem, Marshall Mathers and Slim Shady. It was my most anticipated album this fall, and how does it fare?
Yeezus and Magna Carta Holy Grail have all splashed headlines as the year's best rap albums by Kanye West and Jay-Z respectively, though Jay-Z's rap record may not have a better critical score compared to Yeezus, with the volatile, occasional furious rap lyrics that Kanye writes. Then there is Drake's Nothing Was The Same. It seemed rap competition was going to be tense for this year. However, Eminem seems to once again grab main attention, and with such darity to name his next album a sequel to the classic The Marshall Mathers LP, expectations are lofty and it is no mean feat to accomplish. Ever since 2005's Encore, Eminem has not sold a million records with 600,000 and 700,000 sales for Relapse and Recovery respectively. I guess I'll go in depth and in detail for this album.
With executive producers Rick Rubin, the great, and Eminem's longtime mentor Dr. Dre, it seemed this album was going back to its roots. We still got a sneak peek with Rubin's signature guitar riffs on the first single Berzerk, and that single has already sold a million copies in the US alone. While it's because of Rubin that the production may seem flawless, the other singles may not share the same therapy with Berzerk. Rap God feels out of place, while Survival and The Monster are almost similar. Still, Rubin's touches can be heard clearly along with Dre's, who has been producing Em's albums except for Recovery. So Far... and Love Game are prime examples that contains amazing production for the beats. That makes the category more or less placed in safe hands.
I haven't talked much about the singles though. Rap God contains undeniable flow that could place Eminem as one of the all time greats, or maybe he already is with 95 words in 16 seconds and the lyricism evoking competition, anger and slaughter of other rappers. Survival is also another hotshot, radio single while being on Call of Duty: Ghosts and managing to peak in the top 20. The Monster featuring Rihanna marks the fourth time that the duo have collaborated, with rather decent pop vocals and a whistle at the end of the chorus. Eminem slams it home once again with well thought verses, though it may not be all that great as well. If Berzerk and the above-mentioned other three singles didn't awe you nor captured your attention, I could understand.
Most people bang on the fact that it's an Eminem brand, thus it's always going to be great or it is great. That is true for the singles, however certainly not so for the rest of the album. Em has always adopted a safe approach for his albums, releasing radio singles. Berzerk, Survival and The Monster fit the bill, while So Much Better, Evil Twin and Legacy don't. That makes promotion much easier, and not to forget naming it a sequel to an album that is labeled as one of the all time great rap albums.
Eminem also holds no boundaries on this album, and this takes his lyricism to new heights and allows him to have more space and freedom. Fans don't want a Recovery 2.0, and so does Em himself. The guest spots have also a different view with Fun. frontman Nate Ruess, longtime collaborator Skylar Grey, the now trending Kendrick Lamar and of course, Rihanna. And truth is none of these features damages the album. Kendrick provides smooth raps on Love Game and also suits Eminem pretty well, going along for the ride that makes their interplay seem exciting and appealing. Skylar Grey povides vocals on Asshole, and she seems to be having fun at the same time as she labels Em and herself as assholes. Nate Ruess is the one that surprised me most, providing an emotional undertone to Headlights in which Em raps about him still loving his mother all this while. It's true that the features may seem weak, but compare it to 2010's Recovery which boasted P!nk, Kobe, Lil' Wayne and also Rihanna and this album's Nate Ruess, Skylar Grey and Kendrick Lamar. All of them makes use of the guest spots so comfortably, you'd think Em single-handedly chose the right people for the tracks.
Then we reach the rest. Top to bottom, the tracks are far greater than when you put them on paper and read the lyrics. Bad Guy was written from the perspective from Matthew Mitchell, Stan's younger brother, who also has the initials M and M. The figurative thought of the song Em wrote a decade more ago seemed to come flowing back (Stan). A 7 minute opener could hardly keep me off guard. Rhyme or Reason is just what Em does best: spitting lyrical venom at every direction for 'no rhyme or reason'. Then comes So Much Better, the aggressive, sometimes crazy and sometimes hazardous lyrics becoming the pinnacle of this track. He ends off with 'I'm only kidding, you know I love you,' which recalls of Kill You and White America's ending, seemingly getting away with it. Legacy also from the perspective of Eminem's childhood. So Far... talks about Eminem's fame, his Facebook profile and many others that accompanies the well created beats. And Evil Twin, which 'Slim Shady is still inside', and even a skit, something that Recovery didn't have.
The best song on the record though has to be Stronger Than I Was, as Eminem pulls out at heartstrings and emotionally stabilizes himself that is just jarringly good, reminding me of Hailie's Song from The Eminem Show, not so a Marshall Mathers LP song though. If you still have doubts about Eminem truly, then you might want to reconsider this album because, whatever the cost, it's definitely worth it.
10/10: The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is a splendid masterpiece - easily. Encompassing a wide range of tones throughout the album, despicable and at times comedic-slash-sarcastic humour just crashes in. The beats are slightly pop, but Em makes it so that it doesn't matter, as his lyrics not only kill the pressure, but he raises the bar as well. This is his best album since The Eminem Show for sure. Yes, I said it. Be it competition in the hip-hop genre, Eminem has surely killed it once again. Quoting Eminem, 'why be a king when you can be a God?'
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.