Drugs. Rape. Suicide. Murder. Homophobia. Misogyny. There didn’t seem to be a taboo subject that Eminem wouldn’t tackle releasing ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ back in 2000. Having since opted for an altogether less angry sound on following releases, from the jokiness of 2004’s Just Lose It to the reflectiveness of 2010’s Not Afraid, could it be that ‘the most meanest emcee on this earth’ has mellowed out in his later years? Revealing his new album to be called ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ at the MTV Video Music Awards in late August, Eminem was clearly interested in a return to the venomous mood that he had at the turn of the millennium, but the question on the world of hip hop’s lips was just how well would the man behind ‘The Real Slim Shady’ stand up in 2013?
Straight from first track Bad Guy, a possible reference to the original album’s closer Criminal, Eminem sounds more invigorated and focused than he has done in years. He raises the bar further with Rhyme or Reason, his combination of rapid-fire verses and some amusing one-liners (‘the Yoda of rap’). The backing beats seem to be a step down from his glory days, but his sense of diction is a return to form, hinted at but never quite achieved on Recovery three years ago. Looking forward to hip hop’s future in collaboration with popular upstart Kendrick Lamar on Love Game as well as embracing its past with catchy but slightly regressive Beastie Boys tribute Berzerk, this is Eminem adapting to the times, referencing hip hop history and writing personal lyrics better than he has done in over a decade. Possible highlight is the Kanye West-style ambition of Rap God, combining some of Eminem’s fastest rapping yet with EDM-inspired synth; he might have picked up a few tricks playing alongside Chase & Status at Reading & Leeds Festival this year.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 doesn’t quite have the consistency of the original, but even some of the filler tracks prove to be interesting listens. A sequel is always a risky move, but for a rapper that has claimed to be ‘back’ on every album since he rocketed to fame, with this record you can’t help but think that he means it more than he has done for quite some time.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is available for purchase from 5 November.