Eminem is arguably one of the greatest rappers out there. He’s had a list of highly praised albums; The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP, just to name a couple. However, after his recent stint of disappointing, yet still commercially successful, albums Relapse and Recovery the hip-hop world was both excited and unsure when The Marshall Mathers LP II was announced in August. Was Eminem going to create another radio-geared, scantily produced album? Or were we going to get the Eminem we all love – the loud, violent, humorous Mathers. Not only does Eminem have quite a catalogue to live up to, the upcoming record was the second instalment to Mathers’ most critically acclaimed album.
Upon first listening, you might have thought Eminem was still on his downward slope. But after a good two or three repeats, his slightly altered style grows on you. He is definitely not the same Eminem all the hip-hop-heads once loved, but he’s not far from it, an older, evolved artist. The four singles we were given before the release of the album were ‘Berzerk’, ‘Survival’, ‘Rap God’, and Rhianna featuring, ‘The Monster’, and they didn’t exactly fill us with much optimism for the entire album. Although ‘Rap God’ delivers fast, incredibly intricate lyrics, it’s a shame it can’t be said for the other three.
With Dr Dre and Rick Rubin executive producing, we would have hoped for some more hard-hitting, classic hip-hop sounds. However, this isn’t really what we get. As far as the production is concerned, a confusing array of different sounds, with perhaps too broader range of influences, often entering the more radio-friendly world. But this doesn’t mean they all are radio songs – Eminem still brings his offensive and forceful lyrics to every song, even if in small doses at times. “I got 99 problems and a bitch ain’t one, She’s all 99 of ’em I need a machine gun”, Mathers’ spouts in ‘So Much Better’.
Let’s not get confused; this album is no real disappointment whatsoever. Although the production is questionable, we still hear Eminem’s intelligently written lyrics -“so you’ll be Thor and I’ll be Odin, you rodent, I’m omnipotent” -infused with fast and passionate delivery . It’s fair to assume, then, that Eminem often sacrifices making a truly enjoyable song, for the lyrical masterpieces we all expect. Although not horrific sounding, we could have heard better from him. The major highlight of MMLPII is ‘Headlights’, featuring Nate Ruess of indie rock band ‘Fun’. We witness Eminem apologising to his mother for their strained relationship in a truly emotional, well-produced song. Ultimately the bottom line is, the production of the record isn’t nearly suited badly enough to hate, nor is it good enough to love – it’s above average. The songs are definitely listenable, and so are the lyrics – the combination of which makes a better album than his previous two. Marshall Mathers II might not showcase classic Eminem, but it’s not too far from it either.