It was pure fate that hip hop's white knight Marshall Bruce Mathers III completed his training under the tutelage of the Detroit saint DeShaun Holton and then made the journey to The Golden State to seek the counsel of the wise, elder statesman Andre Young, forming a relationship that would help forge many a collection of thought provoking songs, turning the earth on its ears and inspiring generations of countless hip hop notables and foot soldiers. Upon his commercial breakthrough, Mathers, famously known as Eminem or other times as his evil doppelgänger Slim Shady, transformed the rap music genre he loves and grew up on into an even larger cultural phenomenon than it was before he stepped onto the world stage, appealing to wider audiences and capturing the attention of media outlets for better or for worse. Not since the days when Run-DMC were filmed alongside the white band Aerosmith for "Walk This Way" on MTV has a rap artist been able to tap into newer demographics of race and social/economic status almost overnight. Steadily over the course of a decade and a few years, the prodigious, Caucasian emcee from middle America (with help from many others) crafted some of the best rap albums of all time, spreading hip hop's vital message into the the hearts and minds of people the world around. His eighth solo album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, revisits the same irresistible controversy that made the first Marshall Mathers LP so earth shattering but also appears to mark a time of thoughtful awareness and realization for the seasoned rap giant. The album is classic Eminem with plenty of surprises that will have the tracks on rewind and replay well after the first listen.
Eminem covers numerous concepts on MMLP2 including his elite status in the rap world, the conflict this status causes with his everyday living, his aversion to malicious women, reconciliation for his troubled childhood, the current state of affairs regarding his day to day life, and lots of his zany, goofy idiosyncrasies thrown in the mix. In the opener "Bad Guy," Em brings to life a fantasy of his in which his fame-regretful self kidnaps and kills his power drunk self. It is symbolic of his yearning for a life of normalcy, a civil war of the mind where privacy is pitted against stardom and karma comes around to haunt and torment. Eminem revisits this motif at other moments on the album. He expresses similar feelings on "Monster," which features Rihanna, as he tells of how his relationship with the media and his huge fame drive him crazy rapping, "I wanted the fame but not the cover of Newsweek / Oh well, guess beggars can't be choosy / Wanted to receive attention for my music / Wanted to be left alone in public excuse me." On "So Far..." Em recites more detailed tales of unwelcome encounters with fans but also shows appreciation for all the luxuries he has. Like in prior points in his career, he makes us feel his stress of trying to fit in in public while being a super star.
No Eminem project would be complete without his sincere criticism of troublesome women. "So Much Better" rips on a girl who Em has come to despise, and "Love Game" packs in great narratives about living and dealing with psycho chicks told from the perspectives of both Eminem and the guest on the song, Kendrick Lamar, who spits a wonderfully comical verse about how women can sometimes get away with anything, including murder! In the melodic "Stronger Than I Was" Em admits that his lost love made him bitter and mad but stays humble in knowing the hardship made him a better person in the end. "Evil Twin," which is not wholly a condemnation of women, is a bold, free-for-all close to the album with a funny rap of Em mocking Sarah Palin, along with other goodies like layered lyrics on goofy subject matter, tasteful name dropping, and appropriate boasting.
For MMLP2's production credits, Eminem took the same path as he did on Recovery by selecting mainly out of house producers to assist him in crafting the beats. Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin both served as executive producers for the album with Rick personally handling a number of tracks. "Berzerk," the lead off single of the album, is a raucous, throwback rap record with plenty of Rick's flair for hard drums and roaring rock guitars, equipped with samples from Billy Squier and The Beastie Boys. The rock and roll theme pervades other areas of the album like "Survival," the album's motivational tour de force, with powerfully booming drums and guitars and crackling live wires, and "Rhyme Or Reason," which samples the smash hit "Time Of The Season" by The Zombies, and sees Em calling out his dad, who left him and his mom when he was just a baby. At other points in the album, the production is more simplistic, relying on pianos and snares or electronic flourishes and synths like on "Rap God," the busy and playful romp produced by Develop and Filthy. Other producers on the album include S1, M-Phazes, StreetRunner, longtime Eminem collaborator Luis Resto, Emile, DJ Khalil, Alex Da Kid, Frequency, Jeff Bhasker, and Sid Roams.
It's hard to say exactly how great the legacy of The Marshall Mathers LP 2 will grow in comparison to that of the original Marshall Mathers LP. After all, the masterful first was released at a time when the world was still getting used to the wonderfully shocking controversy and quality artistry of black rap that was coming out of the white Eminem. One thing that is for certain is that the artistic quality of both albums can in fact go toe to toe with each other on any day of the week. With the way that MMLP was in your face and emotionally engrossing with songs like "The Real Slim Shady" and "Stan," MMLP2 is just as outright and passion-charged with the songs "Berzerk" and "Bad Guy." Eminem is still in the top tier of the rap game's best all around lyricists, and he once again gives us plenty of tempting guilty-pleasures on the new album. With samples of rock n roll classics, wonderful imagery, advanced rhyme schemes, eclectic guest artists, and hypnotically mesmerizing beats, The Marshall Mathers LP 2 has something for everyone who loves music.