Marshall Mathers LP 2

Even though it might not seem like it due to the lack of musical output from me lately, I am a rapper. Therefore, it makes sense to me that I should have more posts on my blog having to do with hip hop. Specifically I should probably have more reviews of rap albums. But you know what? The problem with doing reviews of albums (besides the fact that everybody does them) is technology. Technology has spoiled the pseudo-art of music criticism.

It used to be that the critic would get an advance copy of the album and everyone else had to wait a while between the review of the album and the actual release of the album. This way the critic had some sway over how the album was going to be received. That day is gone. Now everyone gets the album days or weeks before it is released and who really cares what some stuffy critic has to say about the album?

By the actual release date the album has already been listened to by anyone who cares about it and opinions have already been formed and the critic is just another opinion in a loud chorus of perspectives. The critic used to be a gatekeeper and preserver of “authentic” material. Now the critic has been reduced to a “hater” or a cheerleader.

At this point most certified critics have simply responded by condensing the amount of time they use to review an album, which predictably has made album reviews less insightful, less thoughtful, and much less consequential.

Therefore, my admittedly grandiose goal will be to make album reviews look like an actual analysis of something. They may take longer to crank out which will probably mean people will have moved on to whatever album is flavor of the week by the time I get mine out. Still, I hope it will actually cause people to stop and review the album and maybe think about some things that they hadn’t when they listened to the album the first time.

So…without further ado…

Eminem’s new album is title “The Marshall Mather’s LP PT 2”

Good news first. The good news is at the age of 41 Eminem still hasn’t lost his unique rhyme skills. His album reaffirms the fact that there is no one better at intricate lyricism than Eminem. From pithy pop references to the incredible use of double entendres, rhyme, and alliteration. Eminem is a virtuoso at wordplay. His album remains steeped in the dark humor that has served him well for the duration of his career. From the beginning of the album where he introduces us to Stan’s brother to the incredible” Rap God” where he shows us his skills are still sharp. Eminem gets us reacquainted with his irreverent brand of rock infused Hip Hop. His songwriting remains excellent and his subject matter contains the familiar riffs and sound that propelled Eminem to greatness in the late 90s to mid 00s. If you liked Eminem in 1999 you will probably like him in 2013.

And therein lies the rub.

The Album is soooo….familiar. I mean it is properly titled. It might as well have been the next album Eminem released after the first Marshall Mathers LP.  The only problem with that is that there are several things lacking which have nothing to do with Eminem’s skills. As I said before, in terms of skills there is no mainstream rapper (and probably only a handful of second tier and underground rappers) who can go bar for bar with him. However, what is the point of having every tool in your lyrical box if you don’t have a purpose for any of them? Purpose is what the album lacks. It is the fortune of most artists as they get older that the challenges that faced them when they were young dissipate.

It is our misfortune that as an artist faces less challenges he has less to focus on. Although Eminem’s rhyme skills have not diminished it is obvious that he is in a much more settled place now than he was then. Whereas his earlier albums focused on the challenges he faced struggling with fame, the criticism of the mainstream, and his own personal demons, this album’s focus is just establishing that Eminem still has “it.”

If that doesn’t sound very compelling it is because it isn’t. Unfortunately, the lack of adversity for Eminem means he has no opportunity to brandish his trademark satire. It is especially disappointing for me because his satirical concepts raised him from a prodigious wordsmith to a once in a generation talent. It seems Eminem has fallen back to the place where he is most comfortable. He just seeks to dazzle you with his incredible wordplay while concealing the fact that he isn’t saying anything much of substance. His album is much like fireworks on the 4th of July. It’s an awesome display, but ultimately it means little.

Eminem still sounds angry, but now it’s just for effect. There are some heartwarming moments in the album. “Headlights” is a moment where Em comes full circle and tries to make amends with his mother after publicly airing out their dirty laundry for so many years. In this album it is obvious he is no longer angry at his mother and has decided to direct whatever anger he has left at his absent father. But overall it is clear that Eminem doesn’t have much to be angry about at all. And that is as it should be.

On the track “Evil Twin” Eminem admits the truth when he spouts “A borderline genius that’s bored with his lines/and that sort of defines where I’m at and the way I feel now.” Hopefully in future albums Eminem will find more substantive things to focus his considerable talent on.

Favorite Tracks

  • Rap God
  • Brainless
  • Headlights
  • Evil Twin