When you name your eighth album after your greatest body of work, you better make damn sure that you’re putting out something good. People will automatically expect it to meet a certain standard—and for me, Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 has exceeded all expectations. Now if you’re waiting for a regurgitation of MMLP, you may be disappointed. Eminem is no longer the drugged-out, 27-year-old that you heard in 2000. He’s now a 41 year-old veteran, reflecting on a long career and on the legacy he’ll one day leave behind. Don’t worry—the album still contains plenty of humor and over-the-top violence; but it also has an introspection and self-awareness that we’ve never really seen from Marshall before. It’s the MC’s best work since 2002’s The Eminem Show, flaunting vintage Slim Shady and reminding us all why we fell in love with him in the first place.
MMLP2 opens up with the strongest intro of any Eminem album to date: Bad Guy. Now since I refuse to be another moron who reviews the album and spoils the track for everyone, I’ll just say this—here, Eminem tells a story that’ll play out vividly in your mind and then make your jaw drop when it’s over. He offers a view through the eyes of everyone he’s hurt with his lyrics; a seven-minute tale that makes you wonder whether he actually laments over the offensive content of his early work. And then, there’s the final part of the song: “So one last time, I’m back/Before it fades into black and it’s all over/Behold the final chapter in the saga.” So what does this mean exactly? Is this really Eminem’s last album? If so, then it’s certainly one hell of a way to go out.
The introspection continues on my favorite track, Legacy. Rapping over a dark but beautiful beat, Eminem takes us back to his childhood days as Marshall Mathers, where he was constantly bullied and left wondering why he was so different—and how he used those differences to transform into a musical legend. So Much Better, Asshole, and Brainless are classic Slim Shady, bringing the rapper (and us) as close to his early work as possible. But Eminem also keeps things fresh and new as he makes use of well-known samples, such as The Zombies’ Time of Season in Rhyme or Reason, Billy Squier’s The Stroke in Bezerk, Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good in So Far, and Wayne Fontana & the Mindbender’s Game of Love in Love Game with Kendrick Lamar. Love Game is a fun tune with kick ass rhymes, and I have to say—this is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone out-rap the Rap God (another awesome track on the album). Kendrick absolutely murders this beat with his perfect flow and catchy hook. Headlights with fun.’s Nate Reuss is another awesome song that I refuse to spoil—and one that’s shockingly emotional. MMLP2 then wraps up beautifully with Evil Twin, where Eminem has his Walter White/Heisenberg moment: after 14 years of blaming his alter ego for his twisted, offensive lyrics, Marshall Mathers finally admits that he and Slim Shady have always been one and the same.
Recommended Songs: Bad Guy, Legacy, Headlights, Love Game
Rap is no stranger to sequels. Jay Z has three Blueprints (all of them awesome), and Lil Wayne has four Tha Carters. But as a sequel, MMLP2 trumps them all and proves itself worthy of its classic namesake. Using nostalgia and clever references, Eminem masterfully bridges the gap between MMLP and MMLP2, bringing the Marshall Mathers saga full circle…and possibly to a close. Here are some of the references that brilliantly link the two albums:
1. Bad Guy: Like I said, I don’t want to spoil this song, but all you need is one listen to pick up on the connection.
2. Parking Lot (skit): The last track on MMLP is Criminal, which features a skit where Eminem robs a bank and then kills the woman who works there. Now fast forward 14 years later to the last line in Bad Guy: “Here goes a wild stab in the dark/As we pick up where the last Mathers left off.” After that, the song fades into this skit, where we find Eminem running out of the same bank that he robbed in Criminal and into a parking lot. Everything that happens next is classic Eminem.
3. Rhyme or Reason also pays homage to this controversial, fan favorite when Eminem raps, in a voice that mimics the chorus in Criminal, “But I still am a CRIMINAL/Ten year old degenerate grabbing on my GENITALS/The last Mathers LP that went diamond, this time I’m predicting this one will go EMERALD.”
4. So Much Better is vintage MMLP Eminem. This song is practically a sequel to the delightfully perverse Kill You, where he ends the song by saying with a laugh, “I’m just playing ladies, you know I love you.” Here, he takes it one step further: “I’m just playing bitch, you know I love you.” Interesting how he made this singular instead of plural. Also, I thought this would be a good place to mention Eminem’s clever take on Jay Z’s famous chorus: “I got 99 problems and a bitch ain’t one/She’s all 99 of them, I need a machine gun.”
5. Legacy: Remember in Stan when Eminem’s obsessed fan tells him,”I like shit you did with Rawkus too, that shit was phat”? Well, Eminem mentions his work with Rawkus here in this song too (look up Any Man on YouTube if you want to hear an example). Also, as a landmark in Eminem’s career, MMLP is a central point of the Legacy he’ll leave behind.
6. Asshole: This song addresses Eminem’s rise to prominence during the MMLP era: his role as a villain in society, his image as an asshole, and his public gratitude towards the critics and organizations that rallied against him. He also mentions his former rivals ICP, who he bashed in the song Marshall Mathers.
7. Rap God’s intro includes a line from MMLP’s Remember Me: “Six minutes Slim Shady, you’re on.” The first verse also references former President Bill Clinton (who was in office when MMLP dropped) and his infamous scandal with Monica Lewinsky, which also gets a shoutout on the MMLP track Who Knew. Later on, the third verse repeats a lyric so twisted that it was actually censored off the explicit version of MMLP: “Take seven kids from Colombine/Put ‘em all in a line/Add an AK 47, a revolver, a nine….”
8. The Monster references Eminem’s cover of Newsweek magazine, which happened a few months after MMLP was released.
9. So Far: Eminem loves to talk about fans harassing him while he’s on the crapper. He mentioned it in his hit song The Way I Am and does it again here in So Far. The track also samples the beat from I’m Back as Eminem raps, “Other day someone got little elaborate, and stuck a fucking dead cat in my mailbox.” Immediately after that, the song samples The Real Slim Shady beat while Em spits, “Went to Burger King, they spit on my onion rings.” Both lines refer to lyrics in the very songs they sample.
10. Headlights: Eminem has made many songs about his mother including The Eminem Show’s Cleanin’ Out My Closet and MMLP’s Kill You, where he actually ends up raping her.
11. Evil Twin names many of the pop acts that Eminem attacked on MMLP including Christina Aguliera, Nsync, Backstreet Boys, and Britney Spears. Also, 19946 Dresden pays homage to Eminem’s childhood Detroit home, which also serves as the cover art for the album.
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