Eminem - MMLP2
When you're reviewing a record, what opinion do you give? Do you try to be objective, to view a project from a point of view that you determine is probably held by the majority of listeners? Do you go completely subjective, giving your own opinion based solely on your own experiences and beliefs? Or do you mix the two? Well I've decided on a fourth way. To let you all know that firstly, I am a HUGE Eminem fan, who believes everything he has released is quite god-like and that even Encore and Relapse are brilliant records. I also am an avid hip hop fan, and have spent a long time researching the culture and music. So I shall analyse this record not as a fan of Eminem, but as one of hip hop in general.
First up, a public service announcement. Don't buy this on LP. You will absolutely RUIN your needle spinning back to catch every quotable. We've always known Mathers as an artisan, a crafter that manages to carve delicate lyrical structures with a bloodied chainsaw and a blunt axe. He is Shakespeare, if Shakespeare were a drug addled escaped mental patient who had been beaten mercilessly by his peers as a child. The definition of lyricism has been directly influenced by his form and style. From the humble beginnings of Infinite, a track by a kid just throwing as many big words as he can in to overblown bars, to his insanely aggressive ramblings on Bad Meets Evil, he has transcended both his surroundings and his influences. Listen to Mac Miller's latest 2 releases, Watching Movies With The Sounds Off and Delusional Thomas.
MMLP2 is brilliant. It is a fusion of absolutely everything that is defining of Eminem. He tackles his own shortcomings truthfully and often, he addresses his difficulty dealing with the seduction of drugs, he delves in to the contemporary landscape (although not as deeply as in previous years), and he brings bars. Days and fucking days of them. In fact not since the first installment of this series has a release been so firmly packed with punchlines, metaphors, internal rhymes, synocpations, alliterations, multisyllabic rhymes, block rhmes, free rhymes.. The list is endless. He manages to rhyme 'ain't one' with 'machine gun', he has your head racing back and forth like a tennis match with 'So step inside of dimension / The demented side of a mind / That’s like the inside of an engine / While I multiply your undivided attention / But be reminded that if I didn’t mention / I lose my mind and my temper', he even adopts an accurate Yoda accent on Rhyme or Reason, 'Back with the Yoda of rap in a spasm, Your music usually has them / But waned for the game your enthusiasm it hasn't / Follow you must, Rick Rubin my little Padawan'
This review would be 10,000 words if I were to quote every hot line. The more interesting thing is the use of the word hypocrit. On Asshole, he has his 8 mile moment by calling himself out before his detractors have the chance. Is Eminem the bad guy? Does he play the villain, play a part for the cameras and sales? We saw on both Relapse and Recovery that he is capable of some self truths, capable of making an entire record of serious songs that describe more about the man than the mask. The only artist with 3 certifiably insane alter ego's, his work on the original MMLP was extreme, raw and confronting. He starts Asshole with 'Came to the world at a time when it was in need of a villain / An asshole, that role; think I succeed in fulfilling / But don't think I ever stopped to think that I was speaking to children'. That's a lie, right off the bat. Anyone who has seen the clip for Without Me knows damn well that from the get go Marshall was aware of his impact on children. Unfortunately for the feminists and family lobby groups out there, no amount of bleeting will silence him. In the same verse he reduces any sense of regret or remorse with the line 'it's just my opinion
If it contradicts how I'm living, put a dick in your rear end'. Well that ends that debate.
Yet Asshole is an interesting cross-section of this record. I'd never say that Eminem was a closed minded person, yet the maturity displayed (admittedly quite innately) on this record details a staggering growth. You can almost reach out and touch the 'real' Eminem behind the facade. As Asshole progresses through a bevy of dazzling punchlines mainly centred around his hatred for women and those who dislike his music, he slips a delicate moment of synth piano in to the frankly brutal production and says over the top of it 'But sometimes I rhyme and it sounds / Like I forget I'm a father, and I push it farther / So father forgive me if I forget to draw the line'. For once, you get a glaring view of the man. Maybe he does have these alter ego's stuck in his head, blaring, desperate to get out. Who knows, if he hadn't have made it as a rapper is it possible he'd be asylum bound?
Now, the growth. You're laughing at me. 'Eminem hasn't grown, he is just an ex-addict who has gone off his meds'. Maybe. But listen closely to Legacy. ' Cause I obsess on everything / In my mind small shit bothers me'. 'Either that or inside hiding off in / The corner somewhere quiet, tryin' not to be noticed / Cause I’m crying and sobbing / I had a bad day at school so I ain't talkin''.
Listen to the effect he has chosen to apply to his vocals. It doesn't produce the sepia-toned nostalgic feel that would normally accompany a sound like this. It's artificial, but he needs it to subtely move away from his aggressive, brash persona. And when was the last time he showed ANY positive feelings towards his mother? Headlights, one of the absolute gems on this record, is pure heartfelt goo. Sometimes, when someone compliments you too often, the sincerity eventually becomes lost. Eminem has spent around 16 years publicly stating he wants to kill his mother, so when he changes tune you're not questioning him. It's sincere.
Part of growing up involves an ability to empathise. When Hell: The Sequel came out, it fell dramatically short of Em's previous output commercially. But hip hop heads perked their ears up. Eminem went hard, and I mean HARD. Brutal. There wasn't a whole lot of empathy shoved in to those bars. But behind them was a calculated action. A whole generation grew up on his wit, humour, aggression and disregard for authority. Then he switched his tune. Yes, he was still selling stupid amounts of music with Relapse and Recovery, but the formula wasn't working. People heard Underground and were angry the entire record didn't sound like that. A lot of artists, and I use my old staple Lil Wayne as an example, see these record sales and keep mining the same formula. Em WANTS to be adored. He doesn't crave record sales, he craves respect, adoration, reassurance. I get the impression he has forced this record. In his youth the words probably spilled out of him, each more aggressive and angry than the last. His creativity and genius is such that he is still able to sound effortless even when the process is harder than the listener can appreciate.
Eminem has raised the bar. What rapper do you know could feature the hottest emcee of the last 5 years (Kendrick Lamar), allow him an absolute insane verse, then turn around and murder him on the home straight? And then back-handedly diss him on Rap God saying 'Why be a king, when you can be a god?'. For a man who has struggled for relevancy through a variety of personal demons, this impressive performance solidifies what us 'stans' always argued, that he deserves his place in the upper echelon of the genre.
After Relapse and Recovery I think we were all slightly apprehensive. In 2013, Kendrick Lamar has spear-headed a return to old school, old fashioned bars. And Eminem has risen to the challenge, emphatically.
Best Track: Love Game