Eminem is back with the first solo album since 2010’s Recovery which he boldly decided to name as a sequel to his most well known album. As soon as I heard the title of this album I thought it was probably a huge mistake. I’m a big fan and love his music but living up to one of the biggest and most iconic albums of all time was putting a ridiculous amount of pressure on the project. I understood that it would gain publicity and get people interested but once it came out it was going to be judged against MMLP1. An album that sold 10 million in USA alone. An album that back in 2000 could literally be heard everywhere; out of every bedroom and car window and on every music and radio station. Big risk if you ask me.
But surely he wouldn’t make such a move if he didn’t have the music to back it up right? There must have been some confidence about it and after listening to it quite a few times I can understand. Eminem has stated that this is the hardest he’s ever worked on an album and it shows. The standard edition runs for around 78 minutes. The deluxe edition has a bonus disc containing 5 tracks that last for a further 25 minutes. Add in the exclusive track for buying Call of Duty: Ghosts and the total of the whole thing clocks in at a ridiculous 1 hour and 47 minutes. The length of an album is an interesting point for me. Very often I will listen to an album whilst on my walk to work. This walk lasts for around 45 minutes and there are many albums that will be finished by the time I arrive at work. Few albums last too much longer than this. But for MMLP2 I could walk to work and not even be half way through it. I could then walk back home and it still wouldn’t be finished. Incredible stuff. Maybe this is a negative point that it lasts too long? That would be the case if the music wasn’t so impressive. I guess when listening to this on the way to work I’ll just have to shuffle the tracks so I’m not constantly listening to the first half of the album.
One of the key things for me about this album is the sound of Eminem’s voice. Much has been said about the way his voice has changed over the years. If you go back to the first album Infinite his flow was incredible but I guess there wasn’t anything particularly unique about his delivery. For The Slim Shady LP he had a higher pitch as he became a character that was far from sane. There was anger in his voice for The Marshall Mathers LP as he hit out at critics, the media and the public. By Encore he sounded bored at times. Like he had nothing left to prove. I guess there was nothing to prove other than could he ever be as good as his first few albums again? Then there were the drug problems and depression and he didn’t release an album until 2009’s Relapse. This is where his voice had a major change. He was trying to come back as Slim Shady and had shockingly violent lyrics from the point of view of a psychopathic serial killer. He also was trying to rhyme words in ever increasingly unique ways and this lead to him rapping in various accents that allowed him to rhyme things that otherwise would not rhyme. It also allowed him to play the character as he wasn’t really being Eminem. A lot of reviews slated him for this and said the accents were annoying. For me, the dazzling rhyme schemes compensated for this although it would never live up to his earlier stuff. I missed the honest Eminem a bit. I felt like part of his problem was after being away so long and seeing a lot of new rappers gain huge success in his absence that he lacked confidence to be himself. He still had the talent to rhyme and make music but he was lacking confidence in himself.
He understood this and so made Recovery in 2010 to address it. He obviously had a few rules for himself to follow when making this album. There would be no accents at all. It would be his own voice. He would not be in character and he would bring back emotion. That’s what you can hear in his voice for Recovery. Most of the lyrics are delivered in a style where he’s shouting them at you. Full of emotion and trying to bring that fire back. It was great to hear. But it had lost some of the insanity that Relapse had. I think that somewhere between the emotion and honesty of Recovery and the insanity and horror of Relapse is where the real Eminem is. To make a truly great album again he would need a mix of the two and he would have to stop worrying so much about how to deliver these lyrics and just do it naturally.
And so he started making a new album. The people around him that heard it were stunned to hear the change in vocal tones that reminded them of the days of old when The Marshall Mathers LP came out. And that’s the key thing about MMLP2 and the reason for calling it a sequel. His voice is literally back to the menacing voice from 13 years ago. I don’t know how he’s done it. It definitely gives you a sense of nostalgia and sent shivers down my spine the first time I heard the first track Bad Guy. This song is a sequel for the amazing “Stan” in which Stan’s younger brother Mathew (mentioned in the original song – “You could’ve signed an autograph for Mathew, that’s my little brother man, he’s only six years old, we waited in the blistering cold…”) has come to take revenge on Eminem. The song draws parallels with it’s prequel and at some point the beat changes and the mood gets darker as Eminem raps as Mathew representing all the guilt he feels for all the bad he’s ever done and said. It’s a great opener to the album and leads into the only skit which takes place directly after the robbery from “Criminal” on MMLP1. There are a few moments in the album that lead back to MMLP1 which make it feel like the two albums are connected.
The album contains minimal input from other artists when compared to the original MMLP. Aside from people doing a few choruses (notably Rihanna, Skylar Grey and Nate Ruess who is amazing in my opinion) there is only one verse not done by Eminem. Kendrick Lamar is the only other rapper to make it on the album so Eminem is truly the star of the show for this one. I don’t want to give a track by track analysis as I could be writing all day. But in terms of content the album has everything. It has the obvious hit singles like The Monster. It has the honest tracks about his family problems and his childhood. It has the evil, twisted and violent lyrics that us fans can’t get enough of. It lashes out at his enemies, critics, the media and the public. But most importantly it cements his place as the best poet on the planet and possibly the best rapper of all time. The rhyming is on another level and he keeps this up for 1 hour and 47 minutes. It’s an absolute masterclass. He has total command of the English language and putting it all into ridiculous rhyme schemes comes naturally to him. This is the key thing for me. With a lot of rappers I feel that I can either write as well as or maybe even better than them. Talent doesn’t seem to matter when you have the image and the big flashy beats created for you though. But Eminem is an exception. I don’t know how he comes up with it all and feel like I could never ever write anything as good. Especially not album after album when you’re already rich as hell with nothing left to prove. It’s like I once read somewhere; if rap was purely just a sport then Eminem would be the Olympic gold medallist. It’s a great thing to know that the guy who rules the pop charts with the commercial songs also has the talent to go the underground MC’s and out battle them and also has the hunger to do so. There are a lot of times on MMLP2 where Eminem is daring people to have a go and you know that nobody will because they will just be destroyed.
I feel like this album is Eminem’s best since at least The Eminem Show. Obviously the earlier albums have stood the test of time and I can still listen to them everyday so it’s hard to compare considering how new this is. But it’s fantastic. Every fan of Eminem will love it. Every rap fan will love it. And it could be analysed and studied in an English class at school such is the brilliance of the writing. It’s a potentially classic album from one of the greatest artists we’ve ever seen.