(11/01/13) - Don't let the name fool you. The Marshall Mathers LP2 is like nothing you've ever heard before - from Eminem or anyone.
One of the most innovative artists of all-time keeps finding ways to take his work to another level. It seems that on this project he gave himself the challenge of naming the new record after the highest selling hip-hop album of all-time, his Diamond certified 2000 efffort "The Marshall Mathers LP."
He makes a conscious effort to revisit many of the topics he covered on the first incarnation, but he's not re-making the old songs, or even creating sequels to them. He instead came up with fresh takes with a more mature approach to themes like his struggle with the instant success he achieved after his debut album "The Slim Shady LP," his being bullied as a child and his domestic struggles with his ex-wife, mother and father.
There is one glaring exception to the non-sequels theme of the album. Opening track "Bad Guy" may not be a true sequel to "Stan," but it's certainly a continuation of the number one song. Eminem tells the story from the perspective of Stan's little brother, and the song sets the table for the rest of the album by exploring similar themes as MMLP in a current context.
On "Rhyme Or Reason" Em uses a sample of The Zombie's "Time of the Season," keying off the "What's your name? Who's your daddy?" line to vent about his dad not being part of his life.
And this use of samples as more than just background music continues throughout the work. His use of Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders's 1965 hit "The Game of Love" creates a funky setting as he and guest Kendrick Lamar delve into their various past relationship issues.
"So Far" sees him bust into the first verse of the Joe Walsh classic "Life's Been Good" before moving into a hard flow showing love to his hometown and it's inspiring influence on him over the iconic opening riff of the same song.
The singing on "So Far" is just a small taste of the vocal prowess he shows off on the album. It's most apparent on "Stronger Than I Was." For the first 3 minutes of the track, Eminem sings, emotionally lamenting the loss of his love, and showing his determination to make the best of the situation. As the song continues the power builds until he finally moves into his familiar traditional flow.
Throughout his career, Eminem has never shied away from exploring deeply personal topics in his songs, but "Headlights" takes it to another level. He's written numerous songs about his mother during his career, demonizing and vilifying her to the world. But this time he's turned the corner. Assisted by Fun.'s Nate Ruess, he heartwrenchingly apoligizes to his estranged mom for not realizing how deeply his words could hurt her and he thanks her for trying to be his mother and father.
While there is a fair amount of personal and emotional angst on MMLP2, there's also plenty of the humorous, angrily fueled Eminem as well. First single "Berzerk" samples Billy Squire's "The Stroke," but feels more like a vintage Beastie Boys track than a classic rock song. The Rick Rubin produced party song takes shots at everyone from K-Fed to Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian, while also giving a Kid Rock shout-out.
Not going to spend much time trying to dig into "Rap God," suffice it to say it's simply indescribably brilliant.
As is the entire work. Nearly 15 years after the release of his debut, The Slim Shady LP, the 41 year old Detroit rapper has been through his own personal ups and downs. But his ability to let the adversity fuel his creativity continues to bring out incredibly original material that leaves everyone else in hip hop, and music in general, shaking their heads in amazement.
The Marshall Mathers LP2 might even be better, and turn out to be more influential, than the original. His views on the older themes are fresh and stand on their own. And his sense of flow, and the music behind the tracks, are innovative beyond anything he's put out in the past.