Eminem’s demons are as present on “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” as they were on its 2000 predecessor -- except 13 years later, they have mutated from being his prey to now being his muse.
Familiar affairs — revenge, resentment and heartbreak — re-emerge as heavy-breathing voices which adhere to Em, fueling impassioned, and at times crudely comical, lyricism which he spits at a rapid speed and through alternating tonality. The title of his eighth solo studio album hints at a continuation of the 2000 full-length opus; “MMLP2” finds Eminem revisiting adolescent trauma, nearly scraping years-old wounds that have yet to heal, and fighting himself for how much he hasn’t changed because of the perils of fame.
"When I was making records, I would just take my frustrations out about that. I mean, fuck, here it is 2013 and I still don't really have a total grasp on it yet and understand it,” he tells Billboard in our latest cover story.
Production-wise, Eminem strives in the comfort of soundscapes reminiscent of earlier work and strengthens his comical side by exploring vintage hits by the Zombies, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders and Billy Squier. “MMLP2” is nostalgic of its predecessor, pulling inspiration from the essence of “MMLP,” but while dark at times, it’s less intense, since it's not as much of an introduction of sorts. Eminem extends narrations derived from “MMLP” (such as “Stan” in “Bad Guy") and revamps “MMLP” verses (“So Much Better,” “Rap God,” "So Far"), ultimately highlighting his cynicism and introducing his latest fear: karma.
Check out our track-by-track review of Eminem's eighth studio album, "The Marshall Mathers LP 2," executive produced by Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin.
Eminem introduces “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” by bringing his dark side to light and calling out his transgression through the voice of Stan’s vengeful brother, Matthew Mitchell. One of the best songs on the album for its shifting storytelling, Eminem comes face-to-face with his worst enemy by playing off the narration of "Stan." "Grab for some water but I’m that pill that’s too jagged to swallow/ I’m the bullies you hate that you became/ With every f----t you slaughtered/ Coming back on you every woman you insult there/ With the double-standards you have when it comes to your daughters,” Eminem raps on the outro.
2. "Parking Lot (Skit)"
The animated skit may sound familiar to loyal fans. "Parking Lot" continues the robbery we first heard in "MMLP's" "Criminal."
3. "Rhyme Or Reason"
On "Rhyme Or Reason," which samples The Zombies' "Time of Season," Eminem's target is his dad. He examines the side-effects to the disappearance of his father both comically yet sincere, altering his tone and channeling Yoda: "So yeah dad, let's walk/ Let's have us a father and son talk/ But I bet we wouldn't probably get one block without me knocking your block off/This is all your fault/ Maybe that's why I'm so bananas… I related to the struggles of young Americans when their fuckin' parents were unaware of their troubles."
4. "So Much Better"
Em' has never been one to lock down (healthy) love, which he's been brutally honest about since "Kim." A broken heart leads Em to wishful thinking that his former lover, who he claims cheated on him with Dr. Dre, Drake and Lupe Fiasco, would "drop dead."
"Man, will I survive in this climate or what? They said I was washed up and got a blood bath/ I'm not a rapper; I'm an adapter/ I can adjust/ Plus I can just walk up to a mic and just bust," he raps on "Survival." Eminem is fully aware of the rap climate and competition, but still admits that, even when he's not prepared, he'll survive and strive because of his rap skills.
Em' sheds some insight into how he came to be how he is (reclusive, introverted), in a childhood story led by the trickling of piano keys who are soon paired with rain drops.
In true Eminem fashion, he proudly steps into shoes that fit and makes listeners aware that he's aware of his self-destructive self, but disturbingly feeds off it. "The only women that I love are my daughters/ But sometimes I rhyme and it sounds as if I forgot I'm a father/ And I push it farther/ So father, forgive me if I forget to draw the line/ It's apparent, I shouldn't have been a parent/ I'll never grow up so the hell to your parents."
8. " Berzerk"
Em' pays homage to old school hip-hop his own way on the guitar-driven "Berzerk." Sampling Billy Squier's "The Stroke,""Berzerk" is one of the weakest songs on the album, for Eminem seems to try too hard (vinyl scratching) and raps dated cultural references.
9. "Rap God"
This six-minute, chorus-less song features Em' spitting rapid rhymes on reigning rap, which is an underlying theme of "Marshall Mathers LP 2."
Em' revisits the haunting memories of being bullied in school and fast-forwards to now, where he is one of rap's most influential personas. Hypocritically, yet dismally predictable, Em' continues to spew gay slurs after rhymes of being harassed himself: "Inappropriate so be it, I don't see it/ Maybe one day when the smoke clears it won't be as mother fuckin' difficult, yeah/ To then hopefully you lil' homos get over your fears and grow beards/ It's okay to be scared straight/ They said I provoke queers till their emotions evoke tears/ My whole career is a stroke of sheer genius/ Smoking mirrors, tactical jokes, yeah, you mother fuckin' 'insert themselves here.'"
11. "Stronger Than I Was"
Eminem channels a whimsical, emotionally driven Kid Cudi, when he rap-sings of a traumatizing heartbreak on one of the album's most honest songs. The beat is reminiscent to "Curtain Call's" "Like Toy Soldiers," coincidentally another one of Eminem's most heartfelt songs.
12. "The Monster"
The rapper recruits Rihanna for their fourth collaboration to speak on the woes of living under the steaming spotlight. Eminem raps about his haunting "Monster," while Rihanna flexes her vocal skills on the hook and embraces hers: "I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed/ Get along with the voices inside of my head."
13. "So Far"
The amusing Eminem returns to spit rhymes of his hometown and make fun of his immaturity over a beat that samples Joe Walsh's 1978 solo hit, "Life's Been Good." "So Far" pulls from the "The Marshall Mathers LP's" "The Real Slim Shady," as the beat pops up and Em reworks a classic line ("And every single person is a Slim Shady lurking/ He could be working at Burger King, spitting on your onion rings") to fit the present ("Went to Burger King, they spit on my onion rings/ I think my karma is catching up with me").
14. "Love Game" feat. Kendrick Lamar
Over a sample of Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders' 1965 "Game of Love," Em continues the light-hearted delivery by venting jokingly on the roller-coaster ride that is love. Em brings out the comical side to Kendrick Lamar, which many aren't used to hearing.
15. "Headlights" feat. fun.'s Nate Ruess
Eminem's tumultuous "tangled web" of a relationship with his mother, Debbie Mathers, has been prominent in his discography. Em takes a huge step forward by apologizing to his mother on "Headlights" for disregarding the unforeseen hurt that his verses my have caused, specifically pointing out his "The Eminem Show" classic, "Cleanin' Out My Closet." With Nate Ruess from fun. on the hook, Em continues to admit that the absence of his dad, which he thought would bring him closer, tore them apart.
16. "Evil Twin"
Eminem closes the album strong as he proclaims his rap dominance and embraces the villainous side he introduced on day one of his 15-year-plus career.