EMINEM The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (Universal) Rating: NNNN
Thirteen years and four solo albums after the hilarious, murderous, incredibly offensive masterpiece the Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem is back with a follow-up.
He's grown up since then, but not so much that we don't recognize him: there are sequels to songs (Bad Guy is a follow-up to Stan, from Stan's bloodthirsty brother Matthew), and to skits, and we're reminded throughout that Em's one of the best all-time storytellers in rap.
But what makes it most nostalgically similar to MMLP is its overt, platinum-haired Eminemness: turning classic pop hooks on their heads (Rhyme Or Reason); spewing rage on a breakup anthem (So Much Better); sparing no one - not even Hellen Keller - his venom.
Yes, some of MMLP2's references are lazy (Khloe & Lamar) or dated (Jessicas Simpson and Alba). But for Eminem, now 41, it's an homage to the immature jabs of his past.
Lyrics-wise, Em's slightly less reprehensible but still unapologetically spitting words like "slut," and "faggot" - even more cringe-worthy now, over a decade and considerable social improvements later. He's still very angry, revealing more of the root causes (mainly his bleak Detroit upbringing) on tracks like Legacy and Brainless.
The production is less cutting-edge than its predecessor's, and some songs, like Call Of Duty single Survival, seem, well, like video game soundtracks. But overall, partner in crime Dr. Dre is in fighting form, pillaging rock 'n' roll like he did on The Eminem Show and wielding an arsenal of anthemic beats.
While the Marshall Mathers LP sputtered toward the end, the sequel gets better past the halfway mark. On Rap God, Eminem asserts his legacy in furious double time. On Love Game, he trades spectacular verses with a sizzling Kendrick Lamar over a Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders sample, referencing Sherane, George Zimmerman and Wee-Bey, all while bemoaning the total agony of being in love. Phew.
Penultimate song Headlights is an apology to his mother. The track's genius partially lies in the anticipatory tension it creates in the listener. Em loves to set us up with faux sentimentality, then laugh when we're duped. But on Headlights the shoe never drops, leaving us with really sad insight into their non-relationship.
Top track: Love Game feat. Kendrick Lamar