PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP2

Eminem returns to his 2000 smash sophomore effort and again earns his place on top of hip-hop's Mount Rushmore. Ever worry about what it might be like once he begins to age? This set is all the reassurance you need.


Eminem

The Marshall Mathers LP2

Label: Aftermath
US Release Date: 2013-11-05
UK Release Date: 2013-11-05
Amazon
iTunes

Magna Carta, holy Yeezus Christ. Em's still got it.

In a year cluttered with high-profile hip-hop releases, The Marshall Mathers LP2 is undeniably the best of the best and it's not close. Wildly entertaining, gruesomely hilarious and surprisingly poignant, the set is worth its namesake, the same record, lest we be reminded, that sold 1.76 million copies during its first week of release in 2000, on its way to earning the title as fastest-selling hip-hop record ever. Thirteen years later, and if the world wasn't so bogged down by apathy and ego, who's to say this thing wouldn't surpass it? Based on performance alone, MMLP2 would at least have a shot.

It's been a fascinating question, wondering how Eminem would age. Part of his appeal has been a subconscious consistently wise beyond both his and his listeners' years. All the immature jokes or disgusting skits or graphic intentions have been by design, remember. Yeah, it might take a royally fucked up mind to come up with the things he says anyway, but it takes a truly brilliant one to somehow parlay that into mainstream success. From the second he first asked everybody if they liked Primus 14 years ago, his shock-value shtick always felt like it had an expiration date.

The Marshall Mathers LP2, if nothing else, proves that it doesn't. He just turned 41, don't forget. Photos of his once-baby Hailie have made the rounds online seemingly for no other reason than to remind us all of how old we are. Before children became the new gold chain in hip-hop, Eminem was trying to figure out how to raise a little girl while somehow getting a do-or-die music career off the ground. Sure, his most revered peers might share his years in number, but they can't even begin to touch his growth. Mathers doesn't need to purchase a Picasso to announce his arrival as an adult; he's been on that side of life for years.

And that's what makes this set so … interesting. Lead track "Bad Guy" recalls Marshall Mathers' "Stan" with a little less Dido and a lot more layers. Rather than lean on the singular crazed-fan story that made his 2000 single such a smash, here he follows up the actions of Stan's baby bro (who, coincidentally also has the initials M.M., Matthew Mitchell) with an afterward tirade that gives the song two extra minutes of pure reflection. Fading into silence as he continues to rap (a subtly provocative move in its own right), the song ends up being the most revealing and intelligent way to begin such a breathtaking ride through what it's like for Detroit's best MC to officially be over the hill.

Yet where other big name artists tend to struggle while trying to find their footing in transition aided by age, Eminem embraces and subsequently thrives off that inevitable maturity. Need proof? Check the constant nods to the yesteryear that pop up with more intensity than a Calvin Johnson highlight reel. Single "Berzerk" is such a finely tuned throwback, you begin to wish your iPod had two speakers and a cassette player. Borrowing heavily from the Beastie Boys and some of the oldest schools any rap enthusiast could find, the song is chalked full of buried wit as Marshall eventually asks "are you bozos smart enough to feel stupid?" Never before has idiocy sounded so enlightening.

Speaking of enlightenment, "Headlights" gives us quite possibly the most touching moment Em has ever put on wax. One theme that runs rampant through the album as a whole is his revelatory decision to place blame on his father for his messed up childhood and not, as many have heard for years now, his mother. That notion climaxes here as the rapper goes into full-on Sorry Mode, admitting that he can't even listen to his 2002 hit "Cleaning Out My Closet" anymore because of the anger he once expressed toward moms. Fun.'s Nate Ruess shows up for the hook and while on paper it might sound like a cheap turnaround on a once-fervent opinion, the song works as it walks the flimsy line between compassion and anger. In a way, it sums up why we still care so much about Eminem: He's always had the ability to be shockingly self-aware, and whenever he decides to touch on it, his brand is a little more potent, a little more reverential than the average artist's. The move isn't just an apology to his mom; it's an indictment on his past.

Still, a lot of that past was spent mastering a craft, and MMLP2 solidifies his place among the best ever from a technical standpoint. "Rap God" is a jaw-dropping roller coaster through a display of white-hot flow and Usain Bolt-like speed that should shut up skeptics quicker than it takes him to offer one of his ridiculously snappy verses. "So Far…" is downright funny as he explains what it's like trying to interact with fans and as a bonus, it even gives listeners a reggae refrain that book-ends the thing, making the case for Marshall as a pop-reggae singer ready to back up a band like Mest. "Rhyme Or Reason" samples the Zombies' "Time of the Season" and is close to genius. Dripping with confrontation, the rapper goes from Eminem to Chewbacca and back without blinking an eye all the while laying everything on top of such an iconic soul song, which only sweetens an already rich pot. "As long as I'm on the clock/punching this time card/Hip-hop ain't dying on my watch," he says and you can't doubt him.

The only real problem with that is the fact that there's a lot of retirement talk running as an undercurrent through the duration of the record. Sure, we've heard it all before, from, oh, say, every other notable rapper alive, of course, but the subliminal suggestions and intricate inferences are enough to make any fan pause for a moment to appreciate what exactly The Marshall Mathers LP2 is by realizing what it's not: A re-lapse or a re-covery. More than anything it's a re-minder that his is one of the most important, invigorating and invaluable voices all of popular music (let alone hip-hop) has today. It's wicked and it's intense and it's inappropriate and it's unique and it's brilliant and it's essential.

And more importantly, as this set proves, it's also as sharp as ever.

"Why be a king when you can be a god," Eminem asks with a final shout on "Rap God". You tell us, father of Yeezus.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.