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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Eminem new album met with instant success

Published: November 15, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

“The Marshall Mathers LP II” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with an enormous 792,000 copies sold in its first week. It comes in just behind Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience,” which debuted at 968,000 copies in its first week, and well ahead of Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same”. Eminem has also become the first main artist since the Beatles in 1964 to boast four tracks in the Billboard Top 20. The album is titled as second part to the enormously successful Marshall Mathers LP, which sold over 1.76 million copies in its first week in 2000. Eminem himself stated that the Marshall Mathers LP II was meant as a visitation to its namesake, not a direct successor.

The album is notable for Eminem’s unmatched ability to play with words—he has a propensity for using compound syllable rhymes, verses of internal rhymes, puns, homonyms and a great ability to verbally slaughter anyone who offends him in the slightest. This is compounded by his ability to marshal his voice to any beat, play with accents, flirt with controversy and, indeed, tell extended stories that paint images in the listener’s head. The rapper teams up with Rick Rubin, a mainstay in the rap game, to create this album, as he continues to experiment with more producers and styles of rap.
The album opens with the track “Bad Guy,” a chilling story told from the perspective of Matthew Mitchell. In the original Marshall Mathers LP, the track Stan, (which has been lauded as one of Eminem’s greatest ever songs), told the tale of a fan in desperate circumstances, who wrote multiple letters to Eminem, but received no response. Upon not hearing from his idol, Stan, who was on the verge of breaking down, with no support, finally went over the edge, and “drove his car over a bridge/ and had his girlfriend in the trunk, and she was pregnant with his kid.” There is a line in Stan, which states, “You could have at least signed an autograph for Matthew, that’s my little brother man he’s only six years old.” As “Bad Guy” progresses, we find out that Matthew in this song is Stan’s younger brother, grown up and with a violent taste for revenge—he wants to make Eminem feel just like he did, wants him to learn how badly it hurt to have his family ripped apart. Just like in Stan, Eminem takes on the persona of Matthew for three verses, before replying in his own words.

The next track on the album is a skit called “Parking Lot” which begins with the end of the skit from an older song, “Criminal,” where Eminem goes to rob a bank and shoots the clerk after she gives him the money. However, in “Parking Lot,” Eminem, running out of the bank, realizes that his getaway driver has ditched him and he is forced to flee from the cops. The skit ends with him shooting a police dog. “Rhyme or Reason” is the third track on the album, one that vividly displays Eminem’s lyrical and mental prowess, tackling his long-standing issues with his father at the same time. The song samples The Zombies’ signature tune, “Time of the Season.” It begins with “Who’s your daddy?” to which Eminem responds, “I don’t have one/ my mother reproduced like the Komodo dragon.” He then goes on to call himself “Michelangelo with a paint gun in a tantrum about to explode all over the campus,” before switching into a Yoda accent and likening Rick Rubin to Yoda. His ability to link together multiple rhyming words in one line is highlighted by the line “a dire desire.” Throughout the song, Eminem lays the blame on his father for his attitude to the world now.

The album continues with “So Much Better,” which revisits Eminem’s roots in his troubles with women and his continuing trust issues. His ex-wife Kim is again mentioned, though through metaphors and analogies, rather than expressly, as in the Marshall Mathers LP.

The album continues with “Survival,” a feel good song of the same mold as Recovery’s “Won’t Back Down,” and “Legacy,” a song in which every line ends with a quasi-rhyme with the word “fallin.” The track “Brainless” then recollects the song “Brain Damage” from Eminem’s “The Slim Shady LP.” It takes a humorous take on the original, in which Marshall Mather’s mother hits him across the face, knocking his brain out of his head. Here, the chorus states “Mama always said/ if you had a brain you’d be dangerous.” He shows his ability to retain and rhyme words when he states “Still in my skull is a vacant empty void been using it more as a bin for storage/ Take some inventory, in this gorge there’s a Ford engine, door hinge, Syringe, an orange, an extension cord, and a Ninja sword/ Not to mention four lynch pins and a stringent stored/ Ironing board, a bench, a wrench, or a winch, and an attention whore/ Everything but a brain,” highlighting an enormous rhyme scheme with orange, a word said to be impossible to rhyme. At the end of the song, Eminem recognizes his own talent, stating “Who the fuck would’ve thought that one little lone MC/ Would be able to take the whole culture and re-upholstery it/ And boy did they flock; can’t believe this little hick locked/ This hip-hop shit in his hip pocket.”

Perhaps the strongest song on the album is “Rap God.” The last line of the song asks “why be a king/when you can be a god” and on this track the rapper proves he is the true god of rap, alive and in the flesh. He raps quicker than most people can even think, pouring on the controversy faster and faster. Many members of the LGBT community have attacked Eminem for his homophobic lyrics in this song, but Eminem insists that personally he supports homosexuals.
With the song “Love Game” came the long awaited collaboration between Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, one of the most respected rappers in the world today. The song takes an unorthodox sample from Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders’ song “Game of Love”. It details a humorous tale of Eminem and Kendrick’s collective inability to quit the rap game and their troubles with women as well, following the mold of Eminem’s “As the World Turns” from The Slim Shady LP and “Goodbye to Hollywood” from “The Eminem Show.” Eminem starts the song with a description of coming back to his house to find his significant other cheating on him, and his regret at not realizing that she was just another gold digger, as they went to third base on the first date. Kendrick continues with the second verse, almost copying Eminem’s style and trying to match him on his clever use of words—in all Kendrick leaves his regular style to blend more with Eminem, who then takes on the third verse by telling a humorous story about a car chase with the spouse, ending with the conclusion that he will always be in the rap game.

The song “Headlights” has a direct comparison to the song “Cleaning Out My Closet” on The Eminem Show. It is, however, an apology to his mother—in fact, he states that he cringes when the song plays on the radio, and doesn’t perform it at shows anymore. The song takes on a long backwards lens of his life, looking back over his relationship with his mother and thanking her for raising him as “both a mom and a dad.”

Overall, the album highlights Eminem’s incomparable technique and flawless verbal delivery, along with his withering social critiques and humorous story-telling. While critics have attacked Eminem for not moving on to other subject matter, this album does not mean that Eminem is stuck in a rut. This is album is a re-visitation; the point of it is that Eminem is cleverly revising and rehashing his own material. Eminem isn’t just back in the rap game; he never truly left it. We should respect him for the Rap God that he is.