When Eminem released The Marshall Mathers LP thirteen years ago, this album is what really made him into a star and one of hip-hop’s best lyricists at the time. Tracks such as “Stan“, “The Way I Am“, and “Marshall Mathers” are just a few that stood out and kept this album in constant rotation. But when Eminem announced that he would be releasing the sequel this year, one of the main questions raised was would he be able to top the success of the original? Let’s review The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
1. “Bad Guy“: As the album begins, the song sounds as if Eminem was reverting back to his old ways. But the second verse is when those context clues starts to kick in (“Thought some time had passed and I’d forget it, forget it/You left our family in shambles/You expect me to just get over him, pretend he never existed/Maybe gone, but he’s not forgotten/And don’t think cause he’s been out the pictures so long/That I’ve stopped the plottin’ and still ain’t coming to get ya”). Then I realized that Eminem is rapping from the viewpoint of Matthew who is Stan’s little brother who was standing outside the show in Denver when Eminem brushed them off. And the anger displayed in these rhymes, he’s coming for revenge (“How’s this for publicity stunt? This should be fun/Last album now cause after this you’ll be officially done/Eminem killed by M&M/Matthew Mitchell, bitch, I even have your initials/I initially was gonna bury you next to my brother, but fuck it/Since you love your city so much/I figured, what the fuck the best place you could be buried alive is right here”). The last verse I would think is Em’s conscience who is here to torment him for those that he’s targeted over the years. (“I represent everything, you take for granted/‘Cause Marshall Mathers the rapper’s persona’s half a facade/And Matthew and Stan’s just symbolic/Of you not knowing what you had ’till it’s gone/‘Cause after all the glitz and the glam/No more fans that are calling your name, cameras are off/Sad, but it happens to all of them/I’m the hindsight to say, “I told you so!”) A great way to kick off the album.
2. “Parking Lot (Skit)“: If you remember “Criminal” from MMLP, you’ll remember the skit within the song where Em went in and robbed a bank and shot the teller on the way out. Well this skit picks up outside the bank where Mel-Man bailed out on Em so he has to run. In the process, he shoots a dog and eventually, himself.
3. “Rhyme or Reason“: The sample used on this song is The Zombies “Time Of The Season”. In his earlier albums, Em would just crush a track lyrically. Here he does just that as he vents mostly about his father. The first two verses he raps as Marshall then in the final verse, he raps as Slim Shady.
4. “So Much Better“: On this track, rap is being compared to a spouse and she’s known for being around other artist. Marshall’s feeling a little possessive. At the end, he brings back one of his popular phrases ‘I’m just playing bitch, you know I love you’.
5. “Survival” feat. Liz Rodrigues: “Wasn’t ready to be no millionaire, I was ill-prepared/I was prepared to be ill though, the skill was there/From the beginning, it wasn’t ’bout the ends/It was ’bout busting raps and standing for something, fuck an acronym” Em raps in the beginning. I like how he raps about how he has survived the slander and criticism throughout his career. This track debuted as the trailer for the new Call of Duty: Ghosts video game.
6. “Legacy“: Em details his earlier days on being bullied in school to when he discovered rapping. And now that he’s legend, he plans on leaving his mark. (“I’ve been diabolical/With this dialogue since ’99 Rawkus/You don’t respect the legacy I leave behind y’all can/Suck a dick the day you beat me pigs’ll fly out my ass”)
7. “Asshole” feat. Skylar Grey: Another nice track where Em teams up with Skylar Gray and shows that side of him. Dope to include a sample of “My Name Is” within the early portion of the track.
8. “Berzerk“: Em teamed up with Rick Rubin to give listeners a Beastie Boys inspired track. Really loud and in your face.
9. “Rap God“: What I liked most about this track is that Em named dropped some legends in rap/hip-hop. I laughed at the ‘Fab/Ray J line’. That situation will never not be funny.
10. “Brainless“: This track reminds me of Em’s flow during The Slim Shady LP days.
11. “Stronger Than I Was“: I’ve never really been a huge fan of Em’s uh, ‘singing’. The song sounds as if Em is rapping from another perspective (Maybe Kim) and it sounds haunting like some bad memories coming back at you.
12. “The Monster” feat. Rihanna: Em nabs Rihanna for another duet that could be huge for pop radio. It doesn’t capture the magic that “Love The Way You Lie” does but it’s a nice song on this album. (“I ain’t here to save the fucking children/But if one kid out of a hundred million/Who are going through a struggle feels and then relates, that’s great/It’s payback, Russell Wilson falling way back in the draft/Turn nothing into something”)
13. “So Far“: Em raps about his roots (among other things) and some Slim Shady influences are heard throughout these verses. (“The other day someone got all elaborate/And stuck a head from a fuckin’ dead cat in my mailbox/Went to Burger King, they spit on my onion rings/I think my karma is catching up with me”) Rick Rubin did his thing on this track.
14. “Love Game” feat. Kendrick Lamar: When it was announced that K-Dot would appear on MMLP2, I wondered what would the end result be? You could say that this is their version of Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” as Em and Kendrick express their love for hip-hop through the means of a woman.
15. “Headlights” feat. Nate Ruess: Eminem has made many lyrical references towards his mother but this track shows that even Em can put those bad feelings behind him and find forgiveness. (“Cause to this day we remain estranged and I hate it though/Cause you ain’t even get to witness your grand baby’s growth/But I’m sorry mama for Cleaning Out My Closet, at the time I was angry/Rightfully maybe so, never meant that far to take it though/Cause now I know it’s not your fault, and I’m not making jokes/That song I no longer play at shows and I cringe every time it’s on the radio”)
16. “Evil Twin“: What I like about this is how Em ended things rapping like the alter ego’s that given fans over the years. (“Fuck Top 5, bitch, I’m Top 4/And that includes Biggie and Pac, whore, and I got an Evil Twin/So who do you think that’s third and that fourth spot’s for?/And as crazy as I am I’m much tamer than him/And I’m nuts, then again who the fuck wants a plain Eminem?/But no one’s insaner than Slim, look at that evil grin/Evil Twin, please come in, what was your name again?”)
Deluxe Version Bonus Tracks
17. “Baby“: This gave me more vibes of Em’s Slim Shady flow. If you listened to Em’s earlier work, he was kind of immature with his antics.
18. “Desperation” feat. Jamie N Commons: The hook here is dope and Em rapping about the ills of being with someone that you thought you were meant to be with is something that we can all relate to.
19. “Groundhog Day“: Another autobiographical track from Em. I like the second verse where Em’s raps up about the start of D-12 and his days of rapping at The Shop.
20. “Beautiful Pain” feat. Sia: This track is very dark in the ways of you starting back over after a destructive storm passed. (“Yesterday was the tornado warning, today is like the morning after/Your world is torn in half, you wake and let’s wait/To start the morning process, rebuilding and you’re still a work in progress/Today is a whole new chapter, it’s like an enormous asthma/The thunderstorm has passed ya, your weathered it and poked its eye out”)
21. “Wicked Ways“: Em’s always been one of the coldest on the mic and this track just him being wicked (in a good way) in terms of rap. (“I’ve been a career asshole
I don’t see why these people always got my back/I done said so much fucked up shit, I was born a mistake/But I was put here not by accident/I had a purpose and that purpose was to beat a beat purplish/Slaughter tracks, I done put my two dimes and a nickel in this shit/And I’m coming to get that quarter back/Like Ndamukong the drama can build”). At the very end, there’s a skit where Ken Kaniff makes an appearance where he flips the lyrics of “Berzerk” in his own way.
Call Of Duty Bonus Track
22. “Don’t Front” feat. Buckshot: This track sounds like a throwback to Em’s underground days during the mid 90′s and the Duck Down was one of the labels that fucked with him. (“Almost forgot/Before I signed with the Doc, I almost signed with Duck Down/Cause Rawkus didn’t make no offers, so mothafuck Loud/They jerked me around so what’s up now?”)
MMLP2 is what a sequel album should sound like. The production on this album is some of the best that I’ve heard on an Eminem album and he’s still at the top of his game (despite what others say via social media). Hopefully, if you’re a fan of hip-hop, you will get this album and enjoy what great music sounds like.