Guess who’s back? Back again? It’s Slim Shady, but he’s different.
I was pretty pumped when I heard that Eminem was releasing “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” After the dark and serious themes of “Relapse” and “Recovery,” I was excited to hear the return to the old, pissed-off, yet hilarious raps of Em’s alter-ego Slim Shady.
This album, however, really isn’t that funny. With the exception of a verse of Eminem rapping in the style of Yoda, there really isn’t anything that is outright hilarious. The one exception is “So Far…,” in which Em and the ever-minimalistic producer Rick Rubin chop up Joe Walsh’s classic “Life’s Been Good” and turn it into an ode to the rapper’s life.
The album runs for an hour and 20 minutes, which is about 20 minutes too long. Shortening this 16-track album probably would have made for a slightly more focused, less wearing album than what was released. This is over an hour of Eminem’s trademark anger over everything (except, of course, his daughter Hailie). With the exception of “Headlights,” where he apologizes to his mother for verbally harassing her in the past, he is just pissed off at life.
That said, I forgot how insane Eminem’s flow is. And here is where he’s really evolved over the years. He’s never necessarily been a fast talker, but we hear him now taking small breaks in the middle of his passages, making for tasteful and interesting flows. He also once again showcases how he has a better handle on the English language than most English teachers, even when half of his vocabulary consists of four-letter words.
The standout track of this album is “Rhyme or Reason,” which takes “Time of the Season,” the classic song by The Zombies, and somehow makes it even more ominous. While I’m usually not a fan of rappers who just take the backing tracks of classic songs and use it as their own, it really works for this song as a rant about Eminem’s absentee father.
Missing comedy aside, this is a strong album from Eminem. The rapper reminds us why we fell in love with him in the first place — it wasn’t the humor, the alter egos, the look. It was his natural flow and talented wordplay, and in the end, that is what trumps all other elements of this album, making it a truly great work to listen to.