by Brook Gardner-Durbin
Most critics, and Eminem himself, consider “The Marshall Mathers LP” to be his strongest offering. After that came “The Eminem Show,” also well regarded. A pill addiction, lasting several years, then heavily impacted his work: his next three albums combined, “Encore,” “Relapse,” and “Recovery,” barely outsold either of the previous two. Eminem’s latest offering, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” is an excellent album, far surpassing the first “Marshall Mathers LP.” Eminem has not returned to pre-drug-addiction form — he has eclipsed himself.
Eminem has frequently paired unusual ideas or styles, a tradition continued on “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” The most obvious example of this convention is the dichotomy between its content and its style — almost the entire album is retrospective, but the production and lyrical patterns continue to push forward into new areas.
Calling the album “retrospective” is not a strike against it in the least — one of the best things about Eminem (when compared with other rappers) has always been his willingness to be open and honest about his life and what influenced him, instead of rehashing the typical rap fare of women, money and guns. MMLP2 sees Eminem looking back on rap as a whole, a new trick for him, while also continuing to be open about his personal past.
The song “Berzerk” is the clearest example of Eminem’s new interest in paying deliberate homage to his influences, as the track sounds more like classic Beastie Boys than anything The Beastie Boys themselves have recorded in more than two decades. Elsewhere, “Rhyme or Reason” takes a page from the Ghostface Killah playbook of extended samples and, Eminem’s rap over The Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and “Rap God” begins with a clear nod of the head to the Wu Tang Clan and Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh.
The highlights of the album include “Groundhog Day” and “Legacy,” both of which take the listener on a trip down memory lane. “Groundhog Day” covers Eminem’s introduction to hip-hop, the formation of his group, D12, with Proof and his current status. “Legacy” is a slow, powerful track produced by Emile (a grammy-winner for his production work on Eminem’s last effort, “Recovery”) that chronicles Eminem’s path from a shy, awkward, bullied kid to rap juggernaut.
“The Marshall Mathers LP 2” is certainly Eminem’s best album in a decade. With time, it might even become his best ever. Go pick up a copy and give it a listen.