By Daniyall Qazi
Releasing a sequel to one of the greatest Hip Hop albums ever made would have been a daunting task for any artist who’d managed to earn the distinction.
Though not without some hiccups, Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP 2 successfully braves that danger to give us yet another album that demonstrates just why he is considered by so many to be one of the greatest to ever do it.
More-so on this album than in his past couple of outings we see an Eminem that is back to having fun on the mic after tackling his personal struggles on his last project, 2010’s Recovery.
Songs like ‘So Far’, ‘Bezerk’ and ‘Love Game’ featuring Kendrick Lamar, the sole guest rapper on the LP, let Slim show a comedic side we didn’t get much of a chance to see 3 years ago.
Out of these 3 songs, all produced by Rick Rubin, ‘Love Game’ stands out in particular, for being a straight up weird and off the wall offering, with Rubin providing a 1950’s style beat for two of the best rappers out today to prove their versatility.
At first listen you might be disappointed not to hear a more traditional style Hip Hop song where Eminem and Kendrick might be able to flex their lyrical ability against each other, but the more you listen, the more you recognise just how much fun they’re having and that there aren’t very many rappers in the industry today who could make a song that good over such an unorthodox beat.
Rubin, who executive produced the album alongside Dr. Dre, supplied the beats for most of the stand-out tracks on the album solely because he brought these different kinds of sounds to the project.
He brings a Beastie Boys style throwback beat on ‘Bezerk’, a country sound on ‘So Far’ and expertly samples the Zombies’ ‘Time of the Season’ on ‘Rhyme or Reason’.
These contributions serve as a change of pace from some of the more bog-standard beats that Eminem albums have suffered from recently.
While you can’t fault his ability to rap, his production choices can sometimes leave much to be desired.
‘Survival’, ‘The Monster’ featuring Rihanna, ‘A****le’ featuring Skylar Grey and ‘Legacy’ are all Hip-Pop fare and sound like they would have fit better on a sequel to Recovery, with Em sounding uninspired, even if still skilful, over a song with a by-the-numbers sing-song hook.
The bad beat selection isn’t just limited to the Hip-Pop either; ‘Rap God’, ‘Headlights’ and ‘Evil Twin’ all have Eminem displaying the skills we know he has, but yet again does so over songs we likely won’t remember.
The lack of real hard Hip Hop beats hurts the album in a way that proves how important Dr. Dre was to the original MMLP.
While Eminem might prove he’s a Rap God in his verses, the poor beat selection ruin what could have been great songs.
He goes so far as to apologise to his mother on ‘Headlights’ for songs like ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’, saying “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.”
‘Headlights’ could have been a truly powerful song but is instead dragged down by a truly awful beat that has no place on a Hip Hop album.
All in all, while not perfect, the Marshall Mathers LP 2 is a good album, not a great one. It finds itself stuck in a space between the first MMLP and Recovery, for a product that while perhaps one of the better albums of the year, is in no way shape or form in the same league as Slim Shady’s best work.
While he proves yet again just how technically gifted a rapper he is, the project misses that edge production-wise that made the MMLP 1 so great.
There aren’t any Dr. Dre beats to be heard here, no songs with 50 Cent, no stand-out tracks that will have the longevity ‘Stan’ or ‘The Real Slim Shady’.
When you put a 2 after the letters MMLP, maybe good just isn’t good enough.