Music — 10 November 2013
More Retread than Rebirth: The Marshall Mathers LP2

He might sell millions.

He may retain his position atop all the lyrical lists.

The Interwebs may sing his praises from here to the hip-hop hall of fame, claiming his caustic voice was sorely needed to add balance to the industry.

But none of that holds sway with me.

As a rap fan for life who admittedly played the hell up out of the Slim Shady LP and enjoyed quite a few tracks on the original MMLP, I am deadly sick and totally tired of Eminem in 2013.  Weary of the unrelenting adoration of an artist who seemingly hasn’t evolved very much from his early 20s to now.

Say what you will about his giggling troll-under-the-bridge delivery now, Lil’ Wayne has come a long way since he hit the scene with the Hot Boys.

Nas too is wiser with time, exploring weighty personal topics in the slept-on “Life is Good,” rather than re-purposing either Nasty Nas or his “Illmatic” aesthetic.

Even Kanye West, running around here flanked by White Jesus and Confederate flag merchandise, is far from the approval-seeking artist who lyrically lamented “College Dropout” status.

Why then, does the Detroit-bred MC continue to get a free pass for splicing his angry, man-child persona with rap n’ roll?  Is he still THAT hurt over Kim’s betrayals?  After all the accolades and hype, is he permanently haunted by assertions that he wouldn’t be as famous if his skin were brown?  Is he possessed of a 90s-era opinion that the very worst insult for a rapper to call anyone on the planet is “gay”?  Does he hate all of womankind?

The answers to all of the above appear to be “yes,” according to all but one song (“Headlights”) on MMLP2.

If he truly is the same Em who wrestled with Stan and railed against his mother and Kim with equal venom, that’s a shame, but that’s his personal business.  But when it comes to creative output, he definitely owes listeners and critics a lot more than what he is delivering.

Where to begin…  There is so much wow to discuss.  So, let’s just cut to the quick with four ways this effort wallowed listlessly in Slim Shady repetition.  Do let me know if– as Em once famously rapped– you think I’m dead wrong.

1.  Talking to himself

Listen to his newest “Bad Guy,”  then kick it old school to its prequel “Stan” and chase it with “Guilty Conscience.”  Irritated yet?  Yeah, I’m over and under this motif that appears to be a constant calling card of Eminem’s. Though it was clever initially, there are definitely ways to get introspective some decades after your first real hit that do not involve arguing shrilly with the voices in your head.  I understand he is going back into his arsenal, but I guess I wasn’t interested in riding along this time.

2.  The homophobia.  In 2013, no less.

Let’s make this Sprite clear.  Homophobia has never been acceptable to me, in any way, shape or form. Regardless of your religious beliefs, hate is hate. I cannot stomach that this sentiment seems to be so nakedly exposed through rap lyrics hearkening back to the supposed golden ages of the ’90s. But let’s focus on Mr. Mathers.  I don’t care if Em is a so-called master of characters (see item #1) or channeling his youthful persona, he sounds flat out evil, particularly in “Rap God.”  He can do all the duets with Elton John  he wants and up the ante by marching in a Pride Parade, but it doesn’t excuse this cruel attitude expressed in the recording booth.  My hope is his refusal to “conform” will not endear him to his fans who really ought to ask more of this self-crowned deity.  He truly is a rebel without a cause in this area.

3.  The voices.  So many voices. 

Nicki Minaj took over the Sybil act and rode it into the ground, then straight toward the core of the earth, while Em was cooling his heels a la Rehab, but now the master of mimicry is back with the Bobcat Goldthwait-esque screeching and even a painful Yoda impression in “Rhyme Or Reason.” It’s enough to make me toss my headphones clear across the couch.

4.  The corrosive bitterness that bubbles within.

Fans can be fickle.  Artists, including Jay-Z, for example, have railed against being boxed into an aesthetic by fans, with Hov even explicitly directing those wanting old Hov to buy an old album in “On to the Next One.”  Em, however, appears to be at the opposite side of the spectrum from the jump by dubbing this supposed masterwork a sequel. Though some find it nostalgic, I find it disappointing to find him chest-deep in his feelings and lobbing the usual rants against the same subjects (read: former girlfriends). For example, in “So Much Better,” the bottle blonde taunts an unnamed women in his typical sing songy fashion:  “My life would be soooooo much better if you would drop dead.”  Really, Em?  Twenty years in the game and this is how you still feel?  Maybe you ought to try e-Harmony and find someone who inspires ballads, rather than the lyrical temper tantrums he admits to in the aptly named “Baby.”

YOUR TURN: What do you think of “The Marshall Mathers LP2?”  Is it a work of Eminem art or lazy rap repetition?  Weigh in below in comments.  I definitely want to talk about this…

 

 

 

 

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