In a year that saw Jay-Z, Kanye West and Drake release major studio albums, the most anticipated rap album of the year is still in the hands of Slim Shady himself.
Eminem returns with the sequel from his 2001 classic "The Marshall Mathers LP," hoping to revive feelings of old with the release. Teaming up with frequent collaborator and mentor Dr. Dre alongside hip-hop legend Rick Rubin, Eminem aims to formulate a late 80s and early 90s sound to the album.
From the first line on the lead single "Berzerk" – "Let's take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch" – it seems that Eminem is in a mood to give us the album we've been wanting from him for a while now.
In recent years the problem for most Eminem fans is that he seems to have a lack of motivation in his music, and the music he did make seemed to be more commercially driven products. However, this time it feels a little different. From the title of the album alone, it is easy to see this project meant more to Eminem personally than any of his more recent releases, and he has given us many other indicators of this new trend in his work.
Shady has returned to the blonde hair and is doing radio interviews again. He genuinely seems excited to talk about the album itself. Thanks to one of the best marketing campaigns in recent memory, the stage has been set for Eminem to return back to form as hip-hop royalty.
Despite all the hype and hopefulness we received upon the release of MMLP2, however, fans will find ourselves in the same disappointed place we found ourselves after the release of "Relapse," "Recovery," etc. This time it is not due to a lack of good music as it was in "Relapse," or for too much of a commercial sounding album as it was in "Recovery," but it is due to the album missing what made Eminem's music so impactful in the past: emotion.
Eminem might not have always had the cleverest lines, but his music was always able to touch and relate to people of all walks of life. This trend of lifelessness begins with the first track on the album, "Bad Guy," which, if done right, would have been a gem for true Eminem fans. On this track, Stan's infamous brother Mathew makes a return and comes to kill Shady himself, and the track as a whole is described by Eminem himself as continuation of the final song "Criminal" from the original "Marshall Mathers LP."
This track is torturous because it promises what it does not deliver. The emotion is dead. This trend continues on the song "Survival" which had the potential to become one of those anthems that are a staple of Eminem music, but it just seems forced. The music doesn't feel organic anymore, and it seems as though Shady isn't telling his stories. Or rather, he's telling the stories of a much younger and less well-to-do Eminem.
Despite the many criticisms, there are still a few songs on the album that show Eminem still has something in the tank. This can be seen best in the songs that were produced by Rick Rubin such as "Rhyme or Reason" and "Love Game."
In "Rhyme or Reason," Eminem has a playful back and forth on the samples where he discusses his father. For one of the few times on the album, Eminem shows some of the vulnerability that has made him so successful.
This is also shown in "Love Game," a collaboration between Shady and leader of the new school, Kendrick Lamar. Em and Kendrick both discuss their experiences with women they thought they loved. This is the type of music we expected going into this album, which was instead riddled with watered down and emotionless tunes.
Eminem's gift of being one of the best in the business has become his curse, as he is judged off of what he's doing at the moment against what he has done in the past. In all actuality, if this album was any normal rapper's debut it probably would have been better received, but Eminem has set his bar too high to get away with releasing mediocre music.
This album does show signs that we may see the Eminem of old again one day. Until then, we'll just keep listening to "The Eminem Show."