mmlp2-reviewEminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Aftermath/Interscope; 2013
Day & A Dream Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Buy: iTunes | Amazon

Eminem is officially into the “cool Dad” phase of his career.

A decade and a half ago that sentence may have never left my lips. No, not to someone who had made a career cracking open every bone and skeletal piece in his closet for the world to see. This was Eminem, a man who had killed his girlfriend numerous times over, waged war with his mother and decided to hold a mirror up to pop culture and life in general as if to ask us, “Seriously, you’re worried about this happening?”

But that was a decade and a half ago.

Thematically, everything about the past is going to surface a bit on The Marshall Mathers LP 2, his eighth solo offering and first since the all-out mea culpa for having a drug overdose Recovery album in 2010. It doesn’t even take us a full 10 minutes before Marshall is back attempting to fulfill the fetish of 2000’s “Stan” by pulling six-year old Matthew back from grieving his brother’s death and attempting to kill the man who caused his brother’s suicide. “Bad Guy” takes seven minutes, rising and falling like a pretty intriguing Shakespeare yarn and we ultimately are left to believe through screaming and technical inner rhyme patterns that Matthew has gotten his revenge on Eminem. Only its when you realize that Em took away his Broncos hat that its not Marshall Mathers battling one of his characters from a previous life — its Marshall Mathers once again battling with his own insecurities. They’re not fleshed out in the trappings of fame and understanding of women like say for easiest parallel, Drake. Em has shunned these things so early and often in his career that you would believe he no longer has time for them. He’s 41-years old and just watched his daughter, a launching point for so much of his career become homecoming queen.

This is Eminem as an adult. One that knows his footing in pop doesn’t need any validation like Jay Z who actively seeks it with doting reminders and full blown musical “moments” dressed up as “business decisions”. Only adult Eminem would make an album strictly built upon chasing what made him so great in our childhoods and at times seems like he’s forcing it.

No one has ever questioned the bleach blonde Detroit madman’s ability to string together a couplet. He still owns the longest streak in modern memory as the Best Technical Rapper Alive (1999 to 2002). Exercises in that realm such as the pulsating “Rap God” almost feel like he’s doing this in a form of clear exhibition. It isn’t empty, not when he still finds time to drag dated Lewinsky & Clinton jokes into the foray while also tying together a time capsule of flows from JJ Fad on. But the message that lies within the exhibitive powers of “Rap God” feels kitschy. You won’t drag it back into your own mental sandbox and that can be confirmed for a lot of MMLP2. This isn’t the most unlistenable Eminem album, Encore takes that spot without question. But, its the Eminem album that pushes itself onto you with a lot of “I’m Still Here” excess to it.

If Eminem is still here and the youth still laud him as possibly the main artist they could relate to while growing up then how is he to police himself? He nodded to himself that his star inside of pop culture isn’t as bright and that now others have supplanted him as rap’s most controversial conversation starter. The same Columbine line that got edited down almost to the cartridge click from “I’m Back” gets reprised here with him admitting, “See if I get away with it now that I ain’t as big as I was.” And he’s right. His new attacks are situated firmly upon his age, grouchy about technology but worn enough to finally admit in some spots enough is enough.

On “Headlines” featuring fun.’s Nate Reuss still inside of his Chris Martin meets Bono voice, Marshall Mathers apologizes to his mother. He loathes “Cleaning Out My Closet” now and kind of chokes up when thinking how he’s kept a distance from her when it revolves around his three kids. That proves to be the most shocking thing on an album that finds him dabbling with his rock-fused emo scream even more on “The Monster” with Rihanna which feels like a Recovery left over amidst classic rock samples and Rick Rubin’s ‘80s boom-bap. Rubin’s work here is rather peculiar, taking his “try everything” approach and blending it into a sample crazed effort bringing life to Joe Walsh’s parody of a rock star “Life Is Good” for “So Far…”, punk rap gods and original Rubin muses the Beastie Boys and Billy Squier’s oft-used “The Stroke” for the album’s lead single “Berserk”. Even on “Love Game”, a goofy breakup record which features rap’s current anointed rap king in Kendrick Lamar, Em takes 50 Cent’s “I Know You Don’t Love Me” approach over Wayne Fontana’s “Game Of Love”. This isn’t Bob Dylan attempting to fit into the mainstream again, it’s him trying to tackle almost every annoying song you hear on a classic rock station.

So what does rap’s longtime jester aim to prove with a sequel that doesn’t remotely seem as such? Simple, a clever, visceral send up to what made him great in the first place. It’s Eminem, rap titan who seemingly refuses to let anything inside of his head stand still for a moment instead drives off in warp speed. For 79-minutes, it’s Eminem not as his most deranged but inside of his own warp speed. He’s not going to gracefully give his little moments of conceptual brilliance, he’ll once more throw them in our face and force us to dig in with him. Eminem is still crazy, still capable of putting a listener in an awkward trance with every technical aspect you can think of his own land where assonance rules all.

And he likes it that way.