Nostalgia can be a beast. It makes you wish for the “good ol’ days” like tennis skirts, combat boots, or when music video channels actually played music. The trigger down memory lane is usually hearing that one song or album from that time. With Eminem’s new album, Marshall Mathers LP 2, nostalgia is both its strength and weakness.
A continuation to his 2000 album, Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem revisits his Slim Shady persona which is still brash, comical, and insane. Songs like “Asshole” and “Bad Guy” —the sequel to “Stan”— will have listeners reminiscing and “Survival” being added to their workout playlist. The album’s production is serviceable with notable absences from Dr. Dre and Denuan Porter. However the main talk was Rick Rubin working with Em on this project. Sadly those tracks felt as if Rubin was trying to create the Beastie Boys album he never got the chance to. Most apparent is the lead single, “Berzerk” as it tried to recapture the vibe of the group. The song is fun for a while, but doesn’t fit Eminem’s lyrical dexterity. The problem with most of the Rubin tracks —like “Rhyme or Reason” or “Love Game“— they’re interesting, but not enough to hold your attention.
Age hasn’t slowed Eminem’s ability to produce tongue twisting, awe-inspiring lyrics, especially on the way too long “Rap God“. He can still out-rap your favorite artist with no problem. However, the same can’t be said about some of the content. They’re juvenile, misogynistic, and the homophobic F-word is littered every so often. Em seems to fall back into his old ways, weakening the potential of this album. Not to say there aren’t any introspective moments because there are some. “Headlights“, in particular, is an apology to his mother where he realizes she did her best. The resentment he felt toward her has soften, even to the point where he can’t listen to or perform “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” anymore.
Marshall Mathers LP 2 can be viewed as the epilogue to the Slim Shady saga. Hints can be found in”Evil Twin“, “Legacy‘, and the second part of “Bad Guy”. Slim was a means to an end but now as Em takes steps to evolve as an emcee and a man, it’s time to finally let that persona rest. Eminem has realized the after effects of a nostalgic high: while you may be able to go home again, it’s best you don’t.