Listen to this article
The last time Eminem tried to turn the clock back to his puerile, delinquent heyday was on the embarrassingly bad 2009 album Relapse.
So a tang of desperation surrounds his new venture, a sequel to 2000s The Marshall Mathers LP. But the rapper has wrongfooted us.
Opening track “Bad Guy” cleverly updates “Stan” ’s tale of obsessive fandom, this time with Stan’s younger brother abducting Eminem, who portrays himself as a washed-up superstar, a “laughing stock of rap who can’t call it quits”.
The theme of accounting for the past continues with Eminem revisiting his hip-hop beginnings (“Legacy”) and admitting to hypocrisy in his attitude to women (“If anyone talks to my little girls like this I would kill him”). “Berzerk” is a white-rap history fest with a slamming Rick Rubin beat and Beastie Boys sample while “Rap God” provides a stunning demonstration of technical skills, a dizzying cavalcade of rhymes and changes in delivery, set to a more limber beat than the lumbering tempo of his recent work.
The album stumbles with the drably formulaic pop of the Rihanna-featuring “Monster” and the southern-rock-twanging “So Far...”, on which Eminem appears to morph into his lumpen wannabe Kid Rock, but then comes the most surprising track of all – “Headlights”, an apology to his mother, reviled in the crudest terms in the first Marshall Mathers LP, and now addressed in tones of filial contrition: “Did I take it too far?”
His fans feel the strange stirrings of an unknown sensation. A lump forms in their throat. Consternation: call a doctor! The Marshall Mathers LP 2 specialises in a new type of shock.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2