Album Review – The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Eminem may have recovered from drug addiction, but he doesn’t seem to have gotten over a sickness – or rather slackness – that has plagued his work since going heavy pop.
Berzerk is the lead single from the rapper’s upcoming album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, which appears to be a sequel to the 1999 classic in name only. Whereas the Marshall Mathers LP tracks were a sign of a master craftsman, Berzerk is what a spoiled teenager might sound like after his daddy paid for studio time with Rick Rubin and unlimited coffee refills. Slim Shady, and the complexities of character and narrative that drove Eminem’s blistering early work, aren’t just absent, they’re blown away in an ear-shattering crack of stadium-rock guitars and trashy drums. Gasping for breath underneath the jittery, gimmicky backing track, the vocals don’t appear to be the work of the artist who once brought us the greatest voice in hip hop, but a much lesser performer.
These new Eminem tracks all have a few things in common, and it’s sad to hear. The first is that the 40-yearold Marshall Mathers appears to be losing his voice, both in the literary and physical sense. Buried low in the mix, his vocals struggle to compete with the backing tracks. It sounds like he’s playing catch-up with the myriad producers who sound like they’ve been instructed to create something 21st- Century-sounding, and whose one- or two-track contracts have led to flash-bang gimmickry over groove or tone. Second is that his lyrics just ain’t dope any more.
Berzerk’s verses are choppy, disjointed, and constantly demanding the listener’s attention with guitar edits and a plea to “Take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch,” which is really a desperate desire to be noticed by kids who weren’t old enough to remember ‘Stan’. But in trying so hard for our attention, he’s losing it. Turn the volume loud, as we’re instructed on many occasions, and beneath the guitargasm, you may just hear something approaching wit. But when Em yells, “Life’s too short to not go for broke,” you can’t help but wonder where another undoubted hit, and ultimately another unmemorable track, really fits into his canon.
Answer: file at the bottom, rock bottom.