Did it live up to his expectations?

There are very few artists that I consider to be 'no-brainers,' meaning that when they release a new album I don't even have to think about it...  I just go to the store on day one and buy it.  Eminem is one of those artists to me.  If he releases an album on November 5th, I'm in the store on November 5th.


Yesterday was November 5th.


I've showered Eminem in more than his fair share of praise over the years in these blogs.  You can feel free to agree or disagree, but in the world of rap, there's Eminem...  And then there's everybody else.  He's the greatest.  Yesterday, Em released his Marshall Mathers LP 2...  And it completely proved me right.


Even more than Eminem's previous albums, I loved this upon first listen.  I don't confuse the tracks, and some of these songs that I heard for the first time YESTERDAY rank among my favorite songs he's ever written.


I found the title of the album puzzling at first.  Eminem has never released a sequel album before, and why pick sophomore album 2000's The Marshall Mathers LP to start?  However, it makes total sense if you sit down and digest everything that's going on in this album.  Many thoughts, concepts, and ideas harken back to the Grammy award winning Marshall Mathers LP [1]. The second track is a skit that picks up literally at the closing seconds of the final song on MMLP1, "Criminal."  The references to that album (and no other, just THAT one) will be staggering to passionate fans of that album.


Producer Rick Rubin's fingerprints are all over this album.  While he didn't produce every track, the ones he did are insanely obvious...  In a good way.  One of rock's most well-known producers, when Rick Rubin influenced a song on this album you can expect a fun rap over a classic rock sample.  Fans have surely heard "Berzerk" by now and its Billy Squire "Stroke" sample, as well as Beastie Boys' "Fight For Your Right."  You may not have heard really cool use of samples from artists like Joe Walsh, The Zombies, and Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders.


The highlight of the album in my opinion is smack-dab in the middle...  In "Rap God" Marshall not only claims to be the god of this genre of music, but he also proves it.  It would have come off as arrogant or offensive, except when you're listening to it, it's hard to deny his claims.  It crams seemingly every style of rap into six minutes in a coherent display of syllable and lyrical acrobatics.


Of the songs I had not heard yet, two jumped out at me as being better than the rest.  The first was the collaboration with fun. frontman Nate Ruess on a song called "Headlights."  On nearly every album Eminem has released, he's dedicated a song to his mother, and never in a flattering way.  Those songs are so personal I almost feel dirty listening to them, like I shouldn't be hearing this.  Completely out of left field, "Headlights" is an honest-to-god sincere apology to his mother, whom he clearly identifies with better after a self-described "growth spurt" in maturity.  Eminem superfans may become emotional listening to the song that probably best displays his growth from the first Marshall Mathers LP.


The second was the song that if I had to guess a next radio single, would probably be "Stronger Than I Was."  A ballad about keeping a heart that's been through war with lovers, Em opts not to call them B-words and C-words (per usual for him), but to remind them that he has been changed for the better...  Coming out "stronger than he was."  It's incredibly relatable for anyone who has been through painful heartache, wanted to die, but didn't.  It's hard to compare to any other Eminem song...  Maybe 2004's "Spend Some Time."


In all, even though I've only had this album for less than 24-hours, I feel confident calling this probably the best new album I've heard in maybe a decade.  I don't like making claims like that without at least a couple years to "digest" it, but I'm quite confident calling this Eminem's best work sinceThe Eminem Showfrom 2002.  As a point of reference, I consider that the greatest album in the history of music.