Ever since the success of 2010’s Recovery, fans have been eager for what the rapper had in store next. When he revealed the title of his latest album the anticipation grew, while many wondered if this could live up to the previous album. While it doesn’t come anywhere close to his 2000 release, the record is really good with some of his most ambitious raps. Not every song is perfect, but as with some of his best work there are ones here that will blow your mind. Anyone who has doubted the rapper in recent years be prepared to be proven wrong because Shady’s back.
With the title suggesting the release is a sequel to his most successful album you’re not sure what to expect. Will there be new ideas or will he be ripping off himself on every track? There’s no doubt that nostalgia runs all over the album with references not only to old school rappers that Em grew up on to references to his past albums. But the sense of nostalgia is pleasant, rather than annoying. The one track directly related to his 2000 album is “Bad Guy.” The low key, almost mellow music playing with Em’s venom, cynical raps over it brings the listener back to Slim Shady. This is one of the most notable songs because it’s a sequel to “Stan.” What’s so amazing about the song is you don’t realize it’s a sequel until the last verse where he says “It’s just me, you and the music now, Slim/I hope you hear it we are in a car right now/wait here comes my favorite lyric.” The song is actually from the perspective of Stan’s younger brother Matthew, who was briefly mentioned in the previous song. Not only is there a throwback to the original track, but the rapper shows us Slim isn’t forgotten when he raps a verse in the classic high pitched Shady voice. The track also puts a new spin on the Stan story; you never even think of how his death affected his family, but thanks to Matthew we get some insight. While the outro is good, it kind of doesn’t fit in with the song due to the dramatic music and the flow of the lyrics. Still, it shows off the rapper’s skill and that he hasn’t missed a beat.
The nostalgia factor comes back with “Parking Lot (Skit).” I was never a fan of Eminem skits. They are funny, but they feel pointless to the album. This one has a nice throwback to “Criminal.” The opening line of the skit is the same line from the song where the rapper kills a banker after he previously told her he wouldn’t. Luckily, it’s the only skit on the album. The next song is one of the best of the album. “Rhyme Or Reason” does a great job of taking the music from “Time of the Season” by The Zombies and using it for a viscous rap. When you first hear the music, it may throw you off, but Eminem makes it work so well it really grows on you. What’s impressive is he keeps the melody and the format of the chorus in tact just with different lyrics. The song seems to mainly address his issues with his father as he says he doesn’t know who he is and how if they ever had a father and son talk he would “knock his block off.” Here, he also does a cool throwback to “Criminal” with the line “But I still am a CRIMINAL/Ten year old degenerate grabbing on my GENITALS/The last Mathers LP that went diamond/This time I’m predicting this one will go EMERALD.” It’s an awesome track that shows Eminem has a lot of creative juices and that he can adapt to just about anything.
Another amazing song is “Rap God.” Even though the chorus of “I’m beginning to feel like a rap god, rap god” is a little cheesy, this may be the strongest track from the album. He’s spitting out poison filled rhymes that remind you of his first few albums. There were a few moments here that blew my mind. The first comes from the third verse where Eminem talks about the censored line from “I’m Back” that involved guns and the kids from Columbine as he wonders if he can get away with it now since he’s not in the spotlight. The fact that he mentioned the line, the controversy it caused, and how he can get away with it now was totally unexpected. The other part is from that same verse where he raps so freaking fast you can’t even keep up with him. My jaw dropped the first time I heard it, especially since he’s never really rapped this way before. He also takes a stab at critics and fans who nay-say his style because he finds a way to infuse rap with rock and pop music. It’s an epic song that shows Em can still lay down lyrics that makes your spine tingle.
Even though there are a few songs that fall flat, most of them are really good. “So Much Better” is rapped in Slim Shady vein while Em sings “My life would be so much better/If you just dropped dead.” It’s full of the dark, cynical humor the rapper is known for. “Berzerk” brings listeners back to old school hip hop by remixing Billy Squier’s “The Stroke” to make a funky, weird beat. This seems to be his funny, crazy song sort of like “Without Me.” He even says “Let’s bring it back to that vintage Slim, bitch/The art of MCing mixed with da Vinci and MC Ren/And I don’t mean Stimpy’s friend, bitch.” Also, the chorus of “Maybe make just like K-Fed and let yourself go” will make you laugh your ass off. “So Far…” is another humorous track that uses the music from “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh for its looping melody. Here, the rapper addresses the fact that he’s getting too old to keep up with the kids, yet he hasn’t matured. He also addresses the struggles of trying to be a normal guy. “Legacy” is a bit on the somber side with Em talking about how rapping gave him the confidence to stand up for himself and follow his dream of being a rapper. It’s a mellow track that gives the listener further insight into Eminem’s mind.
It’s not all good on the album; there are few songs that are weak. The worse one is “Stronger Than I Was.” For one thing, Eminem is singing for just about the entire track. I don’t mind his singing, but when it goes on for more than one minute it’s unbearable. He finally raps during the third verse, but by then you’ve lost interest. It’s like he aimed for making a power, pop ballad, but it comes off as corny. “Love Game” is kind of awkward. Some of the rapping is okay, even if it is a little gross, but the doo wop music doesn’t really match the flow of the song at all. The song may grow on you after a while, but it doesn’t make a good first impression. “Headlights” is a really good track, even though the music is a bit too slow. What makes it stand out is that it’s an apology to his mother. He addresses the past things he’s said about her and how he was wrong to do so. It shows that he’s grown a little and that he does have an emotional side. The only thing I don’t like about it is Nate Russ. Frankly, the song didn’t need him and his wavering nasal vocals, but if you can ignore him the song isn’t that bad.
One thing that I would change about the album are the female singers. There are about four different singers on several tracks, yet they all sound the same. I can’t tell the difference between Skylar Grey and Liz Rodriguez. If he would’ve varied the singers on the record it would’ve given each track a different flavor. Personally, I loved the songs he’s done with Pink and it would’ve been great if he did another one with her. Even though these singers blend together, it doesn’t stop the album from being great and one that already has people talking again.
Overall, the album gets 8/10. Anything that Eminem does can never live up to his third album, but this one shows he’s still got it. It’s got everything that makes the rapper: there’s a bit of heartache, a lot of anger, a splash of controversy, and Shady, who everyone has missed. Not every song is amazing, but you can forgive him because some of the songs here are amazing. Even though the record is filled with nostalgia, it doesn’t get annoying and it doesn’t sound like he’s ripping himself off. And just like with most of his records it won’t please everyone, but it will get people talking.