The Marshall Mathers LP2 (Expanded Edition)

The Marshall Mathers LP2 (Expanded Edition)

When Eminem put out the sequel to The Marshall Mathers LP in late 2013, he joined a small handful of rappers—including JAY-Z, Q-Tip, and the late MF DOOM—who’d managed to still sound relevant after hitting 40. Age hadn’t matured him—at least not so much that he backed off the violence, misogyny, and homophobia that made him a lightning rod 15 years earlier. But on The Marshall Mathers LP 2, there was a sense of awareness about his place in the culture that could be interpreted as maturity. He wasn’t a dark, twisted rapper; he was the dark, twisted rap guy: That was his role. So while the album’s shout-outs to Phife Dawg (“Legacy”)—as well as the old-school feel of tracks like “Berzerk” and “Survival”—could be described as nostalgia, they’re also Eminem’s way of saying that, no matter how good he is, he knows he’s just a piece in a much bigger cultural picture. By the time The Marshall Mathers LP 2 arrived, the tabloids and headlines that once followed Eminem were mostly gone. It was just him, his notebook, his memories, and a love for the music that made him. “They said I rap like a robot, so call me Rap-bot,” he proclaims at the top of “Rap God,” before offering five and a half of the most technically demanding minutes of his career. That’s the feat, but that’s also the joke—watch him go. Same, in a way, for something like “Legacy,” which listeners might realize squeezes five minutes of rhymes out of the same few syllables. In an interview with Eminem, conducted a few years after The Marshall Mathers LP 2‘s release, a New York magazine writer asked the rapper what he liked to do for fun. “Aside from writing? Mostly I love writing,” he said. “Yeah, writing is something I really enjoy.” It’s hard to tell whether or not he’s kidding, but on LP 2, the picture still comes through clear: Here’s a guy so consumed by rap that the rest of the world basically doesn’t exist.

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