As Eminem raps on Berserk, "let's take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch". The title to this, his tenth album, is a direct link to his hugely popular album from 2000 in an attempt to reignite a career that's taken a dip in the last couple of years, to "recapture that lightning trapped in a bottle" (Bad Guy).
The self-title serves a dual purpose though: Eminem's favourite subject is Eminem. His ego rivals Kanye as he frequently calls out his superiority. "So as long as I'm on the clock punching this time card, hip hop ain't dying on my watch", he claims on Rhyme Or Reason, whilst on Survival he explains what it takes to be on top: "I don't do this music shit, I lose my shit". It even extends to his movie career, with So Much Better's "Ho, I got an Oscar attached to my fucking name". Arrogance is no stranger to hip-hop, but it's surprising Eminem can squeeze so many words out of one topic.
For the most part, he raps about his troubled past and his career to date, battling his own inner-demons. This is a man who revels in playing the outsider, fixated on the complex (lack of) relationship with his father. "This is all your fault, maybe that's why I'm always so bananas, I appeal to all those walks of life", he surmises on Rhyme Or Reason, whilst on the Stan-esque Legacy he audibly grows in confidence as he takes the listener through his childhood and how he found strength through pain ("Who would've knew from the moment I turned the mic on I could be iconic").
If he's not rapping about himself, though, he's generally spitting misogynistic rhymes. The worst offender is So Much Better, whose chorus centres on the lyric "My life would be so much better if you just dropped dead", whilst in one verse he shouts "But I'll never say the L word again, l-l-l-lesbian". What's worse is in Rap God he attempts to justify this discrimination with the line "They asking me to eliminate some of the women hate, but if you take into consideration the bitter hatred that I had then you may be a little patient and more sympathetic". Frankly, "women hate" is never acceptable.
Yet Rap God is the centrepiece of the album, on which his narcissism culminates in a virtuosic and athletic display of rapid-fire wordplay, inner rhymes, clever puns and a rhythmic flow in a constant state of flux. He might, yet again, be rapping about himself (here comparing himself to the greats of the past), but it's on this track that he most explicitly justifies his technical skill as a rapper - a skill that is evidenced throughout the album.
In addition to his rapping ability, Eminem is also known for his flirtation with the mainstream (or as he puts it on Rap God "it's not hip hop it's pop, 'cause I found a hella way to fuse it"). However, the pop hooks are somewhat missing from 'TMMLP2'. Sure, current single The Monster features a guest chorus from long-term collaborator Rihanna, but this album is mostly full-throttle rap.
That's not to say Eminem takes himself too seriously. As you'd expect, his lyrics are filled with biting humour that frequently picks shots at his contemporaries. Nobody is safe, from Gwen Stefani and "the ugly Kardashian", to Jay-Z, Drake, Frank Ocean and more. Just don't expect the overblown humour of tracks like Just Lose It or The Real Slim Shady - 'TMMLP2' is jam-packed with lyrical content that requires intense listening to fully get to grips with.
Whether you'd want to is another question entirely. At twenty-one tracks long, the relentless rhymes and thematic repetition soon become tiring, only emphasised by the lack of hooks. Although he lightens up on occasion, Eminem is forever angry. And whilst this anger and discrimination might anger some people, he quite clearly couldn't care less.
* Rap God
* The Monster
Listen: 'The Marshall Mathers LP 2' is available now.