Eminem is one of the biggest rap artists of time and because of this has been at the forefront of the pop music world for the last 20 years or so now. Back in the beginning of his career he was one of the most controversial figures music has ever seen, filling his songs with shocking, vulgar and profanity-filled lyrics that kicked up a huge stir in the media, while also giving him overnight superstardom. However, his lyrics always had something to say, a point to prove and some deeper meaning, calling out individuals, the media or society as a whole in a lot of his work. However unfortunately for a lot of people, his quality seemed to dip after his third or fourth album, losing his anger and passion somewhat as he wrote more love-centric ballads with guest pop singers instead of songs that actually have something to say. I am one of the people who jumps between the two groups. I am very much more a fan of Slim Shady, the man who made the first three albums (The Eminem Show is one of my favourite albums ever), but I do find myself liking one or two songs off each of his albums post-rehab, too. Heck, even the first part of this secret-release double-album had a couple of redeemable songs on it. I was a little late at starting reviews to do that album, but I’m definitely ready now to check out its second part and let you all know what it’s like!
Reading Festival hosts some of the biggest names in Rock over 3 days and is one of the biggest festivals in the UK
Eminem tweeted from his Marshall Mathers twitter account.
‘Inspired by the master, Uncle Alfred!’ #MusicToBeMurderedBy
Paying homage to Hitchcock and an album released 1958 that featured music from Jeff Alexander along with monologues from the master of suspense himself.
..Presents Music to be Murdered by
The album opens with a typical short skit track, this time Alfred (a clear Batman reference) giving a quick speech recapping the premise of the albums. It then launches straight into the opening track, Black Magic. My mood and hope for this album dropped immediately when it was exactly the sort of song I was complaining about before, a slower song about his love life that features a pop artist singing the chorus, this time Skylar Grey lending her voice. Now, don’t get me wrong, Skylar’s voice is awesome, even if it’s a little generic, ‘breathy and bored’ sounding (thanks for inspiring a bunch of boring singers, Billie Eilish). However, her voice fits the lyrics beautifully. I’d just much rather hear a more aggressive, rappy chorus done by Eminem, it’s more what I associate with the man. Em’s pretty slow (for him) with delivering his lyrics and, again while they are cleverly written, they come across as less comical and over-exaggerated and more über serious. Not the worst thing but when he’s talking about a two way abusive relationship he comes across as a massive dick. Not much more I can say about this song, two verses and two choruses, nice and simple before it’s done. I do have to give the man props for running all the songs together one after the other with the added sounds of digging and screaming etc. It makes the album sound and feel really professional and feel like it’s telling a story, a real lost art form now in this current single-based world, especially in pop music. Shame it doesn’t last much past the first three tracks.
Wireless Festival tends to feature some of the biggest hip hop/ rap acts about today.
Next up is Alfred’s Theme and this is immediately much more like the Eminem I love. A lot more upbeat both musically and lyrically, Em gets back to his more comical side with this one, along with some frankly insane rhythms in this mid-tempo track. As I said, there were some ridiculous lines and rhymes in this song, everything from ‘giving nightmares to Billie Eilish’ before accidentally calling himself ‘Diddy’s side bitch‘ and even the usual juvenile humour of talking about his testicles, the man’s trademark humour is front and centre in this song. It took me until near the end of the song to realise it didn’t even have a chorus in it, just 5 minutes of two verses, an incredibly impressive feat given how many lyrics it meant he had to write. However, I do have to admit that some of the lyrics did annoy me a little. He’s still using his new albums to call out anyone saying he isn’t as good as he used to be, which feels a little much at this point given that he’s done it for his last four albums now. If he stopped putting out so many pop ballads and had a whole album of anger again, maybe people would stop saying it. Either way, this was a good song, a lot better than the opener, and towards the end he’s going off on one, spitting bars almost as quickly as he did on ‘rap god’. Playlisted.
Tone Deaf has a good beat and rhythm to it, the electronic sounds adding a lot to the music. However, unfortunately, lyrically it is more of the same. Whether it’s saying that he’s still going to rap regardless of who tells him to stop or the age old trop in rap of talking about ‘bitches’ and sex, this song felt tired to me from the very first verse. This one does have a chorus and while it isn’t one of the catchier ones he’s done (though I think that’s because of the shoehorned in ‘I’m tone deaf’ between each line), it does have a quirky time signature. He does have a few good lines in here that made me chuckle, though, like “You heard of Kris Kristofferson? I’m Pissed Pissedofferson”, though that may have just been my childish sense of humour. Saying that though, there were also some lines in here that felt controversial just for the sake of it, no real purpose behind it, which doesn’t sit right with me as the guy never used to feel like he’d just rap just because he could, but instead to make people think. This feels less like a thought-provoking song and more like an Adam Sandler movie, all childish dick and sex jokes. Em’s standard 3 verses and 3 choruses and then we’re onto the next one.
The next couple of songs, Book of Rhymes and Favourite Bitch, are more of the same and very similar. Both songs feature guest artists, DJ Premier and Ty Dolla $ign respectively, but neither add too much to the songs aside Ty singing the chorus for his song, treated just like the female vocalists Em usually records with. Again, he does a great job at delivering his lines and has his typical screw you attitude throughout both, but the first song is about how he is and always has been the best while the second is about how he’s been cheated on or lied to by a woman he cared about. Pretty standard lyrics for the man these days and a far cry from him calling out the government like on Eminem Show so they just kind of bored me, no matter how good some of his rhymes are.
Guns Blazing was a nice change of pace as Em’s long term friend, producer and collaborator, Dr. Dre, takes over the rapping during the first verse. He takes it slow as usual but has some great lines in there too. Another guest, Sly Pyper, helps add some dept too. Another guest, Sly Pyper, helps add some depth to the verse and also being the main vocalist during the chorus. Speaking of the chorus, it is by far the catchiest on the album so far and one I can see going down well live as one for a crowd to sing along to. Eminem raps the second verse and I think the slower pace in general has helped this song a lot for me, setting a more emotional tone to the song and, as a result, makes me want to listen to it more as it’s actually different to the four songs that preceded it. It’s nowhere near as good as something like Cleaning out my Closet, but that’s definitely the sort of vibes the song gives me. A welcome improvement.
Gnat is his almost obligatory COVID song, but outside of some clever lyrics there is really nothing to write about, it’s another slight slog to get through. Then we get to Higher, though, and I have to say it’s a real highlight of the album. Giving off immediate ‘Till I Collapse vibes, especially with that heavy snare sound in the beat that sounds more like a gang clapping in time. The chorus is also awesome, immediately better than the previous song as Shady’s multi-tracked vocals make it sound huge and anthemic, giving even more excuse for a crowd to sing along to it. Not to take away from the lyrics or delivery here, either, giving his most impassioned performance on the album by a mile as he talks about being at the top and how he’s still getting bigger and bigger to this day. Even if you are not a fan of rap or hip-hop usually, this is definitely one worth checking out as, even if the lyrics aren’t quite as controversial or empowering as they once could have been, this is the closest thing to the old Slim Shady I’ve heard in awhile!
The quality quickly dips again with These Demons. Not only does the guest, MAJ, do a completely forgettable job on the chorus, sounding like every other boring pop/mumble-rapper out there these days, but the lyrics go back to the same old crap. While there were a couple of lines that got a little chuckle out of me (‘White people wanna get haircuts’ for example), most of it is YET AGAIN calling out people who criticise him or call him out for being controversial. The man cannot seem to take any criticism, instead throwing his toys out of his pram and insulting anyone that doesn’t like his new music. And, as for the controversial side of things, I cannot remember the last time someone called him out for being controversial, especially since I cannot remember the last time he actually was. It feels almost like he’s manufacturing conflict in order to try and rap about the same thing he did in the early 2000s, instead of just finding some other avenue to vent his false anger through. It really is my main issue with the man these days, and seemingly a lot of people agree, that he just doesn’t seem to speak from the heart any more, he has nothing to be angry at. He can clearly see that as so many people say it to him, so instead of finding a modern cause to rally against like he used to he just instead turns his anger towards the people wanting him to choose better fights. And heck, I know I’m one of the people he’s angry at here, which if anything makes it all even more entertaining!
Key (Skit) gave me a good laugh, as his skits usually do. However, She Loves Me is a straight up love song (who’d have guessed from that title, ey?). Yawn. Killer, meanwhile, has a good beat and rhythm to it, but the lyrics are just so cringy and mid-2000s rappy that I can’t even write about it while keeping a straight face. Anyone who raps about how much money they have is an instant dick in my eyes, especially when it seems to be serious like this song. Heck, even Zeus sounded pretty bad to me. White Gold, the guest artist on the track, sounds almost exactly the same as MAJ did on the other track, making me sad that Em’s gone down the road of such generic pop music in his later years. Again, the line delivery is on point, as Eminem always is, but the beat felt pretty boring to me, similar to a lot of his stuff recently. I wasn’t even going to give the song this much of a writeup until I saw that apparently it is an apology song for Rihanna after he took Chris Brown’s side in the whole domestic abuse scandal a few years ago. At least it has a good message, even if it is a boring song.
Thus Far is another quick interlude before we reach the final song, Discombobulated. I have to say immediately, too, I am very much in two minds when it comes to this song. Musically and rhythmically, it feels just like an old school Slim Shady track. Everything from the cadence in his voice to the tempo in which he raps the verse feels like early 2000s Eminem. Heck, even the chorus does, too, another huge, catchy, easy to sing along to one that is easily one of the better chorus’ on the album alongside the others I have named. However, the lyrics are what puts me off slightly. I imagine that the name and nature of the song is due to this very point, but he doesn’t really say anything here. Nothing of any substance or merit, anyway. It feels like Without You but written by a much worse lyricist, which is a real shame. It’s still a great song, and one that made the playlist pretty easily, but something about it didn’t quite sit right with me
Overall, this was a pretty up and down album. I’ve definitely heard worse and I think it’s much better than the first half of this album that came out at the start of the year, but it definitely felt like there was a lot of filler here just so that he could release the three or four genuinely good tracks on it. I’d say it’s his best work since maybe even the 2nd Marshall Mathers EP back in 2013, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good still!
If you enjoyed this review, you might like to check out K Koke’s KokeSpiracy Theory
The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths