A surprise album drop in 2020 by one of the greatest of all time? Let’s talk about it! (S/O to Alan for sending to me early in the morning so I could give it a listen)
Eminem is of course one of the most controversial figures in all of music. His lyrics have often been (rightfully) criticized as his topics are often…always controversial.
Let’s take a look at Eminem’s album history to take a stroll down memory lane:
Infinite (not really counting this one but putting on here so someone doesn’t call me out)
The Slim Shady LP (1999)
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
The Eminem Show (2002)
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)
Music to Be Murdered By (2020)
Every album was at one point number one on the US charts except for The Slim Shady LP (his first album, which did reach number 2) and is arguably (now) one of his best.
His album starts with an Intro – per the usual. But instead of just an intro, it’s Eminem going hard for a solid 2 minutes, which seemed like a little more classic Em. I loved Premonition (Intro) and I was already hyped for the entire album.
Then the second song came on and I was immediately worried. It was a bad beat and I wasn’t a fan of Young M.A who I admittedly had never heard of it. One of the worst songs on the album. I was just hoping it was the ONLY bad song.
The next song brought some familiarity from Bad meets Evil and featured Royce Da 5’9″ – a historic combo with plenty of energy and history. It didn’t disappoint.
The Alfred Interlude – not sure, I’m sure this has some substance with the underlying theme of the album but that’s something I’m not interested. I’m here for Eminem to go HAM.
Those Kinda Nights (ft. Ed Sheeran) was fine in itself but nothing special. I think there’s a weird bond that Eminem and Ed Sheeran have formed and it’s a very Eminem/Ed Sheeran song. It’ll be on the radio. But I don’t want Em on the radio. I want him ripping beats to shreds.
In Too Deep was a nice change of pace that had Eminem rapping and then singing a chorus as well. I’m into this. I liked this one quite a bit.
Juice WRLD passed away about 5 weeks before this album dropped. The Juice WRLD featured song Godzilla is something that Juice fans will love. I, personally, have never been a huge fan of Juice WRLD’s music but this was fine as a standalone. I like that JW was on the chorus instead of doing long verses. Some people are verse people and some are chorus people.
Darkness started and I immediately thought possible candidate for song of the album. “Darkness” implies dark. The beat was strong. Then Em came in with his old depressed bullshit and it goes 5 minutes. This is my kind of Eminem. Put in your headphones and vibe to this. Holy shit. The song, about shootings across the United States is Eminem taking a stance and bringing real life issues into his music – something he has historically done quite often. Eminem also released a music video of this song with his album which is worth watching. You can do that here.
Then we jump straight into a Skylar Grey feature, who Eminem has partnered with various times throughout his career. She is stellar as always on the chorus (her normal role) and Eminem kills another beat.
The second Royce da 5’9″ feature was a much more “old school” rap. Yah Yah also featured Black Thought, Q-Tip, and Denaun. It’s something that Em fans are used to hearing with Detroit roots and just verse after verse of rhymes on a hot beat. For me, this doesn’t really do it, but this won’t be a surprise to long time fans.
When I heard the Stepdad Intro I cringed a little and immediately was nervous for the song. You knew this would be real. It is what I mentioned at the top about controversial topics. This is just line after line of controversial lines about a step dad beating his mom, killing his dog, and…wow. NSFW. Not really suitable for anywhere, but this is classic Em. Oh, spoiler, he kills him.
We go from killing his stepdad to drugs and martians. I don’t know what it is, but I’m having serious flashbacks to old school Eminem. Like if people don’t like this album then it’s just bullshit. People change and music changes and MOST artists adapt to the times. They have to. Eminem did this…and people hated it. Music to Be Murdered By is NOT current rap (with the exception of one or two songs). This is seriously old school Eminem.
Never Love Again really goes everywhere. Fast, slow, drugs, love. Again, something long time Eminem fans won’t be surprised by. It’s kind of classic Em mixed with new Em.
Little Engine is a quick little song that references being back with Dre several times. So I’m assuming this is a collab they may have done on the beat. **UPDATE** sounds like Dr. Dre co-produced 6 songs on the album and produced one solo. Co-produced songs are: Premonition (Intro), Alfred (Interlude), Never Love Again, Little Engine, Lock It Up, and Alfred (Outro). He produced the Stepdad Intro – so I guess we will count the Intro as a song and say 4 songs.
When I saw a song with Anderson .Paak, I wasn’t super excited. I have heard about Anderson .Paak but I’ve never heard anything that I loved. The two actually meshed pretty well. This one surprised me a bit. Just when I thought the album had peaked and was going downhill, this brought it back to life a little bit.
Farewell was another hybrid song, in my opinion but Eminem did a pretty good job here. It’s crazy to see how many different types of beats Eminem can rap on. His versatility is really pretty impressive when you take a look at his career.
When I looked at the last 5 or 6 songs on the album I wasn’t super excited. I wasn’t super familiar with Don Toliver. Upon further review, he released his first major label mixtape in 2018 – but again, Eminem put him on the chorus and background and it fit well. Eminem still does the heavy lifting but it’s a change of pace to slow down the chorus, which Eminem shows on this album he can do – but often the change of voice and pace go well with Em’s flow.
The last Royce da 5’9″ feature, I Will, is a little more of the same that we’ve come to expect with the two. The song also included Joell Ortiz and KXNG Crooked and is a lot like Yah Yah earlier in the album.
Premonition (Intro) – ****
Unaccommodating (ft. Young M.A) – *
You Gon’ Learn (ft. Royce da 5’9″ and White Gold) – ***1/2
Those Kinda Nights (ft. Ed Sheeran) – **
In Too Deep – ***1/2
Godzilla (ft. Juice WRLD) – **1/2
Darkness – ****1/2
Leaving Heaven (ft. Skylar Grey) – ***
Yah Yah ft. Royce da 5’9″, Black Thought, Q-Tip, & Denaun) *1/2
Stepdad – ***
Marsh – ***1/2
Never Love Again – **1/2
Little Engine – **
Lock It Up (ft. Anderson .Paak) ***
No Regrets (ft. Don Toliver) ***
I Will (ft. KXNG Crooked, Royce da 5’9″ and Joell Ortiz) – *1/2
Overall, this album had a little bit of everything. I think this is the closest we’ve got to having some classic Eminem that we’ve seen in a long, long time. This is certainly my favorite Eminem album in a decade. I kept 12 of the 17 songs to have on my playlist at least for a certain amount of time. That’s an old school Em album. A lot of good stuff and some that isn’t for me.
This album has a ton of callbacks and I’ve already seen mixed reviews. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and a lot of people will hate because it’s Eminem and he’s an easy target. However, if you’re in this for a strictly music and entertainment perspective, this is a great album. Of course it’s controversial. It’s Eminem. But this is a refreshing change of pace from his last couple releases. Welcome back, Em. It’s good to see you.