The Marshall Mathers L.P.
Aftermath / Interscope Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/08/2000
Detroit-born rapper Eminem (born Marshall Mathers) knew he had a tough mountain to climb when it came to releasing his second album. I mean, how do you top the surprising success of your debut record, The Slim Shady L.P., which earned you two Grammy Awards (not to mention a world of controversy)?
The answer: Repeat the same formula you used on your first album, only making it more timely and less original. The end result, The Marshall Mathers L.P., has some moments that proves Eminem was no fluke -- but it is a bit of a letdown.
Many people didn't get the joke the first time, and took everything that Mathers was saying at face value. Others, like myself, laughed their asses off and wondered how anyone could take some of this stuff seriously. Unfortunately, on two of the tracks, I'm not laughing anymore.
The first track, "Stan," is a portrait of how a fan's love of an artist can turn into obsession, and is meant to be a serious song (although there are moments of dark humor). I don't know whether this is partially rooted in reality, but it portrays Mathers as someone who does care about his fans, though realizing he can't cater to their every whim at the drop of a dime. This is a track that is supposed to make you think -- and it works perfectly.
The second track, "Kim," is not funny -- it scares the hell out of me. The "prequel" to "Bonnie & Clyde '97" off The Slim Shady L.P., this track chronicles the events leading up to the body dump on "Bonnie & Clyde '97": a violent argument between Eminem and his wife, eventually leading to her death. Part of me wants to keep saying that this is just a goof, but this one just sounds a little too real. Mathers sounds genuinely angry on this track, so it's real hard for me to write this off as fiction... especially after events of this past week (I'm writing this on June 7, 2000), where Mathers and his wife were involved in a scuffle outside a Detroit nightclub. I'm sorry, Marshall, I've been one of your most vocal supporters... but if I never hear this song again, it will be too soon.
There is still some great material on The Marshall Mathers L.P. to justify the early success Eminem had. Tracks like "Kill You" (another song that people won't get the humor in), "Who Knew," "The Real Slim Shady" and "I'm Back" all are just as much fun as the material from album number one was to listen to, and they hold up well to repeat listenings.
But there are cracks in the plaster on this one. Some of the skits get real tired, real quick -- including the repeat of "Paul" (featuring Mathers's real-life manager) who gives up on trying to offer advice to his client, and "Ken Kaniff," which seems to feature the lead character getting, aah, serviced. The less said about this one, the better.
Some of the full-length material at the tail end of this disc does tend to disappoint. Tracks like "Amityville," "B**** Please II" (not my censoring) and "Under The Influence" all fail to live up to the expectations that Mathers has created for himself. Maybe it was the additional guests on some of these tracks - but then again, Dr. Dre added some of the best moments on The Slim Shady L.P.,. and even he and Snoop Dogg can't save "B**** Please II."
The Marshall Mathers L.P. was going to be a tough disc for anyone, including Mathers, to make, seeing the expectations he had to live up to. For the most part, though, he does -- though there are signs that Slim Shady is starting to run a little low on ideas. After all, the shock can't always stay fresh.