“Bad Guy,” the intensely dramatic opening track of Eminem’s eighth album, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” is over seven minutes of the Detroit veteran displaying that he’s not only still really, really good at rapping, but also still a master of “Da Art of Storytellin” (all due respect to Andre 3000). After the opening track reveals itself as a sequel to the first Marshall Mathers LP’s runaway narrative hit “Stan,” and the following skit track seems to pick up right where that same, now 13-year-old album’s closer “Criminal” left off, it appears for a brief moment as if Eminem might actually be rivaling his pre-“Encore” output – some of the best to come out of that era.
But then track three, “Rhyme Or Reason” starts. Within one minute, Eminem is rapping in a Yoda voice over a sample of The Zombies’ “Time Of the Season,” and any momentum built up in those first eight is swiftly dashed. Things fail to get much better from there, although Em’s spit-flecked, multisyllabic rappity-rapping is in rare (or just retro) form, almost enough to make you forget how awful these beats are. Those looking for pure lyrical skill might enjoy the “Marshall Mathers LP 2,” but the album’s appeal hinges mostly on how badly the listener wants to hear a 41-year-old rap over Joe Walsh and Billy Squier samples.
I’m no ageist, but something about Eminem complaining about his struggles with computers (“My apologies/no disrespect to technology/but what the heck is all of these buttons?”) is wildly hilarious and insanely depressing at the same time.