(Photo courtesy of Interscope Records)
It’s been nearly three years since Eminem’s last solo album Recovery, but until recently, the famously private rapper’s plans for releasing new music were purely a matter of speculation. In February, Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg told Billboard that the rapper was working on a new solo album and that it would come out some time after Memorial Day. Yet nearly three months after Memorial Day, there was hardly new information. Finally, in mid-August, a new Eminem single,“Survival,” debuted in the trailer for the video game Call of Duty: Ghosts. An angry, rock-inflected track, it featured Eminem arguing for his own relevance, claiming “it ain’t over ‘til I say it’s over.”
A week-and-a-half later, we found out it’s not over. A pair of Beats By Dre ads during the VMAs announced that Eminem’s upcoming eighth album will be called The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and named Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin as executive producers. The album, a sequel to 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP, is due out November 5. Shortly after announcing the album’s release, Eminem also put out the first single,“Berzerk,” an ‘80s throwback in the vein of the Beastie Boys, hinting at the direction the album might take.
Other details, however, have been scarce, and, given Eminem’s tight-lipped approach, it’s hard to say what’s been on his mind in makingMMLP2. However, the Detroit rapper has always been able to drive conversation, and it’s inevitable that whatever he’s planning will feel like a big deal when it arrives. With his resources and place in the game, Eminem could take just about any direction and have it make sense. Here are five possibilities for the rapper’s upcoming album:
Go Beastie Boys
It’s no accident that “Berzerk” sounds like a Beastie Boys song. Produced by original Beasties collaborator Rick Rubin and sampling the “Fight For Your Right (To Party),” it’s a direct homage that has Eminem playing the part of the group’s long lost fourth member. And although the connection isn’t quite as overt, the massive drums and jolts of guitar on “Survival” could easily pass as a modern tweak on the crashing beats of Licensed To Ill. Since he’s out of step with rap’s current trends anyway (“Berzerk” even takes a shot at Future, one of the genre’s biggest hit-makers at the moment), it makes sense for Eminem to take on a throwback sound. Furthermore, the Beastie Boys have always been an influence for Em: In an interview with SPINin 2000, he claimed that hearing the group for the first time was what inspired him to rap. It’s only right for him to bring things full circle.
Go For A Proper Sequel
The Marshall Mathers LP is Eminem’s best-selling album, so like any successful franchise, it’s due for a sequel. The decision to bill the upcoming album as such surely is a promise of some sort: Does it mean we can expect to revisit some of the same characters and plot lines? MMLP is iconic Eminem, simultaneously funny, disturbing, violent, detailed and technically astounding, with beloved tracks like “The Real Slim Shady,” “The Way I Am” and “Stan.”
Em complains about being a media scapegoat and dealing with overzealous fans, but the album seems designed to attract more attention and make those problems worse. “Kim,” for instance, is a shockingly graphic depiction of Eminem killing his wife—terrifying, offensive stuff but also an incredibly well-constructed rap narrative.MMLP was a bomb. These songs were conversation starters before the rise of the Internet outrage machine, and they spawned memes before we knew what those were. Today we’d be flooded with Real Slim Shady GIFs.
A sequel might return to the original’s crisp pop-rap production, pushing Dr. Dre back onto the radar. It might bring back some of the same stories, with Stan as a guy who tweets at Eminem every day and tries to start Eminem-related hashtags. It might be a reprise of the horror-tinged lyricism thatRecovery mostly avoided. But even if it doesn’t strictly revisit the sound or the content of MMLP, it can be a proper sequel if it’s an album that provokes people, impresses listeners and, most of all, demands attention.
Go For Highbrow Accolades
Eminem has pretty much based his entire career on being an immature loudmouth with a perverted sense of humor, but through the virtue of longevity of his successful career, he’s stumbled into the same kind of respectable territory of his peer Jay Z. Recovery was promoted as the work of someone imbued with the wisdom of surviving addiction (never mind that it still had plenty of dumb potty humor), and recent singles like “Not Afraid” and “Lighters” took on an inspirational tone.
It would make perfect sense for him to cement that reputation by following Jay Z’s lead and making an album like Magna Carta Holy Grail that aims to be a piece of high culture (with a few branded tie-ins). All he needs to do is promote the release through a performance art project at a swanky Detroit gallery, beating Call of Duty: Ghost in one sitting while rapping “Survival” the whole time. Sprinkle in a few references to French painters alongside the Kardashian jokes, and the guy who once rapped the words “I’m jerkin’ but this whole bag of Viagra isn’t working” will be welcomed into the art world with open arms.
Go For A Duets Album
The duets album is a late-career staple for any pop star, and Eminem would be the ideal artist to take on a Tony Bennett-like project that rounds up some of contemporary music’s biggest names. Eminem has an ear for cheesy, stadium-sized pop hooks like the ones on “Love the Way You Lie,” “Lighters” or B.o.B.’s “Airplanes,” which Em remixed, and he likes playing off another artist, as he did with Royce da 5’9” on their 2011 Bad Meets Evil collaboration, Hell: The Sequel. He could easily make an entire album full of anthemic guest spots, bringing in past collaborators like Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Pink andDido, as well as friends like Elton John, who served as an informal sponsor as Eminem throughout his struggles with addiction, and Kid Rock, his fellow Detroit native and occasional dinner party host. The covers of The Eminem Show and Encore played with the image of Eminem as a suited performer in the vein of Sinatra; MMLP2 could make that lineage official.
Go MF DOOM Experimental
Eminem was always uncomfortable in the public eye, but since the height of his drug addiction and subsequent recovery, he’s become something close to an all-out recluse, doing limited press and only playing a handful of shows in the last few years. By all accounts, he’s taken mostly to focusing on his family and home life in Detroit. It’s possible that, in his seclusion, Eminem has been busy creating his own self-contained artistic world, in the vein of the experimental and similarly private rapper MF DOOM.
Having sold approximately one hundred trillion records, Eminem has nothing left to prove, except that he’s capable of making some totally inscrutable project involving lots of hidden symbolism and a complex mythology of fantasy creatures (although depending on your take onRelapse, it’s possible he’s already done this, too). While the first two singles suggest Eminem is refining his existing sounds instead of forging new ones, who knows what kind of weird material sampling bootleg Turkish funk songs is hidden away in some closet in Detroit.
– Kyle Kramer, Radio.com