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Marshall Mathers CD

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Marshall Mathers CD

Artist: Eminem
Genre: Rap
Release Date: May 2000

Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

The Marshall Mathers LP is an often disturbing but compelling work. Dr. Dre and others create great beats and musical settings for Eminem's raps. Eminem is a skilled, distinctive rapper, fluid and melodic and often breathtakingly fast. He's an interesting personality. He certainly gets your attention and his violent, angry tales seem to allow a peek at a complicated, troubled mind,

Eminem wouldn't be worth listening to if he wasn't a technically good rapper with good, original rhymes and strong musical backing. Still, his paranoid, provocative persona is fascinating. From the start of Marshall Mathers, Eminem looks for a fight. On PSA 2000, an announcer relays Slim Shady's(Eminem/Mathers' other alter ego) curses. He doesn't care what people think and is "fed up with your shit." Then, on Kill You, he calls his girl a slut and threatens to choke then shoot her. He predicts his death, says he'll kill his enemies and asks us to pity him for his troubled dreams. He raps about using cocaine and raping his mother then imagines his critics taking him to task for it. On Kill You, Eminem is troubling though sometimes he's just talk, finishing, "I'm just playin' ladies." No matter how seriously you take him, Eminem creates a vivid character and his fast rap, over Dr. Dre's spare, dramatic backing, is undeniably adroit. Who Knew apparently concedes that Eminem's raps could lead to youth violence then gives a list of reasons why he's not to blame: our President's immoral, movies are also violent, kids will find violent entertainment no matter what, parents aren't watching their kids, he's just kidding, he's the way he is because of a tough childhood and he didn't realize he'd be so popular(though his raps are just as violent now he's aware of his popularity). Who Knew has another good Dr. Dre rhythm track that's typicaly both light and sinister. The Way I Am is prefaced by a hypocritical record exec complaining about Eminem's lyrics, asking(in a playful jab at his mentor) why he can't make records like Dr. Dre about "big screen tv's, blunts, 40's and bitches." The Way I Am is about how hard it is to be Eminem. His self pity is absorbing. Over a stark beat and occasional chimes, Eminem tells about the stress of his personal demons. He complains about fans who won't leave him alone("I'm not Mr. N Sync) and media that blame him and Marilyn Manson for youth violence then strangely complains that he doesn't get enough radio play. The Real Slim Shady is also self pitying but has a refreshingly lighter tone with Dr. Dre's fun nursery rhyme backing and some good jokes. Eminem is excited about guys "who could be workin' at Burger King, spittin' on your onion rings" who want to be like him yet so worried about the possibility of a white rap usurper that he needs to tell us he's the real thing. He rightly mocks those who say "Will Smith don't gotta cuss" to sell records but whines about an unfair world where Tom Green can be dirty and he can't. He takes fun, cheap shots at Britney and Christina, refusing to admit that he also owes part of his success to image and MTV.

The Marshall Mathers CD deserves attention for its quality, not just for Eminem's misanthropy. Stan is one of the most interesting singles to recently hit the airwaves. Dido's easy vocals, from her song Thank You, and an unhurried groove, with Mike Elizondo's smooth bass line, provide a great contrast with Eminem's edgy, fluid rap that becomes more agitated along with his character's troubled mind. The lyrics are both fascinating and irritating. Admitting that he effects his fans, Eminem raises real issues about a society encouraged to believe celebrities are just like them. Stan is a frightening, obsessive character, "a biggest fan" who bases his life on Eminem. He menacingly suggests "we should be together" and is infuriated when his idol doesn't respond to letters, writing that Eminem will be like the guy in Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight "who coulda saved that other guy from drowning." I'd prefer Stan without its self serving final verse. Eminem suddenly beomes caring, writing that Stan shouldn't take his self destructive lyrics seriously and should get counseling and treat his girl better. In a silly ending, Eminem warns Stan not to end up like a guy he saw on TV who killed himself and his pregnant girlfriend. Only at that moment, Eminem realizes, "it was you." Of the songs on Marshall Mathers, Drug Ballad sounds the most like a standard hip hop hit. Eminem and the Bass Brothers' sound is sleek and good with catchy whoa-oos. A less overpowering rap lets the groove work. Eminem actually sounds rational, admitting that "in the long run these drugs are gonna catch up" with him and specifying their negative effects.

Eminem, while often grippingly vivid, challenges how much misanthropy you can handle. The song Marshall Mathers starts as a joke with Eminem singing seriously over an acoustic guitar "I'm just a regular guy I don't know why there's all the fuss about me" then becomes an edgy rap that gets stupider and stupider, bouncing from grievance to grievance, each causing the same fury, no matter how serious or petty. Eminem is as angry about teen pop successes and people who falsely claim to be from Detroit as he is about Biggie Smalls getting killed. When Eminem really gets upset, he slips into pointless homophobia, turning LFO's Summer Girls into an anti-gay anthem and saying he wants to knock out and "put fear in faggots." He then shifts to complaining about a family alternating between suing him and wanting to be his best friend. A pointless skit about gay men doing oral sex precedes Criminal. On Criminal, Eminem ridicules those who think that "what I talk about on a record, I actually do in real life" then he promises to stab "a fag or lez" and jokes about Versace's killing. Kim is a disturbing tale of domestic violence but it's so broad, with melodramatic backing and Eminem's tongue in cheek singing, that his tale of killing the man his wife slept with then planning a murder suicide is mostly just bizarre. Eminem dramatically mixes self pity, narcissism and self hatred. The Marshall Mathers LP has obligatory guest shots by other rap stars but they rarely match up to Eminem, either as a fluid rapper or a compelling personality. Bitch Please II, with Dr. Dre, Nate Dogg and an appealingly quirky Snoop Dog, is pointlessly violent but has a nice, easy mood.

Eminem is an interesting psychological subject. He's an idiot savant with a good, inventive command of language that he often uses to express ridiculous thoughts. He's paranoid about people hating him but a lot of his problems are self imposed. Still, his raps are skilled and filled with personality. The musical setting is almost always good. If you're easily offended, stay away from the Marshall Mathers LP. But if you can deal with its foolishness, the raps and larger than life character are probably worth exploring.



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