This is a bit of late review with the album having been out for well over a month now but this is a such a high profile release that I can’t help but have my say. Eminem hasn’t really been on form since The Eminem Show which was way back in 2002. Since then he’s quit music and come back with two very mediocre albums and failed to make himself stand out in modern hip hop, after being the genre’s defining force when he was in his prime. This time out he opts to cash in on the success of one of his truly great albums with a sequel record.
One thing that remains apparent throughout The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is that Eminem still has one of the best flows in the business, his knowledge of the language and ability to bend any word to fit in with what he wants it to is pretty much unrivalled. This record is easily his best lyrically since The Eminem Show, as a matter of fact, there’s a case for this record having his best rhymes ever from a technical perspective. On the single Rap God he spits faster than even Busta Rhymes could dream of. The problem is though that despite his lyrical prowess there is something lacking from the new reformed Eminem, something that’s been missing for over a decade. He’s far too obsessed with poorly written, trashy hooks which are made even worse by his dreadful singing voice, his last album, Recovery, was riddled with them to the point where it was almost unlistenable, TMMLP2 contains a number of these too, the aforementioned Rap God containing one of the worst of the lot. The record feels confused as to what it wants to be, at times it breaks new ground and gives Eminem’s superior rhymes a breath of fresh air with production that strips things back to basics and adds an edgy bite to his lines, the best of which probably being Survival. Whereas other tracks make the same mistakes as Recovery did trying too hard to be a chart topping success lazy and uninteresting beats and, in doing so, not making the most of what Eminem’s best at: rapping. See the Rihanna featuring Monster for an example of this.
Overall this record is easily the best Mathers has come out with since his comeback and it beats Encore too, but this is still not the Eminem of old. There’s a bit more of the angry, bitterness that littered his early and best material but it’s much more forced and lacks the authenticity he once had. It seems he’s confused as to what he wants to do and too much like he’s making music to be successful than as a release of emotions. The track with Kendrick Lamar is a massive disappointment too.
Ice-T directs us through an array of the top rappers around in this new documentary that aims to map the birth and rise of hip hop music. The OG has obviously managed to get hold of the biggest names on the scene from past and present to ask really what it was that got these people to where they are now.
Interspersed throughout are a juxtaposition of shots of the sprawling New York City skyline, with poverty stricken black ghettos and a selection of street art, all backed by a beginners manual of the greatest hip hop tunes of all time. His interviews with the greats are successful in giving across the artists’ love of the music and the hardships they went through to make themselves known. He is less successful, though, on providing you with information on the history of the genre, he seems more preoccupied by the writing processes than where this stuff actually came from.
Every rapper in the film are credible rappers who have had big hits and helped make the genre to more accessible to people in all walks of life and the most interesting moments of the film come when the artists speak of their writing process. It’s also great to the see them rap straight into the camera with no backing tracks, this really makes you notice how passionate and meaningful rap lyrics actually are. The film is very enjoyable if you’re a hip hop but I can imagine, however, if you’re not it might be a bit more tedious.
When I heard about the film and saw the trailers I was under the impression it would be Ice-T taking us right back to the beginning, where was hip hop invented, who made it and then how has the genre progressed into the hip hop we have today. The personnel are there he manages to give a great range of artists from past and present but what’s lacking is the real insight into what it was that made this genre come from the streets and become one of the most profitable music genres in the world today. While I enjoyed the film whether it was a particularly informative documentary is another matter and on that front The Art of Rap doesn’t quite pick up on that big selling hook.
The Roots are a band that seem to exist away from the spotlight, and for the most part under people’s radars but when I discovered them a year or so ago they’ve grown into possibly my favourite hip hop act full stop. Having made eleven albums now there’s a wealth of material that I’ve recently been working my way through. Every album has a different flavour, brings in a new style for the group to experiment with. Black Thought is one of the most underrated rappers in the world with a knack for lyrics and flow that I think could rival hey-day-Eminem and Thought has been consistent throughout the groups twenty five year career, these guys need more publicity cos they are incredible.