Photo Credit: rag & bone X Eminem
Music To Be Murdered By from hip-hop honcho Eminem begins as you immediately hear something being peculiarly shoveled in the background of the Dr. Dre produced “Premonition” introduction track. Em then goes on to lyrically assassinate a two-minute tirade of a welcome. Reminding everyone, he’s back! And it’s just as cynically delightful this time around. With his longtime mentor in tow, Em and the “Doc” as he’s called, have creatively carved up these savvy methods to Slim Shady’s madness for years (think “Kim” on the Marshall Mather’s LP, or even back further to 1999’s clever “Guilty Conscience”). The iconic Aftermath producer also shows up a couple more times for some more fine revived fun, but we’ll get to that later.
Released in January of this year, the renowned Detroit native first went off on the tongue twisting early single “Godzilla.” Though somewhat commercial friendly, the song is nowhere near the best on the album. However, it does happen to feature a suitably complimented verse from the late up-and-coming young MC JuiceWRLD, who ironically once stated before his untimely passing, that Eminem was one of his major inspirations to become a rapper.
Notching his tenth #1 album on the Billboard 200 charts, Em’s masterful versatility is still on display throughout his latest project. Music To Be Murdered By is a blatant reminder of the hyper technical class of rap that has defined the genius appeal of his style. His storytelling skills remain on point, whether he’s rapping about the fallouts of his pill popping mom, making playful jabs at other celebrities, talking American politics, or prophesizing his own self views, it is always done earnestly and meticulously Eminem’s way. On cue, he comes out firing on all cylinders on the seamlessly rhythmic “No Regrets”, including a fine assist from Houston newcomer Don Toliver. However, his best work comes as he dives off into familiar territory. For example, Dr. Dre shows up again providing a nice spark on the light-hearted “Lock It Up” with the energetic sounding Anderson Paak.
Then on the intricate and methodical “You Gon’ Learn”, alongside longtime buddy Royce Da 5’9 (who is also featured on two other tracks), Royce holds his own while Em weaves in and out of loops and voice overs like a man who’s possessed. Attesting that no one can touch him on intellectual rap, and if so, he dares him or her to try. He goes on to address this assertion exactly at around the 3:01 mark with lines like: “I get to flippin the mic like a murder weapon // I cock it then I’m poppin’ // Do not let me catch you slippin’.” The two continue on “I Will” high tailing it back to vintage Eminem days, as the pair trade bars back and forth with renewed vengeance and motivation. In short, the two are still spitting like they never left D12! Speaking of throwback days, the whole crew including members Denaun and Royce return on the snazzy “Yah Yah.” Featuring a sample from Busta Rhymes’1996 breakout hit “Woohah! Got You All In Check.”
Never the one to shy away from controversy, Em speaks his mind on a few occasions, for example on the highly contentious “Darkness.” Touching on gun violence, specifically the 2017 Las Vegas shooting claiming the lives of 58 people. He also makes reference to another highly publicized tragedy on the track “Unaccommodating”: “I’m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game // Like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting.” Nevertheless, this is what Eminem has always done. Using quirky shockers, fact or fiction, which somehow always tends to get a reaction. This quality to his music ended up defining his jerk genius individuality.
“Murder has become so commonplace that we are a society obsessed and fascinated by it. I thought why not make a sport of it, and murder over beats? This album was not made for the squeamish. If you are easily offended or unnerved at the screams of bloody murder, this may not be the collection for you.”
-Eminem Instagram post in response to controversial lyrics
Elsewhere, projecting fearless relatable abandonment has always been one of Em’s well-received strong points. In fact, it is what has driven his very musical existence. However, generally vulnerability is not. As a result we have love songs such as “Never love again”, and the completely misogynistic “Those Kinda Nights”, which couldn’t even be saved by Ed Sheeran’s silky vocals. Additionally there is “In Too Deep”, which probably boasts the best sentimental effort but realistically they all could have been easily axed from this project. While the intent on variety was good, it just doesn’t suit his seasoned style well now like it did on former ballads like 2010’s “Love The Way You Lie.” And unfortunately, these tracks water down the fire and intensity displayed on the defining projects of his elongated career (Such as The Slim Shady LP, The Eminem Show and The Marshall Mathers LP).
On the upbeat and well-produced “Unaccommodating” though overshadowed by an ambitious verse by the charismatic New York raptress Young M.A, it perhaps defines where Eminem is at this very point of his eminent three-decade tenure. Even though Music To Be Murdered By is not by any means his most notable release, it is still a generational work of art to appreciate, just off the strength of Marshall Mathers simply being who he is. It also might be because deep down, we have come to appreciate Eminem’s ability to be amazingly and imperfectly off the scale of perceived normalcy. Or maybe, it is because everyone knows the mic is and always has been, the greatest weapon in his arsenal.