Since its inception, rap has always been a young man’s game. It takes a certain type of energy, dedication and skill which makes it difficult to remain relevant as a new wave of younger, motivated rappers are always lurking and waiting to make their mark.
It should be no surprise that after back-to-back album flops with “The Marshall Mathers LP2” (2013) and “Revival” (2017), some assumed Eminem’s best days were behind him. However, after succeeding with a surprise 2018 album “Kamikaze,” Eminem’s lyrical lightning strikes again in his latest project, “Music To Be Murdered By.”
The now 47-year-old rapper is on a mission to prove that he can still do it. With a career that now spans four decades and an album which will almost certainly become his ninth straight to peak at No. 1 on the U.S. charts, “Music To Be Murdered By” serves as proof that Eminem’s not done yet.
He wastes no time proving himself on the intro track, “Premonition,” immediately discussing how a perception of failures on past albums has motivated him to come back even harder, even if he claims he doesn’t care what the critics say. Eminem mentions Tech N9ne (48), Jay-Z (50) and 2 Chainz (42), illustrating that he’s not the only older rapper to stay pertinent in today’s rap community. Eminem responds to critics who say he won’t reach previous highs, rapping, “B—h if I was as half as good as I was/ I'm still twice as good as you'll ever be.”
The frantic pace continues on “Unaccommodating (feat. Young M.A).” Eminem’s goal here is simple — he strives to be intentionally controversial, dissing other rappers in the process. He references past beef with Machine Gun Kelly, taking a few lyrical shots in passing, mentions 9/11 and compares himself to Saddam Hussein, rapping, “They call me Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini Where's Osama been? I been laden lately.”
Eminem also faced criticism for the line, “But I'm contemplating yelling ‘Bombs away’ on the game/Like I'm outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting,” but such controversial lyrics are nothing new to him and have been present throughout his entire career. It should be noted that in the aftermath of the aforementioned Manchester Arena attack, Eminem helped raise funds for the victims.
While the Detroit rapper has always been controversial, Eminem has remained socially conscious. He has been a prominent critic of President Donald Trump, and he aims to spark a conversation about gun violence on the track “Darkness.” He raps from the perspective of Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock, who committed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The song closes with over a minute of audio clips from news reports covering America’s mass shootings, reinforcing the message that these are not isolated incidents.
The accompanying music video to “Darkness” ends with a link to register to vote and a message calling for the U.S. to change its gun laws, saying, “When will this end? When enough people care.” It’s a truly thought-provoking song, perhaps the most-so in Eminem’s career.
The song was produced by two classic Eminem collaborators, Luis Resto and Royce da 5’9”, who have produced songs with Eminem throughout his career, while longtime producer and mentee Dr. Dre also contributes to the album. With the help of these producers, Eminem creates songs which could fit stylistically with his earlier discography.
“Stepdad” comes from the perspective of Eminem’s younger self, chronicling his relationship with his abusive stepdad, for whom he has extreme contempt and details becoming violent himself as a result of abuse. Meanwhile, “Marsh” is an egotistical song, in which he compares himself to a superhero, claiming that he’s “out of this world.”
However, Eminem also shows versatility as he works with some new sounds, including fast-paced 808s, to create two of the most impressive songs on the album. Producer D.A. Doman, best known for creating more trap-style beats with artists such as Kodak Black and Tyga, lends his hand on “Those Kinda Nights” and “Godzilla” to create a unique sound which helps the album.
Eminem is clearly appreciative of the change in production on those two tracks, rapping, “Yes, this beat’s takin' me back to my D12 days,” while reminiscing on sexual conquests, drugs and wild times on “Those Kinda Nights.” Meanwhile, on the most lyrically impressive track of the entire album, “Godzilla,” Eminem again refers fondly to the production, shouting “This beat is cray-cray.”
“Godzilla” features Juice WRLD in the artist’s first posthumous release, doing the track justice with a catchy chorus. Meanwhile, Eminem is at his best on the track — both in terms of lyricism and flow as he raps a verse even faster than anything present in his record-setting 2013 hit “Rap God.”
Over the last 30 seconds of his verse, Eminem raps 224 words, which equates to 7.46 words per second. His fastest clip in “Rap God” was 6.46 words per second. It’s truly a lyrical attack at anyone who feels like Eminem can’t rap like he used to.
“Music To Be Murdered By” takes the theme and name from a 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film soundtrack, which is sampled three separate times on the album. This is best shown in “Little Engine,” which is purposefully eerie, detailing psychological instability along with descriptions of drug abuse. Another enjoyable track is “Lock It Up,” which features a catchy hook and chorus from Anderson .Paak while Eminem sums up the album by simply rapping about how lyrically talented he is for the duration of the track, and naturally, he makes it work.
With 20 songs and clocking in at 64 minutes, the album could stand to cut a few songs, but such is often the case with Eminem’s albums. In “Music To Be Murdered By,” Eminem details how he is trying to maintain his position as one of the best, most influential and most successful rappers in the game.
He succeeds at this goal with flying colors, backing up his ego-filled tirades with an album which blends past sounds with a few modern twists. There’s a classic, cocky Eminem present who believes in himself against all odds, and that attitude helps “Music To Be Murdered By” stand as Eminem’s best work in a decade.