Song of the Day #1,960: ‘Rhyme or Reason’ – Eminem

marshall_mathers_lp_2The last new album I plan to buy in 2013 is also one of the best. Guess who’s back… back again?

Yes, Eminem has returned with his first studio album since 2010’s Recovery and he is revisiting the record that exploded him into the cultural and political conversation at the turn of the millennium.

The Marshall Mathers LP 2 has a lot in common with its predecessor — so much so that it sometimes seems like it too was released in the year 2000. How else can you explain another Backstreet Boys reference?

But that’s sort of the point. This album has one foot in the past and one in the present. The homophobia that Eminem has largely left behind in the past decade creeps into several songs here, and that somehow feels like an artistic choice. An uncomfortable one, to be sure, but what good’s an Eminem album if it doesn’t make you a little uncomfortable?

The record’s final track is titled ‘Evil Twin’ and that concept serves as a thematic guide to the whole work. The evil twin (I guess we can still call him Slim Shady) is responsible for the throwback material — the violent, scatological, misogynist cuts.

But Marshall Mathers is represented as well, on surprisingly introspective tracks that describe his reclusive lifestyle and his relationships with his parents, ex-wife and daughters.

The evil twin delivers ‘So Much Better,’ a break-up song in which Eminem sings that his “life would be so much better if you just dropped dead.” His counterpart offers up ‘Stronger Than I Was,’ a (mostly) sung-not-rapped track about the ways he’s hurt his ex-wife.

Even more striking is the emotional and confessional ‘Headlights,’ in which Eminem (backed by fun. lead singer Nate Ruess) forgives his mother and apologizes for the way he has treated her in song. He even raps that he no longer performs the track ‘Cleaning Out My Closet’ in his live show because he regrets recording it in the first place.

Having made peace with his mother, Eminem turns his attention on this album to his absentee father, who gets an earful on today’s SOTD, ‘Rhyme or Reason.’ Using a brilliant sample of The Zombies’ ‘Time of the Season,’ Eminem answers the famous “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy?” line before each verse.

He uses another unlikely sample to drive the fabulous ‘So Far’ — twisting Joe Walsh’s ‘Life’s Been Good’ into a bizarro glimpse at the life of a rich and famous hillbilly rap star who just wants to be left alone.

I’ve deliberately avoided talking about the album’s lead-off track, ‘Bad Guy,’ because it’s the rare song that can suffer from spoilers. It’s a startling, cinematic work that delivers a couple of surprise twists and bridges the gap between this record and the first Mathers LP just beautifully. It’s one of the best songs of the year.

I don’t know enough about rap to say with any real confidence that Eminem is the best in the business, but I’ve yet to hear anybody better. This album is another mighty addition to his already formidable discography.

(What’s your name?) Marshall
(Who’s your daddy?) I don’t have one

[Verse 1]
My mother reproduced like a komodo dragon
And had me on the back of a motorcycle
Then crashed in the side of loco-motive with rap – I’m loco
It’s like handing a psycho a loaded handgun
Michelangelo with a paint gun in a tantrum
Bout to explode all over the canvas
Back with the Yoda of rap in a spasm
Your music usually has them
But waned for the game your enthusiasm it hasn’t
Follow you must, Rick Rubin my little Padawan
A Jedi in training, colossal brain and, thoughts are entertainin’
But docile and impossible to explain and, I’m also vain and
Probably find a way to complain about a Picasso painting
Puke Skywalker, but sound like Chewbacca when I talk
Full of such blind rage I need a seein’ eye dog
Can’t even find the page, I was writing this rhyme on
Oh it’s on a rampage, couldn’t see what I wrote I write small
It says ever since I drove a ’79 Lincoln with white walls
Had a fire in my heart, and a dire desire to aspire, to Die Hard
So as long as I’m on the clock punching this time card
Hip-hop ain’t dying on my watch

But sometimes, when I’m sleepin’
She comes to me in my dreams
Is she taken, is she mine?
Don’t got time, don’t care, don’t have two shits to give
Let me take you by the hand to, promise land
And threaten everyone
Cause there’s no rhyme or no reason for nothing

(What’s your name?) Marshall
(Who’s your daddy?) I don’t know him, but I wonder
(Is he rich like me?) Ha
(Has he taken, any time, to show you what you need to live?)

[Verse 2]
No, if he had, he wouldn’t have ended up in these rhymes on my pad
I wouldn’t be so mad, my attitude wouldn’t be so bad, yeah Dad
I’m the epitome and the prime example of what happens
When the power of the rhyme falls into the wrong hands, and
Makes you want to get up and start dancin’, even if it is Charles Manson
Who just happens, to be rapping, blue lights flashing
Laughing all the way to the bank, lamping in my K-Mart mansion
I’m in the style department
With a pile in my cart, ripping the aisle apart with
Great power comes absolutely no responsibility, for content
Completely, despondent and condescending, the king of nonsense
And controversy is on a, beat killing spree, your honor, I must plead guilty
Cause I sparked a, revolution, rebel without a cause
Who caused the evolution of rap to take it to the next level, boost it
But several rebuked it, and whoever produced it
(Hip-hop is the devil’s music) Is that me, it belongs to me?
Cause I just happen to be, a White honky devil with two horns
That don’t honk but every time I speak you, hear a beep
But lyrically I never hear a peep, not even a whisper
Rappers better stay clear of me, bitch, cause it’s the…

It’s the time of the season, when hate runs high
And this time, give it to you easy
When I take back what’s mine with pleasured hands
And torture everyone, that is my plan
My job here isn’t done
Cause there’s no rhyme or no reason for nothing

(What’s your name?) Shady
(Who’s your daddy?) I don’t give a fuck, but I wonder
(Is he rich like me?) Doubt it, ha
(Has he taken, any time, to show you what you need to live?)

[Verse 3]
So yeah, Dad let’s walk, let’s have us a father and son talk
But I bet we probably wouldn’t get one block
Without me knockin’ your block off
This is all your fault
Maybe that’s why I’m so bananas
I appeal to all those walks of life
Whoever had strife
Maybe that’s what dad and son talks are like
Cause I, related to the struggles of young America
When their fucking parents were unaware of their troubles
Now they’re ripping out their fucking hair again, it’s hysterical
I chuckle, cause everybody bloodies their bare knuckles, yeah uh-oh
Better beware knuckleheads, the sign of my hustle says don’t knock
The doors broken, it won’t lock
It might just fly open, get cold cocked
You critics come to pay me a visit
Misery loves company, please stay a minute
Kryptonite to a hypocrite, zip your lip if you dish it but can’t take it
Too busy getting stoned in your glass house to kick rocks
Then you wonder why I lash out, Mister Mathers as advertised on the flyers
So spread the word cause I’m promoting my passion til I’m passed out
Completely brain dead Rainman, going a bankhead in a restraint chair
So bitch, if you shoot me a look it better be a blank stare
Or get shanked in the pancreas
I’m angrier than all eight other reindeer
Put together with Chief Keef
Cause I hate every fucking thing, yeah
Even this rhyme, bitch
And quit tryna look for a fuckin’ reason for it that ain’t there
But I still am a CRIMINAL
Ten-year-old degenerate grabbing on my GENITALS
The last Mathers LP that went diamond
This time I’m predicting this one will go EMERALD
When will the madness end
How can it when there’s no method to the pad and pen
The only message that I have to send is:
Dad, I’m back at it again, yeah

4 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,960: ‘Rhyme or Reason’ – Eminem

  1. Dana says:

    Wow! I’m beyond intrigued to hear this album based on your review. The first single released, “Berzeck,” took some getting used to, though it grew on me after awhile. I also checked out “Rap God” after reading something about the speed in which he rapped on the track. While I was impressed by the rap prowess, I can’t say it immediately grabbed me either. I also heard “Survival” and saw him perform that on SNL. As usual, the mix on SNL was so poor that you couldn’t really hear the lyrics, and I had to hear multiple comments from Amy throughout the performance about how she didn’t like it.

    Anyway, based on your review, it sounds as if the album offers some compelling deeper tracks. I will be downloading the album ASAP so that I can once again be mocked by Amy as the middle aged white guy in his midlife crises car listening to rap music.

    Oh, and by the way, the video you posted was removed, so, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to hear today’s song.

  2. Clay says:

    I just replaced the track with my own version so I won’t be screwed by YouTube again.

    I had the same low expectations based on the first few songs I heard (though those have all grown on me as well). But I was very pleasantly surprised.

  3. Dana says:

    Thanks for posting. This is definitely more like the Eminem of old. Good stuff.

  4. Andrea Katz says:

    I LOVE this guy, always have – so original and angry but evolving…

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