(AFP) Guess who’s back? Back again?
Thirteen years after “The Marshall Mathers LP” that quickly secured his spot in the hip-hop canon, Eminem is out Tuesday with a sequel in which he returns both in song and verse to the 1990s — and reignites controversy with his use of anti-gay slurs.
For “The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” the top-selling rapper in history teams up with producer Rick Rubin, the founder of Def Jam Records who brought to the mainstream such breakthrough rap acts as Run-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys.
Rubin’s influence is instantly recognizable on the album’s first single “Berzerk” in which Eminem–over a high-energy barrage of heavy guitar, scratched vinyl and static feedback–starts with the announcement: “Let’s take it back to straight hip-hop and start it from scratch.”
In a video set in front of a giant old-school boom box, with Rubin lurking beside him with his Rasputin-style beard, Eminem declares, in reference to his alter ego Slim Shady, “Let’s bring it back to that vintage Slim, bitch.”
Elsewhere on the album, Eminem puts to shame many other rappers with the supersonic speed of his delivery on “Rap God” and reunites with Rihanna, with whom he earlier collaborated on songs including the international chart-topper “Love The Way You Lie.”
Eminem–now 41 and sober for five years–ruminates frequently on his life trajectory from his troubled youth in Detroit, where he grew up as Marshall Bruce Mathers III in a largely African American community.
In “The Monster,” Eminem acknowledges “wanting my cake and eat(ing) it too,” saying: “I wanted the fame, but not the cover of Newsweek.” The magazine, in an article after the 2000 release of “The Marshall Mathers LP,” portrayed the pioneering white rapper as part of a turn toward depravity in American pop culture.
Patching up with his mom, but not gays
On the original album, Eminem was forced to remove a reference to the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, with memories still fresh. On his latest work, Eminem does not hold back, speaking of lining up and shooting students and adding mischievously, “See if I get away with it now.”
On the same track, “Rap God,” Eminem speaks of a “little gay looking boy” and uses an anti-gay slur when referring to his lyrical skills, saying: “Now I should be able to break a motherfuckin’ table over the back of a couple of faggots and crack it in half.”
The return of the slurs comes after years of gestures by Eminem to play down earlier homophobic remarks. In 2001, Eminem performed a duet at the Grammy Awards with Elton John, who is gay, and more recently the rapper spoke out in support of same-sex marriage.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Eminem described the anti-gay references as a narrative device and said the words were common, generic insults when he was growing up.
Former Culture Club frontman Boy George criticized Eminem, saying that he was legitimizing the slur at a time of difficulty for the gay community in Russia and elsewhere.
But on another front Eminem has clearly mellowed — his notoriously bad relationship with his mother, who sued her son for libel. In earlier songs, Eminem hinted at violence against the “selfish bitch” who allegedly tried to profit from his fame.
On the latest album, Eminem apologizes at length and says, “You’re still beautiful to me, ’cause you’re my mom.”