Published Jan 22, 2020There were rumours of a new album that casually popped up throughout 2019, but at no point was it suggested that Eminem would release a surprise album. What shouldn't come as a surprise is that Eminem's latest is called Music to Be Murdered By, nor that this album very casually opens up with a woman screaming, in what one can assume is a murder scene. It also shouldn't come as a surprise that in 2020 the gimmicks are tiring.
For his whole career, Eminem has rallied his albums around a superior flow and shock value. It's what leaves listeners hanging on, while also wondering who's left for him to attack lyrically. Throughout Music to Be Murdered By, Eminem grapples with his identity as a 47-year old veteran rapper, recovering addict and wealthy white man in America.
During the intro single, "Premonition," Em even raps "Instead of us being credited for longevity / And being able to keep it up for this long at this level / We get told we'll never be what we were."
Straddling the line of being a victim and a bully, Eminem slides through the album looking for relevance. He calls on newer artists like Don Toliver ("No Regrets"), Anderson .Paak ("Lock It Up") " and Young M.A (the first time he has collaborated with a woman rapper on his own record) to push new sounds, yet as much as they bring to the table, Eminem stays steadfast in his worldly cadence. An exception to this is "Godzilla," which features the late Juice WRLD; not only do both artists bridge two generations of sounds, the song itself feels cohesive. Elsewhere on the album, the Detroit spitter reunites Slaughterhouse for "I Will," but despite the obvious chemistry, the lack of Joe Budden doesn't go unnoticed, even if it feels more comfortable than the forced features.
"Godzilla" also prefaces the most controversial track on the album, "Darkness." With an attempt to talk about gun control and mental health in America, Em raps from the perspective of the Mandalay Hotel shooter who killed 58 people and injured over 400 more at the Route 91 music festival in 2017. Giving a voice to a killer feels like a lowbrow attempt to make a scene rather than deliver a message, especially on an album that also makes light of the mass bombing that happened at an Ariana Grande concert.
For what it's worth, we know Eminem is an incredible lyricist. We know he has punch lines that can pierce your mind and make you laugh. But what we don't know is whether or not he has anything real to say, and to his detriment, Music to Be Murdered By puts that in the spotlight. (Shady/Aftermath)