Review: Eminem — “Music to be Murdered By”

Review: Eminem —

Mary Petersen, In-Depth Editor

In the very early morning of Thursday, January 17, Eminem dropped a full-length album entitled Music to be Murdered By without a hint of promotion, advertisement, or warning aside from a single tweet stating, “It’s your funeral…” And with his classic Slim Shady signature on the cover, he surpassed all expectations of what the now 47 year old rapper is still capable of.

True to form, Eminem’s lyrical techniques and rhyme schemes are as complex as ever, whether that be in his rapid-fire final verse in “Godzilla” (with a faster syllable-per-second speed than his famous third verse in “Rap God”, not to mention for triple the time), or in slower but equally stinging tracks like “Leaving Heaven” where he finally comments on the death of his biological father earlier this year, who had abandoned Eminem when he was six months old.

The issue most frequently discussed is the perception of Eminem’s music by critics and other rappers. Eminem has been the subject of the media’s attention, largely in a negative light, for over two decades now, and has been brushed off or outright dissed by many different rappers since the release of Kamikaze.

Eminem explains it best. “‘Cuz lately, instead of being credited for longevity for being able to keep it up for this long at this level we get told we’ll never be what we were, b**** if I was as half as good as I was I’m still twice as good as you’ll ever be,” he said in “Premonition.”

Other standouts include “Unaccomodating,” “You Gon’ Learn,” “Premonition,” “Yah Yah,” and “Darkness”, the former four all disconstructions of a changing hip hop culture, political atmosphere, and media scrutiny, and “Darkness” examining the issue of gun control.

The main problem with the album lies with subject matter. Not in the offensive nature of the lyrics and targeting the media, in that regard this album is tame by the rapper’s standards. I mean the “conflict” Eminem is fighting against, the subject of each song. 

The war between different waves in rap and hip-hop culture is interesting, but not enough to carry a 20-track album, and in between songs about the state of the rap game, Eminem rehashes old issues like his relationship with his family, decades-old affairs, and his drug addiction, of which he is now 11 years sober.

It isn’t as if he isn’t allowed to rap about his past, in fact some of his best songs are about his childhood and marriage, written long afterwards. The issue is that he isn’t saying anything he hasn’t said before.

Stepdad” comes out of nowhere and does nothing to distinguish itself from other songs about the same person, the same issues. “Those Kinda Nights” is a generic club song about drinking and drug use… except Eminem is sober. “Never Love Again” features a transparent metaphor for toxic relationships and drug use, but doesn’t actually say anything about Eminem’s struggle with addiction that he didn’t explain better in his albums Relapse or Recovery.

This all stems from the main issue in Eminem’s most recent music, being that his life just isn’t as interesting (and, frankly, screwed up) as it used to be. His issues with poverty are long gone, he no longer has murder fantasies about his ex-wife, he’s moved past his drug addiction, and his daughters are well taken care of. Eminem’s angry rapping style relies on having something to gripe about. Without anything really major to be angry about, it starts to sound like whining.

Of course, I can’t be too mad about it, since most of these tracks still have great beats, clever wordplay, and creative punchlines, and the writing is as always Eminem’s strong suit. There are a lot of outstanding songs on this album, even if sandwiched between them are some of Eminem’s more mediocre works.

Overall, even with some lack of fresh and interesting subject matter, Music to be Murdered By is a welcome addition to Eminem’s ever-growing repertoire, containing many standout songs that show that Eminem is just as capable a writer as he was back in his heyday.