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Guess Who’s Back … Back Again?

By KEVIN NOONAN | Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lost in the hoopla over Miley Cyrus’s, um, thing at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday was Eminem’s announcement of his next album: “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.” A little over 24 hours later, he dropped the second single from the album, “Berzerk.”

As a lifelong Eminem superfan, I was and still am pretty pumped to the max about both developments. First, the single was produced by Rick Rubin and has a very Beastie Boys-esque sound: loud, crazy and angry, which is exactly the kind of thing I’ve always loved from Eminem.

Don’t get me wrong. I love “Stan,” but this song is about as close to Slim Shady’s verse on Dr. Dre’s “Forgot About Dre” as anything he’s done since his much talked about comeback. And even if “Berzerk” isn’t Eminem’s greatest song, it definitely shows more promise for the album than anything on “Relapse.”

And the album. Oh, man. It’s a bold move calling it MMLP2. The original “The Marshall Mathers LP” has sold over 21 million copies in the U.S., was nominated for the Album of the Year at the Grammys and won the Rap Album of the Year. It has been listed on “Greatest album of all time” rankings by Rolling Stone, Time and XXL. It contains three of the most well known songs of his career ¾ “The Way I Am,” “The Real Slim Shady” and, perhaps his most critically acclaimed song of all time, “Stan.”

It’s a really good album. So the bar is pretty high for Eminem if he wants this album to be a success.

But that’s just what I want. The bar, at least from fans, has been relatively low for his previous two albums. When “Relapse” was released, it was his first in four years. I wasn’t expecting it to be perfect, and it certainly wasn’t. It was pretty wildly mediocre, actually.

And so then his second comeback album, “Recovery,” only had to be better than “Relapse,” which it certainly was. “Recovery” was a solid album but by no means a classic. Expectations for this third comeback album already would have been high, as fans saw promise of Eminem returning to form in his latest effort.

By calling back to MMLP, he’s taken expectations and put them on steroids. But I think he knows what he’s doing.

For one, both of the singles he’s released so far, “Berzerk” and “Survival,” have been solid hits. The album is produced by Marshall Mathers himself in part, along with longtime contributor Dr. Dre. Dre’s inclusion might be a little disconcerting, thanks to his poor/nonexistent track record of late, but Eminem is expanding the influences on this album beyond the N.W.A. legend.

As already mentioned, Rubin is listed as a producer. Rubin is the founder of Def Jam Records and famed producer of albums by the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Run-DMC. He was recently brought back into the spotlight for his work on Kanye West’s “Yeezus.”

The other producer listed is Dion Wilson, who goes by No ID and is known as “The Godfather of Chicago hip hop.” Wilson helped launch the careers of artists like Common and Kanye West, and he worked with Jay-Z on his “The Blueprint 3.”

If Rubin’s influence on the latest single and Wilson’s work on that Jay-Z album is any indication (he produced the fast paced, grinding and spectacular “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”), Eminem is aiming for a high-energy, angry tone. Which, for me at least, is perfect, because my favorite of his songs are the ones I can imagine him performing with two middle fingers raised for the entirety of the song.

And I got through the whole column without saying it, but here it is: Slim Shady’s back. 

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu