In a night already filled with numerous album releases, Eminem surprised fans again with his surprise release "Music To Be Murdered By", an homage to Alfred Hitchcock's horror-inspired compilation album of the same name. In this work, Eminem taps into his infamous Slim Shady persona to deliver a spooky, syllabic slaughter to all listeners, with tracks such as Godzilla (feat. Juice WRLD) and You Gon' Learn (feat. Royce da 5'9" & White Gold) showcasing just how far Eminem can take his wordsmith skills.
Following the surprise hit that was Kamikaze, Em fails to capitalize on what could have been a momentum-changing release. What sets his previous release "Kamikaze" apart from MTBMB is that for the first time in years, we saw an album with a set theme that any Em fan could get behind: F*** the haters.
The issue now is that after Kamikaze's widespread success, Em seems to have run out of ammunition to fire off. Instead of finding seemingly solid inspiration for this work, MTBMB felt the need to utilize themes of murder, similar to those found in "Relapse"; making the project feel like a lazy rehash of old ideals. While the "Silence of the Lamb" references are at a minimum, Shady makes sure that listeners are aware of just what exactly they're getting themselves into, with his first track Premonition almost immediately showcasing a screaming damsel, presumably being murdered.
For me, there was a sizeable amount of tracks I enjoyed consisting of a variety of sounds and styles. Darkness is a great example of storytelling rap executed well. Featuring bars centered around mass shootings, Em takes time to explore this controversial topic by delving into the psyche of the gunmen who have claimed countless lives, ignoring political themes that may have been akin to tracks from Revival. While some songs have messages, tracks like Lock It Up are there to break the monotony of murder themes by presenting catchy production mashed together with a well placed Anderson .Paak feature. Other songs I enjoyed are You Gon' Learn, Marsh and No Regrets.
My main issue with this project is the amount of average to below average songs on display. The standout example of this for me is Those Kinda Nights (feat. Ed Sheeran). This song is the embodiment of what I call the generic Eminem radio record, which is usually a singular pop-themed track on the album comprising of a feature from a well known pop artist, in this instance being Sheeran. The song overall features odd production, a hook that isn't catchy, and a strange Eminem flow that I hope to never hear again. My main gripe with this song is the repetition of a non rap feature, with Sheeran working with Em a few years prior on River, a track from the relatively disliked "Revival". Needless to say, I was also not a fan of River.
Mainly, this album just feels out of place in the discography of the rap icon. The choice of inspiration is an odd one for sure, although understandable given Shady's track record. It's a difficult theme to get behind considering many people haven't considered a soundtrack they'd like to listen to as they're being killed. For today, it's a standout choice that appears to have been made just to stand out. A majority of the songs just feel lazy, whether it be through uninspired production or lack luster bars. Eminem has fallen into a habit of rapping just to rap, with Godzilla attempting to be Rap God Jr. but without the same execution. What made Rap God work was not only the fast bars, but Em asserting himself as the best spitter in the game, period.
It's comparisons like this that are the reason why I feel that I can't rate this album too highly. On one hand, I see and respect the effort to shake things up while also keeping familiarity within the theme and word play. After all, this project was partially produced by Dr. Dre himself, a reunion many fans have been eager for. The issue is that the old Eminem and new Eminem are both fighting for the spotlight in an age where people aren't sure themselves what they want from him. This divide is ever apparent in what I see as a major difference in quality between some tracks over others. The songs I enjoy, I genuinely love; but the ones that fall flat are certainly not welcome in my daily rotation.
It's with a heavy heart that I rate "Music To Be Murdered By" a 6/10. I find that it's slightly above average only due to the masterful lyricism and the production (when it's at its best). This leaves a lot of room for improvement and I hope Shady takes some time to reflect on what he wants out of his music, as his current trajectory doesn't prove promising. One thing is for certain; this is music that can murder someone, in good ways and bad. I suggest listeners take precaution and weigh exceptions upon your first listen.
Eminem's "Music To Be Murdered By" is available on all streaming platforms.
6/10- Slightly Above Average
Written By Michael Miserendino