2nd August 2018
This was originally meant to be a conventional review but it's now more like a low-level attempt at an "analysis" by a straight-C student so there's no big words shoved in here for no reason other than to seem smart because this is melvohd.com not Pitchfork and no one is even reading this so who cares anyway. Hey, this is important to me because I've now written more on this site than I ever did at my entire time at my last two schooling years.
This is definitely a better album than Revival, I can say that with confidence. Production definitely stepped up. Em himself grabs a few production credits here, with Mike Will, Ronny J and Boi-1da also among the beatmaking appearances.
Of all the people Em takes a shot at within this album, it's surprising to me how he mentions Lil Yachty on "The Ringer" without dissing him. He says "I can see why people like Lil Yachty, but not me though/Not even dissing, it just ain't for me" which suggests that he respects Yachty even though he doesn't like his music. To me, that's surprising. As of writing this, the only Yachty project I've heard is his debut mixtape, Lil Boat, and let's just say I'd rather listen to Hopsin's debut album five times than bump that again. But Em still stocks up the ammunition to aim at Lil Xan, Lil Uzi Vert and NF in this track alone. The anecdotal story of a fan mailing him his most acclaimed album, The Marshall Mathers LP, telling him to use it as help to get himself back to his previous career heights seems odd to me. Why? Because Em says "I mailed the bitch back and said if I did that/I'd be like everyone else in the fucking industry/Especially an effing Recovery clone of me. It's as if he's suggesting that what he's doing now, which is embracing the trap sound even more so, isn't the same as most in the industry. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that him adopting the common sound is a bad thing. It's just hard to see how the sonic style of MMLP would make him sound like everyone else in the industry if he were to use that style today. Maybe he's trying to say that MMLP is so influential that everyone sounds like that album does now? That's an off-statement to me. There are definitely more stylistic derivatives of Migos than there are of Em's second major-label release. No doubt, MMLP is influential, but in this very album, he's constantly satirising and incorporating the "mumble rap", "trap", whatever-you-wanna-call-it sound of hip hop today, acknowledging that it's a common sound used. Does MMLP sound anything like that? Of course not. Hmm... maybe the meaning flew over my head and I'm TOO STUPID TO GET IT, MAN!". He also addresses Donald Trump's lack of response to his criticism that he fired through "Campaign Speech", the BET freestyle and Revival. He takes a jab at Trump's Scottish heritage with the line "These verses are making him a wee bit nervous". Are they, though? Em was literally begging for a Trump response on Revival's "Offended" when he said "Kiss my butt, my set of principles is gone/But 'til I get the President to respond/My pen and pencil is a missile launcher".
"Greatest" contains a possible Drake diss with "So you sold ten million albums, eh?/Only problem is you put out ten million albums, eh?", using the stereotypical Canadian "eh". Irony is displayed in this track because the choppy flow is back, as per usual. The hook's line "Woke up to honkies sounding like me" led me to believe that when he says he's the "greatest in the world", he's talking strictly in terms of white rappers. "Lucky You" features an interesting appearance from Joyner Lucas. There is a bit more trap trashing from Em here, and extremely fast rapping tossed in there for the hell of it. The first half of "Normal" is relatively bland. I just basically zone out until the beat switch. Em's flow starting from the line "Maybe I'm just too ungly to compete with him" (which is a possible reference to MMLP's "Kim") is captivating. And the beat is reminiscent of Rae Sremmurd's "This Could Be Us". I knew that "Stepping Stone" reminded me of a pre-hiatus Eminem song but I couldn't pinpoint it. Then I saw someone mention "Like Toy Soldiers", which makes more sense because that song was about how his Runyon Avenue crew, including D12, will always have his back amidst all the feuds going on around that time (2004). Conversely, "Stepping Stone" talks about the downfall of D12 after the death of Proof. The track is an interesting insight to what went on with D12, but I suspect that most people had already put two and two together and realised that D12 was basically done since sometime between Proof's passing and this 2012 VladTV interview. The group's inactivity is similar to what Odd Future is experiencing right now.
The hook on "Not Alike" parodies Migos' hit track "Bad and Boujee". Royce da 5'9" stops by, gifting the song an impressive verse before Em proceeds to diss Machine Gun Kelly because of some tweet he sent in 2012. Em actually went as far to ban MGK from Shade45. But I have to admit that it's quite odd for MGK to call a then-16-year-old hot on Twitter. It's even weirder that Em is only just mentioning it now. Anyway, MGK clapped back with his diss track, "Rap Devil". We'll talk about that another time. The song "Kamikaze" has a diss towards someone's Shade45 freestyle. I initially thought it was a shot at Kanye because his freestyle was absolutely abysmal and he literally didn't make a single rhyme (and I'm not talking shots here, Kanye is probably my all-time favourite music artist). But then take a look at the ass references he's making with those lines. That makes me think that he's actually referring to Iggy Azalea. Her freestyle (which was actually a then-unreleased song, "New Bitch") wasn't nearly as bad as Ye's, though.
Now here's the big one. "Fall" was literally denounced by Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon (he sings the hook) like a day after the album came out because Em said "faggot" (censored, oddly enough), aiming it towards Tyler, the Creator. Let's look at the full quote: "Tyler create nothing, I can see why you call yourself a faggot, bitch/It's not just cos you lack attention, it's because you worship D12's balls, you're sacrilegious/If you're gonna critique me, you better at least be as good or better/Get Earl the Hooded Sweater/Whatever his name is to help you put together/Some words more than just two letters". This diss comes from the fact that Tyler (allegedly) called Revival's lead single, "Walk on Water", the worst song he'd ever heard. It was a tweet and he didn't specifically say he was talking about "Walk on Water" but he tweeted it the day the song came out. This diss just seems like pure shock value to me. Also, I can't tell if he's dissing or complimenting Earl Sweatshirt; probably both considering he's suggesting that Tyler should get his help but also gets his name wrong (for comedic effect, I assume). I was waiting for a long time for Em to say something about Lord Jamar and he finally did! To counter Jamar's constant berating, Em mentions his influence on... Hopsin? Really? REALLY!? Well, at least it seemed to make his day. He also mentions Logic, J. Cole, Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Royce da 5'9" and 50 Cent. My one thought? I cannot wait to see what Lord Jamar has to say next time he's on Vlad's couch. I have no idea what "Nice Guy" is meant to be. Probably one of the weirdest Shady tracks I've heard. And Jessie Reyez's feature here is just... no comment. As for "Good Guy", I really like the vibe of the song even though it's just ANOTHER relationship track. It's a song that I feel I shouldn't like but I do. It's something about the sample loop and the flow that's just interesting. But I'd rather have Skylar Grey sing on this one. Or literally anyone else (no hate). And "Venom"? All I have to say about that is VENOMMMMM!!!
Overall, it just seems like Mr. Mathers is just mad because everyone from Joe Budden to DJ Akademiks thinks Revival is trash so he went on diss mode for the clout. However, I do like this album. If I had to rate it right now, I'd give it about a 6 or a 7. I just wrote well over a thousand words for this so does that mean I get an A now, teacher?