John Gourley (Portugal. The Man) Talks Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2
In 1999 in Wasilla, Alaska, there wasn’t a lot going on. I was dropping out of my senior year in high school, working shitty jobs and partying with my friends, who were pretty much up to the same thing. Oddly enough, hip-hop is a big deal up there — the very first piece of graffiti in our skate park was a giant Wu-Tang “W” on the spine — and it was a big reason we started playing music in the first place. I always felt a mix of an extreme disconnection with lyrics about the hard inner city, which we obviously knew nothing about, and a very real connection with violence and drugs.
I first heard The Slim Shady LP over at my friend Jesse’s house, a regular party spot for us at the time. Someone threw it on the stereo and it immediately stood out above the Ma$e and Master P that was playing before. I loved the sense of humor Eminem had. Dark fucking sense of humor. Riding a fine line between taking yourself very seriously and having fun with it. Instantly made me think of the Beastie Boys. It was no surprise to me when I heard everyone in town listening to it a week or two later.
I was looking forward to The Marshall Mathers LP 2 a lot after I heard his verse on Lil Wayne’s “Drop the World.” That shit was amazing. Right away, I could tell he was going back to his roots with this album. The title already had my head swinging in that direction. Starting off with “Bad Guy,” a sequel to a hit from 2000 (“Stan”), is a ballsy move, but it also make me think, fuck it, it’s Eminem. He established himself as an artist a long time ago and he just wants to do what he knows and what he does best. I respect someone who wears their inspirations on their sleeve and isn’t afraid to sample the Beastie Boys and a bunch of other artists that helped make him who he is. Props for knowing that he may need a little help too. So get Kendrick on a track, why not? You can WTF about Rihanna features all you want, but guess whose record she’s not a guest on? Mine. You know who would love to have her appear on a track? Me. She’s one of the hottest singers in the world and of course Eminem is going to hit her up about some vocals. He’s the REAL Slim Shady. If anything, it’s a reminder that he does what he wants. The reality is, her label probably hit him up like, “Yo, Marshall, Rihanna is totes down to feature on that banger! It’s a great look, Em.” To which Slim most likely responded, “OK.”
I can’t say that I connect to this one like I did those first couple albums. But I’m a different person now. He’s still a great storyteller and a fantastic lyricist. He’s happy where he is. Good for him. Is it a good move to go back to shit you already did? It’s confident. Keeping it real in every sense of the word, but I’m skeptical. I’m a fan of breaking new ground. Art should be challenging to the consumer and the creator, otherwise, it’s just a product. Would Stanley Kubrick have made Dr. Strangelove 2? Would J.D. Salinger have written Catcher in the Rye 2? And who am I to say it wouldn’t have been amazing if they had?
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 could be a money grab, a lack of inspiration, a safe way back in, or Eminem could be pushing boundaries by going back to the ones he’s already pushed — some next-level shit. I like to think he just lost himself in the moment, and he’ll own it.