Opening with “Premonition – Intro” – Eminem cuts to the chase concerning his bitterness over his previous LP, his tenth, Kamikaze not getting the reviews he expected. We see Slim Shady looking back over his career quoting his Revival LP and yearning to be credited for his longevity in the music industry (now spanning over two decades.) Marshall feels his consistency is being overshadowed with comments that he has passed his peak. Is this something Eminem now in his late forties fears himself? On track “Darkness” Eminem asks: “Is this the whole crowd? I thought this show had sold out”.
Whilst Eminem has recruited a successful ensemble of rappers including Q-Tip and Juice WRLD (the 21-year-old Chicago rapper who died in December 2019) and refers to numerous rappers naturally including Dr Dre, Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube and his own D12; it was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 spoken word LP Music to Be Murdered By which inspired the title for this LP. Numerous chilling Hitchcock quotations about murder are sampled across twenty tracks.
Alongside negative reviews, Eminem has struggled with social media. Once track “Unaccommodating” from this LP was dropped, a negative social media storm erupted because of the lyrics “But I’m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game / like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting.” This prompted severe criticism from the parents of those who lost their children in the Manchester bombing including the mother of 15-year-old Charlotte Hodgson calling “Unaccommodating” “disgusting” and “disrespectful”.
Whilst Music to Be Murdered By has a more than generous twenty tracks; the majority of these songs are instantly forgettable with similar and familiar beats and tempo Eminem has recycled from his previous LP’s. Whilst his ability as a world-class rapper has been repeatedly demonstrated and continues to be demonstrated here; the subject matter of his lyrics is over-familiar. For the most part, Music to Be Murdered By covers old ground with topics relating to various “bitches”, other rappers especially Dr Dre, alcohol, joints, Detroit, his upbringing and his aliases (the new and main (Also Known As) ANA this time is “Marsh” (who has a track on this LP in his honour).
Nonetheless, there are some tracks that break the mould and the theme of this LP. “Those Kinda Nights” which sees Eminem reunited with Ed Sheeran is probably the most jubilant, upbeat and uplifting song which sees Marshall paint a halcyon retrospective of his D12 days. “Never Love Again” soothes with rich and pleasantly noxious soul samples. “Yah Yah” is most distinctive and powerful with old school hip-hop adrenaline. “Yah Yah” sees Eminem and his ensemble at their most hungry. This is the only song that comes close to recreating the nervous tenacious adrenaline rush one would have felt if they saw B-Rabbit victorious in a rap battle. Eminem alone cannot take full credit; this success of “Yah Yah” must be shared equally with Royce Da 5’9”, Black Thought, Q-Tip and Denaun.
Whilst more innovation and experimentation is needed on Music to Be Murdered By; there are also occasions where innovation failed to muster. For instance, the backdrop of eighties 8-bit video music mixed with a failed attempt at haunting noises (sounding like a comedic take of The Simpsons Halloween Specials) resulted in the listener not being able to take track “Little Engine” seriously. Despite Eminem’s ability to hire an impressive and acclaimed diverse army of collaborators; for the most part on Music to Be Murdered By Eminem struggled. No number of Alfred Hitchcock samples could masquerade this.