It’s taken just 17 days for Eminem to brazenly stride into the new decade. The surprise release overnight of the 47-year-old’s 11th solo album ‘Music To Be Murdered By’ is a clear indication that, like it or lump it, the indomitable Marshall Mathers is intent on being heard in the 2020s.
Eminem, as ever, plays the primary protagonist/anti-hero as his verbose and compelling style — coupled with his often inflammatory choice of subject matter — dominates the record’s 64-minute run-time, preventing his guest stars (including Ed Sheeran, Anderson .Paak and the late Juice WRLD) for being anything but supporting acts to the main event.
“They call me Kanye crazy,” Eminem declares on ‘Music To Be Murdered By”s first track proper ‘Unaccommodating’ (more on that later). One thing’s for sure: Eminem still shares Kanye’s knack for commanding the world’s attention whenever he puts out any sort of project. And, true to form, the Detroit rapper’s latest album is jam-packed with the kind of divisive talking points that will be pulled apart in the media, fan forums and social media in the weeks and months to come.
Here’s our run-through of some of the biggest takeaways from ‘Music To Be Murdered By’.
“Uncle” Alfred Hitchcock
Before we delve into the album itself, let’s take a brief look into the inspiration behind its title. Posting on Twitter earlier today (January 17), Eminem highlighted the influence of the legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock on the conception of the record, calling him “the master”.
The name of the new album — and a version of its cover art, which features Eminem posing with an axe held to one side of his head and a gun pointed at the other — is taken from the compilation record ‘Alfred Hitchcock presents: Music To Be Murdered By’, which was helmed by composer and conductor Jeff Alexander in 1958.
— Marshall Mathers (@Eminem) January 17, 2020
Hitchcock’s aptly chilling narration from that record is sampled at various points on Eminem’s new album, with the director ending ‘Music To Be Murdered By’ by addressing his listeners. “If you haven’t been murdered, I can only say better luck next time. If you have been, goodnight wherever you are.” A somewhat fitting segue to our next point, then.
An end to the Machine Gun Kelly beef once and for all?
Thought these two might have left their war of words behind in the 2010s? No chance. After declaring on ‘Unaccommodating’ that he “won’t topple” from the top of the rap game, Eminem then warns that he’ll give “it to anyone who wanna come and get it“. Who might that be, then?
“But when they ask me is the war finished with MGK? Of course it is,” he asserts, before invoking the imagery from Machine Gun Kelly‘s diss track ‘Rap Devil’. “I cleansed him of his mortal sins, I’m God and the Lord forgives even the devil worshippers / I’m moving on but you know your scruples are gone when you’re born with Lucifer’s horns“.
He’s not finished there, though. On ‘Yah Yah’, he targets MGK again after claiming “me and this [rap] game, we got married already“:
“Had the pre-nup ready, fuck, all that’s ever seen her belly / She barely was three months pregnant / Bitch had to give me a baby, we named it Machine Gun Kelly“.
And you just know that MGK will have listened to that pair of disses today with a smirk creeping across his face — he won’t let Eminem have the final word.
Eminem may be stepping away from engaging in back-and-forth rap beefs in the future, though. On ‘No Regrets’, he talks about wanting to write “a thousand bars” in furious response whenever people like MGK and Nick Cannon speak about his daughters. “But sometimes it’s like dropping an anvil on a house of cards,” he muses, bigging up his own ability to crush his rivals. “Or Godzilla squashing a crouton with combat boots on… can’t do it, nah.”
Patching things up with Tyler, the Creator
Eminem was widely criticised in 2018 after aiming a homophobic slur at Tyler, the Creator on the ‘Kamikaze’ track ‘Fall’, and he later admitted that he went “too far” with the diss.
“Shoulda never made a response to the disdain for the fake ones,” he adds. “Them traitorous punks, ’cause snakes are just cunts.”
The Manchester Arena bombing lyric
Eminem’s track record of provocation and offending all and sundry is long, extensive and well-documented — and he has no qualms whatsoever about adding another few pages to that lyrical rap sheet with ‘Music to Be Murdered By’.
The rapper has already attracted a ton of negative headlines in regards to the new record thanks to the unsavoury lyric which references the May 2017 bombing at the Manchester Arena, which killed 22 people following an Ariana Grande show. “I’m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game,” Eminem raps on the song. “Like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert, waiting.”
Figen Murray, the mother of Manchester Arena bombing victim Martyn Hett, was among the people to publicly criticise Eminem for the lyric, calling it “not clever” and “totally pointless”.
Ok, I just watched the 11 min clip. Feels like he is piggybacking on the fame of Ariana grande and Justin bieber and says distasteful things about other celebrities. Not clever. Totally pointless. And before all Eminem fans pounce on me, I am not interested and will not engage. https://t.co/fE9MbepeqN
— Figen Murray (@FigenMurray) January 17, 2020
While the lyric has attracted plenty of condemnation, some fans have pointed out that Eminem donated to and directed his followers to a JustGiving page which was set up in the wake of the terrorist attack — although it doesn’t excuse the hurt that has been and will be caused by the lyric.
— Marshall Mathers (@Eminem) May 25, 2017
Addressing the need for gun control in the US
Having already crassly referenced some of the deadliest mass shootings in US history on ‘Yah Yah’ (“Papers are hand grenades soon as I pull the pin out / I understand and say Mandalay and Orlando and Colorado and Columbine all combine into one / I don’t walk a line, bitch, I run“), the album’s lead single ‘Darkness’ sees Eminem taking a powerful stance in calling for tighter gun control in the US.
Both the track and its accompanying video reference the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas in 2017, in which 58 people were killed. The video is an unsettling but moving watch, ensuring that the message that is displayed at the end of the clip hits the hardest.
“When will this end? When enough people care,” the messages states. “Register to vote at Vote.gov. Make your voice heard and help change gun laws in America.”
And he’s still trying to out-do himself as a rapper
Towards the end of the Juice WRLD-featuring ‘Godzilla’, you might notice that Eminem takes a slightly deeper breath than usual before unleashing a hurricane of bars. According to one contributor on Genius, the rapper smashed his own words-per-second record that he set on 2013’s ‘Rap God’ with the final verse on ‘Godzilla’. In the final 30 seconds of its third verse, he manages to spit a staggering 228 words — that’s 7.6 words and 10.97 syllables per second, apparently.
That stat provides a handy way of saying that you certainly get your money’s worth whenever Eminem gets into the vocal booth. But even one solitary listen to ‘Music To Be Murdered By’ will be enough to tell you that there’s so much to unpack from Marshall Mathers’ latest solo venture — and you’ll likely find yourself returning to the album again and again in the coming days and weeks.