With his second surprise album of the year, Eminem’s Music To Be Murdered By: Side B further solidified his reputation as hip-hop’s master of suspense.
For the first time in recorded history, it would seem, the Stans correctly predicted the arrival of an Eminem album. Midnight saw the release of Music To Be Murdered By: Side B, a companion piece to the first installment that arrived in January -- when the year was so filled with promise. Like its predecessor, Side B once again finds Em rhyming over beats from both Dr. Dre and D.A Doman, though the majority of the instrumentation is handled by his own hand. As such, it feels like one of the most uniquely personal albums of his career -- at least on a sonic level -- with Eminem production on eleven of the sixteen tracks.
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Where Part A evoked gleeful responses upon the sight of the tracklist, which found Eminem collaborating primarily with lyricists, Part B shifts the spotlight back onto him and him alone. As one of rap’s most active veterans, boasting twenty years and twelve studio albums worth of experience, his perspective on the game remains fascinating to behold. Despite his self-declared reputation as a technological Luddite, Em has since embraced the internet and sunk countless hours exploring each and every rabbit hole. As a result, Side B feels like a place to gather his thoughts, to reflect on and respond to some of his experiences and observations. And like Hitchcock, by whom he has been clearly inspired of late, Eminem understands the importance of framing his shots, capturing moments in time, and thriving on the unpredictable nature of chaos.
Eminem ft. White Gold - Zeus
REFLECTIONS ON THE GAME
Despite my desire to see a “Bitch Please 3” emerge with the sequel’s original lineup, the rift between Eminem and his former collaborator Snoop Dogg appears to have widened overnight. One of the biggest takeaways arose during the climactic bars of "Zeus," which found Eminem responding to The Doggfather’s assessment that he “wasn’t a top ten rapper,” a controversial take issued in July. Though Snoop eventually moved to clear the air and show Eminem love, it’s evident that the delivery of his message did not sit well with Slim Shady. Perhaps it wasn’t the comments themselves that sparked his ire, but rather that narrative they went on to spark: a pair of "Up In Smoke" alumni at odds, dispelling the notion of unity in the Aftermath circle.
And, as far as squashing' beef, I'm used to people knockin' me
But just not in my camp, I'm diplomatic 'cause I'm tryna be
Last thing I need is Snoop doggin' me
Man, Dogg, you was like a damn god to me
Man, not really -- I had "Dog" backwards
But I'm startin' to think, all these people takin' shots at me
Hardly disrespectful, but biting enough to let Snoop know that the message was not appreciated, nor was the tone. As of now, the Doggfather has yet to respond to Em’s bars, and we can only hope that Dr. Dre can play the mediator and mend the fences between his two pupils. In fact, we must implore the Doc to intervene, as the “Bitch Please 3” dream does not deserve to die like this.
Snoop is not the only rapper to receive a namedrop from Em, who opened up about some of his own hopes and fears throughout “Zeus” and beyond. As he previously touched on with Side A’s “Premonition,” Eminem appears deeply aware (not quite concerned) that many fans will inevitably expose themselves fair-weather. He goes so far as to directly warn Drake that his time will come, informing his “Forever” collaborator that “they're gonna turn on you one day too, and the more you win, the sooner they do / They'll be calling you a trash bin, saying' that your new one isn't better than your last.” In a culture where celebrating the legends of the glory days can feel depressingly niche, Em’s bleak prophecy carries an undeniable sting. He even alludes to Chance’s public shaming following The Big Day, quietly throwing his support behind the young Chicago onslaught by framing him as a victim of entitled fans.
On “Favorite Bitch,” a track that feels like a darker companion piece to Recovery’s “25 To Life,” Em once again frames hip-hop as his partner in a toxic relationship. Amidst the metaphorically dense track, Slim makes sure to give credit to some of hip-hop’s current greats -- though it’s clear that the average rapper’s philosophy is simply too far removed from the era he knows and loves. “I know a few from this era that are lyrically insane,” he admits, in the climactic verse. “And although most are never gonna hit the level Cole or Weezy at, or be emotionally attached to Yo! MTV Raps.” A student of the game to his very core.
The inspiration behind both chapters of Music To Be Murdered By. Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images
THE STUDENT AND THE TEACHER
It’s fair to say that one of the many themes driving Music To Be Murdered By: Side B centers around the notion of aging in hip-hop and retaining inspiration throughout the inevitable process. Constantly billed as a young man's game, a premise that stands in stark contrast to many other creative fields -- including the one in which Alfred Hitchcock forged his legacy. Consider that Psycho, a film largely hailed as his magnum opus, was made when Hitchcock was sixty years old -- twelve years older than Slim Shady. And like many directors, the work of a prominent creative is forever subject to the opinions of critics.
These days, thanks to the ubiquity of social media, criticism can be an overwhelming force -- one that threatens to dictate the fate of not only an album, but the artist behind it. For Eminem, who seems forever embittered by the Revival fallout, it’s not enough to sit idly by and let his narrative be penned for him. Instead, he resolves to move forward, content in playing dual roles, forever at odds yet incapable of existing without one another: the wizened professor and the tireless class clown.