Despite the pioneering cadence of Rakim, the historical precedence of Run DMC and the fact that Wu-Tang Clan is indeed forever, if historians were to open a musical time capsule in the year 2100, chances are the first rap CD they come across will be the Marshall Mathers LP. It is one of the most ground-breaking releases of all time for its creative content. Yes, it was that dope, even though his race clearly played a role in the surge of popularity and importance the original MMLP brought to hip-hop.
Em's most recent selection drops today, titled Marshall Mathers LP 2. Featuring the rock-infused single "Rap God" and Beastie Boys-inspired "Berzerk", the LP is a clear attempt by Mathers to recapture lightning in a bottle, the very same lightning that made Marshall a household name in the first place. They say life is a circle, but I don't think that term is meant to be taken literally. Here, Em finds himself at a crossroads career wise.
At 41 years-old, Em has achieved virtually every goal a musician can possibly accomplish. Thirteen Grammy Awards sit in his trophy case, something I am fairly certain no other rapper can boast of—and he was even ranked number nine on MTV's The Greatest MCs of All Time list, which I am certain had the pro-black hip-hop contingent pissed. But that is exactly what a transcending artist does. He pisses people off while rocking the masses.
But how much rocking does Em have left? At what point does an MC have to simply bow out? Rappers Jay Z and Nas represent opposite sides of the very same hip-hop coin, while Em represents its ridges. Both Jay and Nas, though their standing goes without question, have hit the creative wall, and it has become clear in my eyes that their station in the game is no longer to innovate or wow the masses, but to make money. And there's nothing wrong with that, but generally the quality in the music tends to suffer.
How much can a 40 year-old push the envelope without coming off like a desperate, weird old-guy? While this album will certainly go multi-platinum, it won't be saying anything new because it is almost impossible for Mathers to do so, having covered so much ground already.
However, unlike Jay and Nas, Em will be able to rock the house well into his 60s. Why? Because he is hip-hop's Elvis and gets a constant pass because of it. Yes, he disses people and constantly uses homophobic slurs (something his black counterparts cannot do for fear of the gay mafia) but his music isn't meant to awaken any minds or cause any introspection. The purpose is simple: rock out. That's just par for the course in modern hip-hop, and I don't expect him to be any different from his peers in that regard.
He's not trying to uplift the masses or tell ghetto war stories, that are, at times, uncomfortable for the white majority to listen to. Nor is he trying to get a rise out the elite with his opulence. Despite his constant assertions to the contrary, Em no longer stands on the outside of the musical establishment. It has embraced him. He's not fighting against the man; He is the man.