Eminem goes Alfred Hitchcock circa 1960.
Today, Eminem surprised the world and dropped his tenth major label studio album Music To Be Murdered By. Here are some of the key takeaways.
THE GANG’S ALL HERE
Like Kamikaze, Music To Be Murdered To brought several new collaborators into Em’s circle, including three placements from D.A. “Got That Dope” Doman. For the most part, however, the album find Em reconnecting with many longstanding collaborators, including the main musical core behind Relapse. For the first time in a minute, Dr. Dre blessed Slim with four instrumental contributions, not including skits: “Premonition,” “Never Love Again,” “Little Engine,” and “Lock It Up.” Alongside the Good Doctor stood producer Dawaun Parker, the clutch behind-the-scenes MVP behind much of Relapse.
Another recurring presence is Luis Resto, a multi-instrumentalist responsible for working on many of Eminem’s best beats of all time. A perusal through the credits reveals Resto’s name on fifteen of the album’s twenty cuts, providing “additional keyboards” as well as deeper compositional contributions. As one of his most loyal collaborators behind-the-scenes, it’s time to start recognizing Resto’s impact on Em’s sound.
Though Music To Be Murdered To found Em collaborating with many new friends, he also made sure to connect with some former collaborators. Former D12 associate turned hype-man Denaun Porter lays down a kinetic beat for the lyrical banger “Yah Yah,” which marks Em’s first official collaboration with Q-Tip. Not to mention his first official collaboration with Black Thought following their turn on the 2009 BET cypher. He even brought Slaughterhouse out of retirement on “I Will,” though old friend-turned-foe Joe Budden was a notable snub. Naturally, longtime friend and collaborator Royce Da 5’9 held it down with three verses and a few production credits, and it wouldn’t be an Eminem album without a hook from Skylar Grey. Even Alchemist, who spent a longstanding run as Em’s touring DJ, came through to co-produce on “Stepdad.”
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DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS
Since declaring war on his enemies in 2018, Em spent the majority of the following year fielding petty shots and deeper critiques from the likes of Lord Jamar, Machine Gun Kelly, and Nick Cannon. And while many fans openly prayed for Em to rain fire and brimstone upon him, it seemed unlikely that he would dedicate a full diss track to one singular party. It’s no surprise to see Slim address each one individually on Music To Be Murdered By, to varying degrees of intensity.
Lord Jamar catches the most bars, as delivered on Slaughterhouse collaboration “I Will.” As his verse nears its conclusion, he reverts back to the “hip-hop-as-a-house” analogy that has been a throughline throughout their war of words:
I am far more worse than a forty-some bar Lord Jamar verse
Nothing means more than respect, so when I curse
You could say I swore to protect
My image I have zero time or regard for
A never-was-been claiming rap when it's not yours
If it was anyone's house G Rap and Rakim would be having you mop floors
Run-DMC would be havin' you cleanin' sinks
Yeah your group was off the chain, but you were the weakest link
Given that Jamar will likely respond to this by the time next Monday rolls around, it’s likely this particular cycle will continue until it simply dissipates. On that note, Em also addressed Machine Gun Kelly twice, leaving fans unpacking his motive through mixed signals. The first arrived on the Young M.A. collaboration track “Unaccomodating,” as Em seemingly moved to call a halt on the once-heated duel between Rap God and Rap Devil. “But when they ask me is the war finished with MGK? Of course it is / I cleansed him of his mortal sins, I'm God and the Lord forgives -- even the devil worshippers,” raps Em, in the second verse. “I'm moving on but you know your scruples are gone when you're born with Lucifer's horns.”
While this confident declaration of victory could easily be seen as -- at the very least -- mildly antagonistic, it still feels like an armistice. And yet, merely eight songs later, he’s letting off another jab. On a track with Royce Da 5’9”, Black Thought, and Q-Tip of all place, Em took a moment to son the Gunner, spitting a dexterous scheme equating him to a premature baby born in his image: “Me and this game we got married already, had the prenup ready, fucked on her, should've seen her belly / she barely was three months pregnant, Bitch had to give me a baby, we named it Machine Gun Kelly.” One big happy family.
And course, the trilogy wouldn't be complete without a reference to Nick Cannon, who has been doing his damndest to elicit a response from his longtime sparring partner. His wish, albeit a diluted version, was granted on "No Regrets." "For some adversaries, I carry big guns," he spits, in what feels like a spiritual successor to "Fall." "So some targets'll get the kill shot, some, I just barely nicked 'em."
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ROOTS RUN DEEP
If there’s one thing that has remained important to modern-day Eminem, it’s the preservation of hip-hop history. In an age that finds many young voices glossing over the cultural forefathers, Em has made it his personal mission to shout out his peers and chief influences alike. One of the first mentions arrives on the opening track “Premonition,” as Em shouts out three of his former collaborators; by his estimation, Tech N9ne, 2 Chainz and Jay-Z are kindred spirits, inevitably plagued by some of the more frustrating critiques. “Instead of us being credited for longevity and being able to keep it up for this long at this level, we get told we'll never be what we were,” he vents. “Bitch, if I was as half as good as I was, I'm still twice as good as you'll ever be.”
A proud student of the school of “Notorious, Puba, Cube and The Poor Righteous Teachers,” Em also takes a moment to shout out his old pal Sticky Fingaz on “Godzilla.” And while quick homages are scattered throughout, the centerpieces arrives on golden-era homage “Yah Yah.” It’s only appropriate that a gathering of elite lyricists is home to Slim’s love-letter to his formative influences:
Now here's to LL, Big L and Del
K-Solo, Treach, and G Rap
DJ Polo, Tony D, ODB, Moe Dee, Run-DMC
Ed OG, and EPMD, D.O.C., Ice-T, Evil Dee
King Tee, UTFO, and Schoolly D, PE, and BDP
YZ and Chi-Ali, Rakim and Eric B., they were like my therapy
From B.I.G. and Paris, Three Times Dope, and some we'll never see, and PRT
N.W.A and Eazy-E, and D-R-E was like my GPS
Without him, I don't know where I'd be