The dismal collection of self-indulgence and proudly ignorant misstepping that Eminem offered with 2018's Kamikaze left him with nowhere to go but up. Though his technical mastery hadn't waned at all, cringe-worthy lyrics and a mentality somewhere between seventh grade locker room bragging and an active midlife crisis made for one of the worst albums from one of the (historically) best rappers. Also released without any publicity or lead-up, Music to Be Murdered By sees Eminem pulling himself out of Kamikaze's wreckage somewhat, though he still falls victim to moments of willful dumbness and a tedious self-obsession that's become par for the course. On the album's best tracks, there are still hints of the fire that made Eminem a rap legend. The minimally eerie "Darkness" finds him taking on the perspective of Las Vegas music festival shooter Stephen Paddock, occupying the role with the same chilling intensity that made his earlier albums so unsettling. The substandard production of the last few records is also improved on, with help from familiar friends Dr. Dre (in particular on the creeping beat of "Lock It Up," where Dre's trademark slinkiness provides a backdrop for Em) and Anderson .Paak to trade inspired verses. A posthumous feature from Juice WRLD provides the chorus for "Godzilla," one of the album's most pop moments. Eminem flexes his technical abilities in the song's final quarter, spitting a storm of dizzying rhymes that comes close to outdoing his hyperspeed flow on "Rap God." "You Gon Learn" is also a standout, with an organic feel driven by live drum sounds and chopped soul samples. Eminem still can't quite get over himself, breaking the fourth wall to rant at his critics and detractors enough to take away from the more imaginative material. There's also no shortage of punny punch lines and eye roll-eliciting lyrical reaches (Including a reference to a '90s sitcom alien in "Marsh" with the stunningly bad line "With all this A-B-C shit, I'm starting to sound like Alf a bit.") With 20 tracks and an hour-long running time, the good-to-bad ratio on Music to Be Murdered By is a solid 50/50, but that's way better odds than Kamikaze or 2017's similarly disappointing Revival. This particular act in Eminem's story is a strange one, with much of his late-2010s output tarnishing earlier glories. Luckily, Music to Be Murdered By fares better than records that could have just as well been left in the vault. It presents an accurate depiction of where Eminem is at in this weird stage of his career, one where his best work comes when he's able to step out of his own towering shadow.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas
feat: Pescado Rabioso