Eminem – “Music To Be Murdered By” – Album Review
Release date: January 17, 2020
Genres: Hip hop music, Horrorcore
Label: Interscope Records/Shady/Aftermath
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 9.9/10
Music To Be Murdered By is the eleventh studio album by Shady Records founder, Eminem. The album was surprise-dropped on January 17th, 2020.
Before the album even begins, Em will let us know the album is inspired by Alfred Hitchcock, a man known for creating disturbing, suspenseful music to be used for murder scenes in film. In case it wasn’t obvious, Slim Shady is telling us the topic for this project is murder.
1. Premonition (Intro)
The opening track is Eminem accepting the fact that he’ll probably never be able to live with trying to please critics or the rap game itself. Even though he hates what a large portion of what hip-hop is becoming, he and the genre need each other. Immediately after the intro to the intro, acrobatic lyricism is unleashed onto the listeners. This is Eminem at his most confident, yet most backed up into a corner. He’s making a frustrated point that people lack the patience to appreciate his technical rap abilities. Instead, people overlook his art after one listen and slap a negative review on it. He’s arguing that so many people have already praised him as the GOAT and that can’t be taken away this far into a career. He compares this criticism to times when artists he looked up to have been trashed by critics. If they can give LL Cool J a 2.5/5, then the opinion of the public doesn’t matter.
2. Unaccommodating (Featuring Young M.A.)
Wobble wobble, shake it, shake it! Never thought I’d see the day Young M.A. jumps on an Eminem track, but it works so well. She’s introduced with a gunshot followed by Eminem shouting her out. She sounds proud to be on a track with Em. “What up Marshall, what up Martian, I’m in Wayne mode.” Eminem’s delivery compliments the pengame beautifully. He opens with “Game Over, Thanos, on my petty Sh*t, but I don’t paint toes.” If anyone other than Eminem said that, it could potentially sound so corny, but his “no big deal,” tongue-in-cheek delivery somehow strengthens the bar. I love how Eminem is able to adapt to new artists and put his own spin on things. With features like this, you’d expect there to be a sort of hip hop language barrier, but it totally works.
3. You Gon’ Learn (Featuring Royce Da 5’9″ & White Gold)
The Royce Da 5’9″ produced and featured track, “You Gon’ Learn,” sounds so dangerous. Royce opens with a motivated witty verse that stresses the importance of resilience and determination. Bad Meets Evil had very similar, yet very different paths to fame. They both went through a lot of struggles and setbacks, but ended up coming out as survivors. White Gold sings a fittingly eerie hook before Eminem introduces himself using a head spinning lyrical verse with lots of great sound effects.
4. Alfred (Interlude)
Dedicating an album concept to Alfred Hitchcock is one way to make sure a 47 year old rapper can still make music without feeling like he’s outgrown the genre. I will say, this interlude feels a little out of place. On one hand, it’s a creepy warning that follows the album’s continuity well. On the other hand, this track is followed by the silliest, zainiest, club banger-esque track on the entire album. It always catches me off guard when I’m listening to the project in order.
5. Those Kinda Nights (Featuring Ed Sheeran)
If Nate Dogg was still alive, he’d be on this track – no question. This is definitely a loose sequel/update to “Shake That”, or at least “40 Oz,” from the “D12 World” album. You can criticise Eminem for working with a pop star all you want, but I’m having so much fun with this track. You can tell Eminem is, too, and that’s why it’s a banger. It’s also pretty hilarious. I still get a kick out of the little exchange between him and the girl at the club. It might even be a reference to the D12 song “My Band,” where he mimics a groupie that he meets (and plays) in the music video.
6. In Too Deep
If there’s one weak link on the album, this is it. I can appreciate him actually avoiding that weird, staccato, start/stop flows he uses on a lot of relationship tracks. Of course, there’s no shortage of fantastic bars on this track. Em has never been great with hooks, but if I’m being honest, this one isn’t that bad. It’s why it’s catchy. I’d be lying if I said this track doesn’t get stuck in my head for a while after hearing it. One thing that’s getting really old about Eminem’s relationship tracks are the nameless, faceless women he’s always making songs about. Who are these people? If you just take this track for what it is, it’s a decent B-side quality track that’s fine, but forgettable.
7. Godzilla (Featuring Juice WRLD)
Boy, doesn’t the last track seem weak in comparison to this one? Here’s another feature I never thought I’d see on an Eminem album, Juice WRLD. I know Juice was a huge fan of Eminem, so I can only imagine what this meant to him. I was never a fan of Juice, but his contribution works really well here. As you may have guessed, Em and Juice compare themselves to a monster: Godzilla (real subtle, I know). This song is lyrically pretty insane. The next person who criticises Eminem for rapping too fast is getting kicked in the balls by this writer. Rapping fast and weightless is one thing. It’s another thing to enunciate perfectly without slurring supersonic speed raps, all while still maintaining complex lyricism the entire track. It’s a ballsy move to fill a ridiculously fast song full of your best rhymes when the average listener is probably going to miss a lot of them. It’s like a reward for the people who actually take the time to listen closely and replay enough times.
This song is a masterpiece, and I’m not saying that lightly. In this track, Em is speaking about having anxiety before a show. He starts overthinking and gets himself so worked up that it leads him to drink. He even considers cancelling the show he’s scheduled to perform. Stop reading now if you haven’t heard the song. This is a song with such good storytelling that I think it actually warrants a spoiler warning. Halfway through the song, it twists and it turns to the state of mind of the infamous Las Vegas Shooter… just watch the video. This is one of the most clever, creative, emotional, jaw-dropping pieces of art I’ve seen put into a song. The whole song is full of very clever double entendres. I think Eminem is saying anyone can be perfectly normal until they’re not. The track is also very clearly advocating for better gun control in America. From Em’s perspective, anyone can grab a gun one day and decide to snap and turn into a one man killing machine with a legally acquired gun the next. I think he’s also saying he’s not all that different from a terrorist, furthering the point that any normal gun owner is one bad day from being a serial killer.
9. Leaving Heaven (Featuring Skylar Grey)
This is one of my top tracks on the album. Eminem really hates his dad. He died last year, and people were probably expecting Eminem to show some respect, maybe even remorse over the death of a family member. NOPE. The first couple of verses Eminem recaps his fatherless childhood; how he has memories of being beaten as young as six years old. He even references being beaten into a coma from a school bully as a child with no dad to defend him. I love the line where he references Macklemore, keeping his room nice and neat. Meanwhile, Adolescent Eminem was getting beaten up twice a week. The third verse gives me goosebumps every time to this day. The way Eminem shows a true, passionate hate for his father is almost indescribable. In fact, he sounds like he’s celebrating in the most morbid way. The anger is genuine here. He even says he should dig up his grave just to spit in his face. It feels like Eminem has been waiting 47 years for this day to come. A huge weight has finally been lifted off his shoulders. I also love Skylar’s beautiful, soulful hook. The mixing on her vocals has an extra cinematic aura to it, making it come off so grand and spectacular.
10. Yah Yah (Featuring Royce Da 5’9, Black Thought, Q-Tip & Denaun)
This track is lyrical fan fiction. This rolls together as a sort of a love letter to hip hop. You’re getting Royce, Black Thought, and Q-Tip as features. This track goes hard! Everyone flexes their lyricist talents to their full extent. Even though Q-tip only got the hook, it comes off super charismatic and catchy.. I’m just glad to see Q-Tip on a track with Eminem. We don’t deserve it.
In this track, Eminem is looking back, not so fondly at his childhood, particularly surrounding his abusive stepdad. Eminem could have made a serious, vulnerable track with a compelling story. Instead, he let Slim Shady tell it. There’s obviously some truth in here, but this is mostly Eminem fantasising about how he wished he would have given his stepdad a taste of his own medicine. In true Slim Shady fashion, it’s both a grim and hilarious telling of a story from Marshall’s past. Yes, Eminem had father and step-father issues.
On this track, Em is saying he’s out of this world, a Martian, or (Marsh)-ian. He’s also letting us know that he’s not interested in beefing anymore. He’s buried enough rappers at this point. Yeah, there’s arguably some bars in this cut that’ll make you roll your eyes a little. It’s tongue-in-cheek enough to let those bars slide and there’s more than enough wordplay here to celebrate.
14. Never Love Again
A lot of people will, and have, heard this track and chalked it up to being just another love sick, break-up song from Eminem. That’s what I thought at first, too. The twist is, it’s actually a song about his relation to drugs and not a woman. Similar to “Darkness,” the whole thing is a really creative double entendre. If you heard this track and dismissed it, listen to it again with that in mind, and it becomes a very different track. Is Eminem’s singing the best? No, but it’s not about that.
15. Little Engine
This sounds like it came straight off of the “Relapse” album but without the accents. It’s also one of the sharpest songs on the album, lyrically. It’s the hip-hop equivalent of a sugar high with rap bars, front to back. The underlying theme of being mentally unstable pairs well with Alfred Hitchcock’s overall sonic aesthetic. This track is also a semi-rare example of Eminem delivering a great hook; granted, it’s pretty easy for him to slip into this off-the-cuff psychopathic flow. Even the sounds of a vintage movie reel turning within the production blends perfectly with everything else going on in the track.
16. Lock It Up (Featuring Anderson .Paak)
I can’t believe Eminem got Anderson on his track. This has been one of my dream collabs for years. It finally happened and it worked even better than I could have imagined. Anderson’s powerful, soulful voice is golden on the bridge and in the hooks. The theme of the track seems to be about Eminem expressing the journey of overcoming self-doubt. It’s as if he thought about hanging up the mic for a hot minute due to criticism, but instead, he decided to come back stronger. My only gripe with “Lock It Up” is that I wish it were longer. I could have gone for a third or fourth verse of this.
I’ll be honest, I don’t think we needed another relationship track here when we already have “In To Deep” and “Never Love Again”. In the context of the album, it’s a little redundant, but as a stand alone track, I enjoy it for what it is. Hearing Eminem over this bouncy, somewhat Reggae-esque beat is super interesting. There are some clues in the lyrics that this could be a song revolving around the tension caused by drugs, in a similar fashion to “Never Love Again”. Whether it’s about a woman or pills, the message is weirdly clear either way. He hates nothing more than the fact that he still loves drugs (And/or woman).
18. No Regrets (Featuring Don Toliver)
As the 47 year old rapper gets older, we continue to see him maturing. The man who was once the realest Slim Shady is now offering apologies to people he’s dissed: Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. Otherwise, he’s retrospectively looking at his legacy and troubled upbringing while reminiscing on how he may have impacted people along the way, for better or for worse. Despite all of it, he wouldn’t change a thing. “No Regrets, No White Flags Either.”
19. I Will (Featuring KXNG Crooked, Royce Da 5’9″ & Joel Ortiz)
There’s something about this track that just feels like a throw-back to my ears. Maybe it’s the particular pitch in Eminem’s voice he’s using for the hook. We’re also getting a sort of swan song from the Slaughterhouse supergroup (minus Joe Budden). These guys ride the boombap production flawlessly like the rhyme slayers they are. I’ve always found Eminem saves his best material for tracks with several features. I think he’s too stubborn or egotistical to play second fiddle to any other emcee. This track is no exception. Em even makes sure to hand it to rappers that aren’t even on the track such as Lord Jamar and Joe Budden. Except for the singles, this is probably my favourite track on the album, and definitely Eminem’s best single verse on the entire project. It’s 5 minutes of old-school boombap posse cut stylism with a little bit of sinister Shady mixed in for good measure.
Nearly 3 years after the initial release of “Music To Be Murdered By,” it still holds up very well. After years of having this thing practically on loop, it somehow still has that new album audible smell. After the short and sweet snack-size “Kamikaze” album, I was satisfied, but still left feeling hungry for a bigger meal. When this album dropped, it was the full course. At 20 tracks and just over an hour in runtime, it’s pretty remarkable that there’s arguably only a couple of hiccups. It’s sonically cohesive while staying mostly committed to the album concept. I couldn’t have asked for better features either. This thing is packed full of lyrical heavyweights, some of whom we hadn’t heard from in quite a while. Even when there’s a pop feature, it doesn’t stick out because it’s the borderline gothic aesthetic of Skylar Grey singing a hook on an album committed to murder. The Alfred Hitchcock inspired production seems tailor-made for Eminem to rap on thanks largely to Dr. Dre. Dre was far from alone, though. There’s a full cast of talented producers including The Alchemist, Royce Da 5’9″, and even Eminem himself (among others). At the end of the day, this album will continue to hold its place in history as a cinematic, horror-core hip hop classic.
Review written by CeaTee Reviews.