Eminem’s highly-anticipated eighth studio album, the Marshall Mathers LP 2, officially dropped yesterday, and Billboard is already projecting it to be his seventh straight No. 1 album and the second-highest debuting record of the year. But there have been a number of elements in the buildup to this release that have made MMLP2—the followup to 2010′s Recovery—a much different Eminem product than what fans have seen in the past.
Much of that can be attributed to the work of longtime Em manager Paul Rosenberg, who has helped guide Marshall’s career since 1999′s Slim Shady LP announced his arrival on a major scale. His followup to that, 2000′s original Marshall Mathers LP, was a massive, diamond-selling statement, which saw Em pushing back against the critics, his mother, fame and his family life, all in one dazzling explosion of emotion, raw rapping and songwriting brilliance. So when Em announced this new record would be the second in the Marshall Mathers lineage, it opened it up to direct comparisons lyrically, thematically and, in a radically different music industry, promotionally. XXL spoke to Paul Rosenberg last week about MMLP2, the marketing rollout that saw Em do spots on Saturday Night College Football and with Call Of Duty, and how the character of Slim Shady has changed over the past 13 years. —Dan Rys (@danrys)
XXL: When did you guys get started working on the album?
Paul Rosenberg: Well, Em is always recording whenever he gets the chance; that’s sort of what he does on a day-to-day basis when he’s not out doing shows or whatever the case may be, he’s in the studio. It’s kind of a continual process, but I would say he really became serious about focusing on it and figuring out when he might want to put it out sometime around early March, 2012.
When he first started did he know he wanted to make it the second Marshall Mathers LP?
No, I don’t think so. I think it’s something that came into focus earlier in the process than it usually does—meaning the title—but I don’t think he started off before he recorded anything saying, “This is what I’m gonna call the album.” I think it’s a concept that came out of the work he was doing.
How was it different than any of the other albums that he’s put out?
How was it different? Well, it’s the first time he’s ever done an album that’s a continuation of another album, so it’s different in that sense. I think it’s the first time he reached back and decided to revisit some of the themes that he had explored in some earlier records and give them a continuation. When he talks about the album he doesn’t talk about it as a sequel, he talks about it as a revisitation.
It seems like some of the emotions are flipped—well, not necessarily flipped, but different…
Well, you know what it is? It’s not that the emotions are different at all, it’s that you’re dealing with a person almost 15 years later and their perspective on some of the same themes. And obviously that’s gonna change for anybody, but specifically for him, who has been through so much in that 15 years, that you’re looking at things differently. So I think what we’re getting to hear is a guy who has had 15 years of life experience as an adult since he’s recorded these records when he was 25, 26, 27 years old. And it’s a very different perspective.
It’s fascinating, too, looking at the two albums side-by-side. His delivery is more mature, but there’s still a lot of—I don’t want to say anger—but the raw emotion that he’s so well-known for.
Yeah, I think that’s definitely the thread that connects the two projects. And you’re always gonna get that from Marshall, he wears his heart on his sleeve when he raps, and you’re always gonna feel what he’s going through and talking about. I think that’s one of the things that makes people connect to him so much, is that they feel something when they connect to his music, and they can relate to his emotions, even though it may not be the exact circumstances you’re going through, you can always relate to [it].
Was there any pressure coming off such another massive album with Recovery and then the inevitable comparisons that were going to come with making this a part two? Was there any special pressure?
Yeah, there’s always pressure; he’s achieved a level where the expectations are always going to be high. So yes, there’s pressure from those expectations, but we just try to do our best to make the right record for him at that time and what he’s doing creatively, and support that vision. My job, really, is to support that vision and figure out the best way to market and promote it.
He talks a lot on the album about the difference between him and Slim Shady. What’s the biggest difference you see between Slim Shady on this album versus the first Marshall Mathers album?
The difference between Slim Shady on those records? That’s an interesting question. [Laughs] I think back then, Slim Shady was connected to a younger guy who didn’t have the same perspective, going back to what I said before. And now it’s connected to a person who is older. So I don’t know if he definitely has more of a moral compass, so to speak, as a character, but I think Slim Shady thinks a little more now, as a character.