With over 30 years in the game, it’s hard to ignore Eminem’s immense skill as a wordsmith. When considering the act of putting words together, Marshall is one of the best to ever do it. It’s unfortunate that Music to be Murdered By Side B is such a lackluster expression of said talent. Don’t be fooled by the title, this addition bares no resemblance to it’s older, pop-influenced sibling. Side B follows the trend of adding an album’s worth of material to an already released project, only these cuts are slightly more offbeat. In video game terms, it’s like getting more maps instead of new weapons. Ultimately, the record is a blurred mess of impressive but lifeless rhymes.
There are moments of note, as Eminem has doubled down on vocally embracing the culture (rap) and people (black) whom he owes his success to. The record isn’t political, but mentions of current day injustices provide a nice change of pace from usual macabre. “These Demons (feat. Maj)” is an oddly aware trap song, “This pandemic got us in a recession we need to reopen America. Black people dyin they want equal rights, white people wanna get haircuts.” The weariness of Covid and racial injustice isn’t lost on Em, but it doesn’t really match the goofy Alfred Hitchcock backdrop. Refreshing portions like this are nullified by the MC’s juvenile sense of humor. Album opener “Black Magic” is another one of Slim’s countless songs that narrates the killing of a woman. Even the effortlessly slick Ty Dolla $ign can’t make the chorus of “Favorite Bitch” not feel tired. Similarly, “These bars are like Covid, get em straight off the bat” works because it’s current but also feels silly because it absolutely is.
Marshall is clearly in his bag here, making the most out of uninspiring material. Thin guitar riffs and relentless 808s dominate the surprisingly short setlist. There’s plenty of chuckle worthy punchlines, mostly found in album standout “Alfred’s Theme”, but even that song gets unbearable towards the end. Career-long mentor and producer Dr. Dre makes a cameo on “Guns Blazing” but the boring, stuttered instrumental is three minute endurance test. Eminem has spit over some rough beats in the past, but nothing comes close t0 the lazy stomp-clap rhythm of “Higher”. Likewise, there’s some bad skits on classic Eminem albums, but nothing downright awful as “Key”. The uneven, but playful theme is ruined by a paint-by-numbers approach and bare minimum effort from someone who can and has done much better before.