The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is Eminem’s attempt, at age 41, to navigate where he and his legacy belong in hip-hop. It can’t be young Eminem; he’s matured — somewhat — but he’s not about to mellow out. As one of hip-hop’s most controversial rappers, Eminem hasn’t toned down at all; yet would America love him the same if he had?

In a category of modern day martyrs of rap, Eminem finds himself in the company of megawatt celebrities like Jay Z and Kanye West. Whereas the other two are each halves of the most famous couples in the world, Eminem couldn’t give a shit about the fame or his “image.” Part of Eminem’s appeal is that he has stayed close to his roots. He lives what he raps about — and that’s not buying Maybachs or Rolexs.

Eminem’s trying to figure out who he is. Is he still the angry kid cleaning out his closet? Is he the bad guy? Or is he the caring father of three girls? It’s this dichotomy that has brought him such colossal fame. Everyone roots for the bad guy with the heart of gold, and as the king of the trailer park that’s exactly who Eminem is.

“Rhyme or Reason” is one of the first songs on MMLP2 and, as with the entire album, the production level on this song is terrific, though with producers Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin this is no surprise. It starts out slower than typical Eminem. Much of this song is directed toward Eminem’s nonexistent father: “So yeah, Dad, let’s walk / Let’s have us a father and son talk / But I bet we probably wouldn’t get one block / Without me knocking your block off.” Though this anger is nothing new to Eminem, the song’s brilliance comes from Eminem’s unrivaled speed and the great production level.

On “Legacy,” Polina sings the opening vocals, and Eminem uses a formula that has worked for him in the past, most notably with “Stan:” beautiful, mellow female vocals mixed with his angry, intense raps. As the title assumes, on “Legacy,” Eminem takes a look back on his life. He looks at everything that he has been through and overcome. He shows off part of his true talent: storytelling. He has achieved huge levels of fame for his honesty about all aspects of his life, from the overwhelmingly bitter songs about Kim to those that focus on his love for his daughters. “Legacy” allows Eminem to examine what he will be remembered as. It’s a more nostalgic and thoughtful version of this emblematic rapper.

Eminem is not oblivious to the fact that a large portion of the population looks at him as a complete and utter asshole. On “Asshole,” he explains his side. He argues that rap was looking for a villain, and he just filled the role. Yet he shows another part of himself with the line ”Sometimes I rhyme and forget I’m a father / If anyone ever talks to one of my little girls like this I would kill him / Guess I’m a little bit of a hypocrite.” The chorus is hilarious when you look at the softer side of Eminem. Sure, Eminem might not be the poster child for political correctness, but if you ever judge him as just an asshole you really haven’t listened closely enough.

Though most of this album is filled with powerful reminders of Eminem’s sadistic sense of humor and ludicrous rapping abilities, “Berzerk,” the first song released off the album, is not one of those reminders. It is, at best, annoying and does little to display Eminem’s talent.

The most lyrically intense song on the album is “Rap God.” This song showcases Eminem’s impressive, out-of-this-world fast rhymes. In the song he analyzes his legacy: as one of the best-selling artists in the business, Eminem has managed to remain on top for years, but he recognizes that he isn’t as big as he used to be. But on “Rap God,” it’s evident his skills haven’t disappeared, and this is his reminder to everyone that he’s still on top.

The instant hit of the album is “Monster,” on which Eminem uses Rihanna for their fourth collaboration. The chorus is great: “I’m friends with the monster that’s under the bed / Get along with the voices inside of my head.” Eminem uses the niche that has brought him so much success: the crazy outsider. Eminem’s raps on this song aren’t his best, but the chorus and production levels are fantastic.

Eminem is back, playing the white trash, angry bad guy. For Eminem haters, this album isn’t going to change their opinion. He is still as politically incorrect as ever, yet his skills are indisputable. He is one of the greatest storytellers in all of rap. MMLP2 isn’t anything new, but it’s still great. Eminem has talent that can’t be disputed, despite anyone’s personal opinion about the man himself.

4 out of 5 stars