Headlights: Why 'MMLP2' Is Such A Critical Turning Point In Eminem's Career


The Marshall Mathers LP came out on May 23rd, 2000 — that’s about thirteen years, five months, and some days ago. A lot can change in that time. There’s a twelve year old kid who wasn’t even alive when The Marshall Mathers LP came out. With that context, its a pretty lofty and ambitious idea to attempt to recapture or revisit a moment in time that many years behind you. But here we are, and Marshall Bruce Mathers III has dusted off his old sepia-toned house art direction and brought us back to a brand that a lot of people associate with his most skillful work. I think in a lot of ways there are nostalgic motifs and referential moments that anybody who grew up listening to Eminem will be able to appreciate.

But I think even more importantly than nostalgia, as far as MMLP2 is concerned, there’s an overall feeling of evolution and growth from the original album. There’s no better piece of evidence to point to than 'Headlights', produced by Emile & Jeff Bhasker and featuring Nate Ruess, the lead singer of fun. On paper, this already doesn’t sound like anything that could’ve fit on the original Marshall Mathers LP, but that notion is even more apparent in its content, being a song that seems to more or less be an apology from Eminem to the same mother he’s been poking fun at for the entirety of his career. Even on his first single ever 'My Name Is', he states that his mom smoked more dope than he did, and that she had “no tits” to breastfeed him with.

Eminem’s mom showed up all over consequent songs and albums, whether it be 'Brain Damage', 'Kill You', 'Without Me', 'My Dad’s Gone Crazy', 'Evil Deeds', even a song titled 'My Mom' from Relapse, and a bunch of other songs that I’m sure I’m missing right now. He talked about, you know, normal family stuff — like raping and killing her, her Munchausen’s syndrome, the fact that Hailie would never meet her, the pills and constant drug use she had exposed him to: you know, family stuff. He said in interviews that he had no real interest in rekindling a relationship with her, and that it would be better if they kept their affairs as they were, estranged. A lot of things can change in the span of 13 years, and apparently that includes some of these notions about his own mother. He's still got quite a few words for his father on here, however.

'Headlights' is a little under six minutes of Eminem turning everything you’ve ever heard him say about his mother in songs on it’s ear. He even says it makes him cringe to hear songs like 'Cleaning Out My Closet'. It’s almost like the exact one hundred percent polar opposite of what Kim was for The Marshall Mathers LP. It stands out, it’s emotional, it’s heartfelt, but in a completely different direction. The theme of Em’s mom being a bat shit crazy drug addict who fucked his life up has been a constant one over the past 15 years — so to hear him now at age 41, a well-versed father himself, question, analyze and ultimately re-tread the relationship he has with her could honestly make this the most important song of his career in a way. Can we all take a second to wrap our minds around the idea that this guy apologized to his mother, and decided to accept her for who she is, after spending his entire professional tenure as a musician sourcing her for being the root of all of his problems? He wasn’t lying when he said he gave closure to some of the chapters that were left without it.

The point is, there’s a new level of self-awareness, a new growth on the Marshall Mathers LP 2. Addressing the commonly posed arguments such as “going pop,” his mysogynistic lyrics and how they could be seen as hypocritical (being a father of three daughters), going from being bullied as a kid, to being perceived as a bully for his tongue in cheek “gay bashing,” and even entertains the idea that none of this may even matter because some day somewhere the star of Eminem will fade. This approach is probably what Eminem has needed to do for the past couple of albums, and what is what made us all like Eminem in the first place. His ability to observe, analyze and even critique his own actions, and the actions of others while putting context to them, paired with wittiness, hilarity and good ass rhymes is what Eminem is all about.


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