John Gourley (Portugal. The Man) Talks Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2

In 1999 in Wasilla, Alaska, there wasn't a lot going on. I was dropping out of my senior year in high school, working shitty jobs and partying with...

In 1999 in Wasilla, Alaska, there wasn’t a lot going on. I was dropping out of my senior year in high school, working shitty jobs and partying with my friends, who were pretty much up to the same thing. Oddly enough, hip-hop is a big deal up there — the very first piece of graffiti in our skate park was a giant Wu-Tang “W” on the spine — and it was a big reason we started playing music in the first place. I always felt a mix of an extreme disconnection with lyrics about the hard inner city, which we obviously knew nothing about, and a very real connection with violence and drugs.

I first heard The Slim Shady LP over at my friend Jesse’s house, a regular party spot for us at the time. Someone threw it on the stereo and it immediately stood out above the Ma$e and Master P that was playing before. I loved the sense of humor Eminem had. Dark fucking sense of humor. Riding a fine line between taking yourself very seriously and having fun with it. Instantly made me think of the Beastie Boys. It was no surprise to me when I heard everyone in town listening to it a week or two later.

I was looking forward to The Marshall Mathers LP 2 a lot after I heard his verse on Lil Wayne’s “Drop the World.” That shit was amazing. Right away, I could tell he was going back to his roots with this album. The title already had my head swinging in that direction. Starting off with “Bad Guy,” a sequel to a hit from 2000 (“Stan”), is a ballsy move, but it also make me think, fuck it, it’s Eminem. He established himself as an artist a long time ago and he just wants to do what he knows and what he does best. I respect someone who wears their inspirations on their sleeve and isn’t afraid to sample the Beastie Boys and a bunch of other artists that helped make him who he is. Props for knowing that he may need a little help too. So get Kendrick on a track, why not? You can WTF about Rihanna features all you want, but guess whose record she’s not a guest on? Mine. You know who would love to have her appear on a track? Me. She’s one of the hottest singers in the world and of course Eminem is going to hit her up about some vocals. He’s the REAL Slim Shady. If anything, it’s a reminder that he does what he wants. The reality is, her label probably hit him up like, “Yo, Marshall, Rihanna is totes down to feature on that banger! It’s a great look, Em.” To which Slim most likely responded, “OK.”

I can’t say that I connect to this one like I did those first couple albums. But I’m a different person now. He’s still a great storyteller and a fantastic lyricist. He’s happy where he is. Good for him. Is it a good move to go back to shit you already did? It’s confident. Keeping it real in every sense of the word, but I’m skeptical. I’m a fan of breaking new ground. Art should be challenging to the consumer and the creator, otherwise, it’s just a product. Would Stanley Kubrick have made Dr. Strangelove 2? Would J.D. Salinger have written Catcher in the Rye 2? And who am I to say it wouldn’t have been amazing if they had?

The Marshall Mathers LP 2 could be a money grab, a lack of inspiration, a safe way back in, or Eminem could be pushing boundaries by going back to the ones he’s already pushed — some next-level shit. I like to think he just lost himself in the moment, and he’ll own it.

John Gourley is a founding member of the band Portugal. The Man. The band is a staple on the festival circuit, performing at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and more. The band’s website is here and you can follow them on Twitter and Instagram here and here.