Pop Conspiracy Theory: Eminem’s ‘MMLP2’ Contains Secret Kanye West Allusions

Carl Williott | October 31, 2013 9:36 am

I have a crackpot conspiracy theory brewing about Eminem‘s forthcoming album, The Marshall Mathers LP 2. Here goes: Kanye West has become so ubiquitous, and his influence so unavoidable in hip-hop, that — I believe — the spirit of Yeezus has somehow burrowed into the dark recesses of Em’s brain and he subsequently packaged MMLP2 tracks with secret allusions to past Kanye songs. After West’s rant following the 2009 VMAs emerged, we learned that Kanye was keeping tabs on Slim Shady, and upped his game in response. Is it so crazy to think Em’s been keeping an eye on West, too?

As soon as the MMLP2 tracklist was revealed, some totally obvious connections became apparent. Sure, I may be weighing the significance of song titles a little too much, but c’mon, it can’t be a coincidence that the names of four tracks are blatant references to prior Kanye ones (e.g. “Rap God” vs. “I Am A God”). Plus, of the 21 deluxe edition tracks, only seven have titles that don’t easily evoke Yeezy season. There are some substantive and thematic similarities as well, which I’ll delve into.

But what does it all mean?!

Well, I’m not saying Eminem did this on purpose. I think the new album is a subconscious rebuttal to Ye’s cultural takeover, Em’s Freudian way of horning in on Kanye’s pop culture kingdom. He’s reestablishing his presence via subtle markers, perhaps so that a few hip-hop fans would connect the dots. Or! It’s entirely possible (likely?) that I’m just waaay too deep inside my own mental rabbit hole and I’ve concocted a veritable Da Vinci Code based on clues that don’t actually exist. Either way — join me in the journey through the looking glass below.

First off, there’s the aforementioned handful of songs that, right off the bat, draw obvious parallels to Ye. As soon as “Rap God” dropped, it was seen as an overt response to “I Am A God” — Em’s outrageous boast is humbler than Ye’s outrageous boast; Ye wants to lord over all, Em is now happy to cede the pop culture throne and focus on reclaiming deity status within the realm of hip-hop.

Likewise, Kanye was “Stronger” in 2007 and now Em is “Stronger Than I Was,” again a more tempered brag. And isn’t going “Berzerk” just another form of going “H.A.M.”? (And, oh right, Shady mentions going H.A.M. in the song.) Or how about “Monster” vs. “The Monster” — why don’t we look at the album artwork for those two tracks, which share a similar layout and color schemes:

kanye eminem monster

Once those first clues jumped out at me, I was in full-on A Beautiful Mind mode, with the patterns emerging right before my eyes. The next group of songs aren’t quite as obvious, but once you think about it, they certainly seem to reference Kanye works. Let’s examine: *In 2010, Kanye asked “Who Will Survive In America?” In 2013, Eminem answered on “Survival.” *The tin man needs a scarecrow, and so with Ye’s “Heartless” there is also Em’s “Brainless.” *“Headlights” and “Street Lights” bring the respective MC’s emotions out into the light. *”Groundhog Day” inevitably leads to the “Coldest Winter.” Just ask Bill Murray. *”Addiction” and “Desperation” often go hand-in-hand, do they not? *The titles “Beautiful Pain” and “Dark Fantasy” express a similar dichotomy. *What is “Barry Bonds” if not the definitive “Asshole”? (Thematically, though, “Asshole” is similar to “Runaway.”) *Ever notice that when you ask a person who’s finally recovering from an injury/illness/breakup, they’ll say “Oh, I’m so much better. I’m amazing” or “Things are amazing. They’re so much better.”? “So Much Better” = “Amazing” when it comes to convalescence. Also, the song opens with a distorted synth squelch similar to the one that begins West’s “On Sight.” *”Love Lockdown” vs. “Love Game” — OK so everyone has a song with “Love” in the title, fine. *And of course, you can’t have a “Legacy” without “Power.”

That leaves us with just seven tracks (one of which is a skit) lacking any surface Yeezy connections: *”Bad Guy” doesn’t have an immediate parallel, but two-thirds of the way through the song there’s a high-drama left-turn worthy of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or Yeezus. *”Parking Lot” (Maybe it pairs with Ye’s “Homecoming,” since you drink in the parking lot before the Homecoming dance?) *”Rhyme Or Reason” *”So Far…” *”Evil Twin” (Surely there must be a Kanye twin for this from Cruel Summer or Yeezus.) *”Baby” *”Wicked Ways”

Am I missing part of the pattern? Is there no pattern? Below is the full tracklist for The Marshall Mathers LP 2, with the mirrored Kanye tracks listed as well. Take a look and maybe you can identify the missing pieces, or you can prove it’s all in my head.

1. “Bad Guy” 2. “Parking Lot” (skit) 3. “Rhyme Or Reason” 4. “So Much Better” | “Amazing” 5. “Survival” | “Who Will Survive In America” 6. “Legacy” | “Power” 7. “Asshole” |  “Barry Bonds” 8. “Berzerk” | “H.A.M.” 9. “Rap God” | “I Am A God” 10. “Brainless” | “Heartless” 11. “Stronger Than I Was” | “Stronger” 12. “The Monster” | “Monster” 13. “So Far…” 14. “Love Game” | “Love Lockdown” 15. “Headlights” | “Street Lights” 16. “Evil Twin” Bonus tracks: 1. “Baby” 2. “Desperation” |  “Addiction” 3. “Groundhog Day” | “Coldest Winter” 4. “Beautiful Pain” | “Dark Fantasy” 5. “Wicked Ways”