For the second time in the span of a handful of years, Eminem has surprised the musical world by abruptly dropping an album onto his legion of fans, pretty much in the middle of the night. But whereas 2018's Kamikaze included—amid a fresh stew of warmed-over beefs—the Detroit rapper’s homage to that beloved monster of stage and screen, Venom, tonight’s release goes a little more old-school with its totally inexplicable horror-adjacent homage. That’s right, kiddos: Eminem’s back, and he’s way into Alfred Hitchcock now!
And specifically into Hitchcock’s album of “mood music in a jugular vein,” Music To Be Murdered By—which is also the name of Mr. Mathers’ new album, as it happens to have turned out. (And lest you think the reference to a 1958 LP of horror-themed instrumentals was a coincidence, the album art for the new release recreates the cover of Hitchcock’s work, and several of the interlude tracks directly sample Alfred’s spoken word pieces from the set.) It’s all pretty weird, even if the horrors that Eminem is focused on this time around are a lot more visceral than the ones Hitchcock used to truck in: Lyrics in at least one of the songs reference the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in 2017, and the accompanying video for the new track “Darkness” includes audio footage from, and a somewhat graphic recreation of, the Las Vegas shootings from that same year.
Shockingly, the intent doesn’t seem to be (solely) to shock, as Eminem ends the song—which also conflates prep for one of his concerts with shooter Stephen Paddock’s preparations to kill 58 people on October 1, 2017—with a solemn call for gun reform, and a link to organizations attempting to ban assault weapons in America. It’s a big, strange, extremely sincere political swing from the rapper, especially when considered in the light of a song that also contains a riff on Scope mouthwash and a sniper’s scope. Which, one might argue, possibly pushes the bounds of good taste, no matter how well-meant the intent, how solemn the ending, or how soothing the musical references to Simon and Garfunkel are.
In any case: Music To Be Murdered By is out now, and also includes features from Ed Sheeran, Anderson .Paak, and the late Juice WRLD.