Music to Be Murdered By (MTBMB) is Eminem’s eleventh studio album. It was released on January 17, 2020, by Shady Records, Aftermath Entertainment, and Interscope Records. The album was produced by Eminem and Dr. Dre, amongst other producers. It features guest appearances from Skylar Grey, Young M.A, Royce da 5’9″, White Gold, Ed Sheeran, the late Juice WRLD, Black Thought, Q-Tip, Denaun, Anderson .Paak, Don Toliver, Kxng Crooked and Joell Ortiz.
11 months later, on December 18, 2020, Eminem released a deluxe version of the album, named Music to Be Murdered By – Side B, also without any prior announcement. It includes the original album’s 20 tracks along with 16 new ones.
Label: Shady Records/Aftermath/Interscope
Release date: 17 January 2020
Discs: 1+1 (Side B / Deluxe Edition)
Another surprise album
Music to Be Murdered By (including the Side B – Deluxe Edition) was another surprise release, that was released with no prior announcement, in a similar fashion to his previous studio album Kamikaze (2018). In an interview on his radio channel Shade 45 (on Sirius XM Radio) he explained his logic behind dropping surprise albums:
“I feel like when an album is coming out, if I give people notice. They start seeing the track list and they know it’s coming, I feel like, my best shot to avoid it is just to drop it, instead of people thinking to themselves like ‘if he got this person on the album, I ain’t fucking with it.’ It gives everybody too much time to think about it and their expectations of what they think it should be, I will never meet that. So this is kind of theory I have based ever since Revival.”— Eminem about the latest tendency of releasing surprise / unannounced albums
Track listing – Eminem: Music to Be Murdered By
|1.||“Premonition” (Intro)||Eminem, Dr. Dre, Batson, Parker[b], Resto[b]||2:53|
|2.||“Unaccommodating” (featuring Young M.A)||Eminem, Suby[b]||3:36|
|3.||“You Gon’ Learn” (featuring Royce da 5’9″ & White Gold)||Royce da 5’9″, Eminem[a], Resto[b]||3:54|
|4.||“Alfred” (Interlude)||Dr. Dre, Parker, Briss||0:30|
|5.||“Those Kinda Nights” (featuring Ed Sheeran)||D.A Got That Dope, Eminem[a], Fred[b]||2:57|
|6.||“In Too Deep”||Suby, Eminem[a]||3:14|
|7.||“Godzilla” (featuring Juice Wrld)||D.A Got That Dope, Eminem[b]||3:30|
|8.||“Darkness”||Eminem, Royce da 5’9″, Resto[b]||5:37|
|9.||“Leaving Heaven” (featuring Skylar Grey)||Skylar Grey, Eminem[a]||4:25|
|10.||“Yah Yah” (featuring Royce da 5’9″, Black Thought, Q-Tip & Denaun)||Mr. Porter||4:46|
|11.||“Stepdad” (Intro)||Dr. Dre||0:15|
|12.||“Stepdad”||Eminem, The Alchemist, Resto[b]||3:33|
|14.||“Never Love Again”||Eminem[b], Dr. Dre, Dem Jointz, Trevor Lawrence Jr., Parker||2:57|
|15.||“Little Engine”||Dr. Dre, Erik “Blu2th” Griggs, Lawrence, Parker||2:57|
|16.||“Lock It Up” (featuring Anderson .Paak)||Dr. Dre, Parker, Griggs, Lawrence, Dem Jointz||2:50|
|17.||“Farewell”||Ricky Racks, Eminem[b]||4:07|
|18.||“No Regrets” (featuring Don Toliver)||D.A Got That Dope, Eminem[b]||3:20|
|19.||“I Will” (featuring Kxng Crooked, Royce da 5’9″ & Joell Ortiz)||Eminem, Resto[b]||5:03|
|20.||“Alfred” (Outro)||Dr. Dre, Parker, Briss||0:39|
^[a] signifies a co-producer
^[b] signifies an additional producer
Album release announcements
Singles and music videos
The album was supported by two singles: “Darkness” and “Godzilla”. Alongside the album’s surprise release, Eminem also released the music video for “Darkness”, which revolves around the 2017 Las Vegas shooting from the point of view of the perpetrator Stephen Paddock alternating with Eminem’s own.
In the packaging, Eminem dedicates the Music to Be Murdered By album to Juice Wrld, who died from an accidental drug overdose on December 8, 2019, and Eminem’s former bodyguard CeeAaqil Allah Barnes who also died. Juice Wrld’s feature on “Godzilla” marked his first posthumous release.
Album Cover – Eminem: Music to Be Murdered By
The Music to Be Murdered By’s title, cover art, and concept are inspired by Alfred Hitchcock and Jeff Alexander’s 1958 spoken word album Alfred Hitchcock Presents Music to Be Murdered By.
The album has three covers; the standard cover features Eminem posing with a shovel, wearing a suit and a fedora. The album’s alternate cover features Eminem pointing a gun and holding an axe to his head. The physical CD cover features Eminem, hatless, posing with his hands behind his back.
Album front cover (MTBMB)
Album back cover (MTBMB)
Alternative album cover – Limited Edition (MTBMB)
Limited Edition MTBMB – Release week only – Vinyl, cassette and CD with official Eminem store exclusive cover photo not used for streaming and retail:
CD cover (MTBMB)
CD booklet (MTBMB)
Album’s alternative cover comparison to Hitchcock’s Music to Be Murdered By
Eminem – Music to Be Murdered By:
Hitchcock – Music to Be Murdered By:
The album’s title and alternative cover art share the same concept as the 1958 album Alfred Hitchcock Presents Music to Be Murdered By, which interspersed audio of the director Alfred Hitchcock’s wry, dark humor into easy listening instrumentals arranged by Jeff Alexander.
Eminem tweeted an image of the 1958 album cover featuring Hitchcock holding an axe and a gun to his head and stated that his album’s alternative cover was “inspired by the master, Uncle Alfred!“
Audio of Hitchcock’s voice from the 1958 album is sampled in the interludes “Alfred” and “Alfred (Outro)” and the beginning of the track “Little Engine”. Both the 1958 and 2020 albums end with Hitchcock stating, “If you haven’t been murdered, I can only say better luck next time. If you have been, goodnight, wherever you are.”
What do critics have to say about Music to Be Murdered By?
Music to Be Murdered By was met with generally positive reviews. Music critics praised Eminem’s lyrical abilities and the improved production after Kamikaze, while criticism directed towards the album’s formulaic song structure, lack of innovation, and shock value. Fans mostly loved it.
Reviewing for The Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick said Music to Be Murdered By “offers over an hour of the world’s greatest rapper blasting away on all cylinders”, hailing it as “the first great album of 2020, so lethally brilliant [that] it should be a crime”.
Scott Glaysher of HipHopDX was also positive, and compared the album to Eminem’s previous bodies of work, stating in his review that “Music To Be Murdered By is far from the star-studded, commercially sustainable album Recovery was, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. On this album, despite its handful of flaws, Em shows strong signs of adapting to the times through modern musical choices and smarter songwriting.”
Consequence of Sound’s Dan Weiss was generally positive, and, about the album’s themes, he said that “If he’s figuring out from scratch how to be a compelling artist again, Eminem’s improved the caliber of his beats and guests, taking stands against the right day-to-day injustices, toning down the tasteless (with the exception of the already-infamous Ariana line, of course), and rapping with the manic precision of someone who just snorted a whole sandcastle of cocaine and Vyvanse. If only a single minute of it was as hilarious or bracing as Chris D’Elia’s impression of him.”
Similarly, Fred Thomas of AllMusic opined, “Music to Be Murdered By sees Eminem pulling himself out of Kamikaze’s wreckage somewhat, though he still falls victim to moments of willful dumbness and a tedious self-obsession that’s become par for the course. On the album’s best tracks, there are still hints of the fire that made Eminem a rap legend.”
Entertainment Weekly’s Christopher R. Weingarten was more critical, stating that, “As a whole, Music to Be Murdered By is as hit-and-miss as anything Eminem has released this side of the millennium. But remove the skits, the relationship songs, the family songs, the morose gun control song, and the quirky Ed Sheeran club goof and you still have 36 solid minutes of the daffy, one-of-a-kind rap genius that keeps captivating true-school heads and longtime fans. Or, if you’d like, keep it all and you still have the most solid work he’s done in a few years.”
NME’s Jordan Basset was ambivalent towards the album’s lyrical themes and stated, “He splits the difference on Music To Be Murdered By, indulging his immature ego (griping at bad reviews, stirring controversy for the sake of it) even as he offers salient social criticism and admits his missteps. He’s ready to pass on hard-earned wisdom before running his mouth like he hasn’t learned his own lessons. And he offers casual fans a hook or two before embarking on another lyrical work-out.”
Paul A. Thompson of Pitchfork said that the album “is not, strictly speaking, a good record—Eminem hasn’t made one of those in a decade—but his latest boasts enough technical command and generates just enough arresting ideas to hold your attention.”
The song “Darkness”, about the 2017 Las Vegas shooting and told from the point of view of the shooter Stephen Paddock alternating with Eminem’s own, has garnered particular attention and critical acclaim.
The lyrics of “Unaccommodating“, in which Eminem referenced the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, drew significant criticism, with many critics finding the lyrics objectionable. The mayor of Manchester, England, Andy Burnham, denounced the song’s lyrics, saying “This is unnecessarily hurtful and deeply disrespectful to the families and all those affected.” The lyrics also drew widespread criticism from victims’ relatives and others involved in the attack.
Roisin O’Connor of The Independent gave the album a negative review, and criticized the album by saying, “Eminem belittles the trauma of a then 26-year-old Ariana Grande for kicks on “Unaccommodating” by comparing himself to the Manchester Arena bomber. The sour taste of this track lingers well beyond the album’s centerpiece, “Darkness”, which is intended as a searing critique of America’s toxic gun culture. Instead, his use of gunfire and explosion samples feels grossly exploitative.”
The criticism of the album’s subject matter led to Eminem responding in an open letter posted to Instagram, asking those objecting to “please listen more closely”, saying that Music to Be Murdered By is “not for the squeamish” and is “designed to shock the conscience.“