Eminem’s 1999 second studio album and first major label release ‘The Slim Shady LP’ saw the Detroit rapper explode onto the international music scene. Far from easy listening, lyrically the ‘Slim Shady LP’ is notorious for the use of over the top violence and profanity, traits that would become synonymous with the rapper’s unique musical style over the years to come.
“Hi Kids, do you like violence?”
‘My Name Is’ is the first and arguably biggest track to come from this album. The Grammy award winning song introduces the world to Eminem’s alter-ego, Slim Shady, most of the tracks on this album are preformed through this violent, and drug obsessed part of Eminem’s psyche. You can’t help but think although an alter-ego, ‘Slim Shady’ is very much a part of the real Marshall Mathers, as lyrics about a drug addict mother and a father that was never there were real factors in the rapper’s childhood. Despite these dark lyrics, ‘My Name is’ samples a playful beat, mixed with some more humorous lyrics and you’ve got Eminem’s signature style of dark humor that meant he stood out from a crowd of other artists rapping about how much money they all had. A hip-hop classic.
‘Guilty Conscience’ is another stand out track. Dr.Dre steps out from behind the production table to lend his rapping to this unique track. ‘Guilty Conscience’ sees Dre and Eminem play the part of the conscience of various men facing moral decisions, the angel and devil on our shoulders that we all consult on a daily basis. Slim Shady predictably plays the part of the violent, devilish voice that essentially advocates the ‘fuck it’ mentality. This is a fantastic track that is so different from anything before or after. The use of sound effects and a narrator to set the scene immerses you in these short stories, truly a masterpiece in terms of production as well as rapping thanks to Dr.Dre. Yeah you’re not going to be playing this song at any parties or any song from this album for that matter because that’s simply not was this album is about.
That’s where Eminem differs from most rappers you’d consider popular, from The Slim Shady LP to The Marshall Mathers LP2 he has consistently produced great* albums that for the most part will struggle to find airplay or club play due to their style or lyrical content. Yet in the last few years most hip-hop artists that have found mainstream popularity are coming out with albums filled with ‘club tracks’, Migos’ ‘Culture’ album for example. Not that these albums are bad, far from it, but if The Slim Shady LP was released now would it be as successful? Probably not, not in a mainstream sense anyway. Apologies for the tangent.
*We can discuss ‘Relapse’ another time.
The 9th track on the LP, ‘Role Model’ could quite possibly be my favorite Eminem track of all time. The beat is incredible and lends itself perfectly to Eminem’s relentless flow on this track. The flow and lyrics come across almost like battle rap lyrics. They’re aggressive, full of threats and refer to ‘you’ a lot as if Em’ is directly challenging someone. Filled with punchlines, each line is perfectly delivered and as satisfying as the next, “I get a clean shave, bathe, go to a rave, die from an overdose and dig myself up outta my grave, my middle finger won’t go down, how do I wave?” For me this track encompasses the Slim Shady alter-ego perfectly as well as showcasing Eminem’s raw rapping talent.
The Slim Shady LP represents Eminem at his most raw, with dark, sometimes depressing lyrics as well as upbeat comical tracks. Apart from ‘My Name Is’ none of these tracks were word beaters but all of them are great in their own right as they all helped form the unique style that would see Eminem become the best-selling rapper of all time.
Words by Johnathan Ramsay