Slim Shady LP turns 16, and it still has wheels.
"In my entire career in the music industry, I have never found anything from a demo tape or a CD. When Jimmy played [Eminem’s demo], I said, 'Find him. Now.'”
Few men have had the kind of impact on hip-hop history like Eminem has. Actually, it’s arguable that no man has ever had that kind of impact. Slim Shady LP, the commercial debut album from Marshall Mathers took the world by storm. The new millennium was coming, and the first white rapper since the Beastie Boys was making waves with really great music.
He did this by making completely unique music. His approach to rap was a fresh breathe of air, and although cuts like “If I Had” and “Rock Bottom” might feel uncomfortable, Eminem’s commentary on the struggle was something so profound that very few people could look away.
Of course, there was the novelty of it all. NWA’s Dr. Dre picked up a white boy from Michigan to groom in to rap’s new prince. It’s the kind of fairy tale that wouldn’t seem realistic if told 20 years ago, but sure enough it came true.
The beats, composed mostly by Bass Brothers with a few Dr. Dre cuts in there, were perfect. They’re funky and match perfectly with Marshall’s nasally flow. The storytelling was top notch on the entire album as well the variety was superb. There were cuts that were silly, songs that were too real and some that were straight up insane. The same kind of appeal that the "Saw" movies used, where you just can’t look away no matter how wrong it feels, was sort of perfected by Eminem and his mentor on this 1999 LP.
The album begins with a couple of singles produced by Dr. Dre. “My Name Is” is one of those songs that everybody has heard a hundred times, but the zany pop track was a stark contrast from the Britney Spears and N’Sync songs that were dueling for TRL’s #1 spot in ’99. “Guilty Conscience” is a work of genius, as Dre plays Em’s conscience in a variety of scenarios that play out like a movie. The ability to walk you through a scenario like a robbery, or walking in on your girlfriend cheating, is not an easy task, but the duo did a phenomenal job at allowing you to see and feel the scene along, with hearing it.
“Brain Damage” takes you down memory lane with Slim Shady as he talks about his school days, conversing with himself to tell the tale of a kid who can’t catch a break from his mother nor the school nurse. This is all without breaking the rhyme or rhythm that birthed the art of hip-hop.
The appeal of the album, and songs like “If I Had,” crossed over to white America in a way hip-hop hadn’t before. Eminem wasn’t talking about the projects or inner-city life, but his struggles were obviously real. His poverty, relationship with his girlfriend and upbringing all took a toll on him, and he used music as the outlet to let it all out.
"I'm tired of being white trash, broke and always poor
Tired of taking pop bottles back to the party store
I'm tired of not having a phone
Tired of not having a home to have one in if I did have one on
Tired of not driving a BM
Tired of not working at GM, tired of wanting to be him
Tired of not sleeping without a Tylenol PM
Tired of not performing in a packed coliseum
Tired of not being on tour
Tired of fucking the same blonde whore after work
In the back of a Contour
I'm tired of faking knots with a stack of ones
Having a lack of funds and resorting back to guns
Tired of being stared at
Tired of wearing the same damn Nike Air hat
Tired of stepping in clubs wearing the same pair of Lugz
Tired of people saying they're tired of hearing me rap about drugs
Tired of other rappers who ain't bringing half the skill as me
Saying they wasn't feeling me on 'Nobody's As Ill As Me'
And I'm tired of radio stations telling fibs
Tired of JLB saying, 'where hip-hop lives'"
"'97 Bonnie & Clyde" tells the uncomfortable tale of Eminem killing his wife with his child in the car. He rhymes to his baby girl with a calm demeanor, playing the kind of psychopath that has that "Saw" appeal we mentioned before. It’s a song so chalkful of black humor and cricket chirps that you can’t help but to appreciate it for its genius. I’m sure the Sugar Hill Gang would have never thought their effort in pioneering rap would have influenced a song like this, but that’s how art works.
"Role Model" decidedly mentioned people by name to try and get a rise out of them. If the personalities mentioned in the prior songs didn’t muscle out a reaction, name-dropping the president’s wife and Lauryn Hill might do the trick.
So when I diss you wouldn't want to answer this
If you responded back with a battle rap you wrote for Canibus
I strangle you to death then I choke you again
And break your fucking legs til your bones poke through your skin
You beef with me I'mma even the score equally
Take you on Jerry Springer and beat your ass legally
I get too blunted off of funny home grown
Cause when I smoke out I hit the trees harder than Sonny Bono (oh no!)
So if I said I never did drugs
That would mean I lie and get fucked more than the President does
Hilary Clinton tried to slap me and call me a pervert
I ripped her fucking tonsils out and fed her sherbet (bitch!)
My nerves hurt and lately I'm on edge
Grabbed Vanilla Ice and ripped out his blond dreads (come here)"
Of course, for a generation of kids who were rebelling against the pop music at the time this fell congruent with the likes of Limp Bizkit and Korn as much as it fit in with Jay Z and Dr. Dre. The genre-crossing appeal undoubtedly led to Em’s widespread appeal.
"My Fault" is a ridiculous song where Eminem gives a blonde chick mushrooms and watches her go insane. It’s another uncomfortable affair, but the storytelling is straight genius. This was more black humor for more teenage-somethings who were hiding this one from their parents.
"Rock Bottom" explores Marshall Mathers' reality of being a broke, unemployed father, once again. Like "If I Had," this one is more realistic than the ‘Slim Shady’ songs on the album, peaking in to Eminem’s actual life as opposed to his alter-ego’s lunatic ways. You can feel the emotion both from the beat and the bars.
"As The World Turns" kind of melts those worlds together, storytelling a crazy chase-scene that looks like a Ren & Stimpy in your mind. It’s terribly ugly, but somehow hilarious and completely vivid.
"Bad Meets Evil" was a peak in to a relationship that would end up spawning a 9-track effort in 2011. It might have taken 12 years, but Royce Da 5'9" and Em’s chemistry started simmering a looooong time ago.
"Still Don’t Give A Fuck," the 20th and final song on the album, is an all-encompassing song that demonstrates the attitude of Slim Shady. If there’s one thing that’s clear after the album ends, it’s that Marshall Mathers, Eminem, and Slim Shady all have one thing in common: their lack of given fucks. They don’t care. The three of them want to shock you, provoke you and make you feel certain way. Like most great art, it succeeds. And even if it isn’t the most pleasant of listens, The Slim Shady LP is a genius work of art, prone to provoke a reaction out of damn-near anyone. It doesn’t hurt that the album jump-started the career of one of hip-hop’s greatest.