Our "Classic Rotation" series revisits classic albums on the anniversary of their release. Today we take a look at Eminem's classic album, "The Slim Shady LP", which dropped fifteen years ago on February 23rd, 1999.
In early 1999, a white rapper came out of relative obscurity and pissed off a lot of people. He was a white kid from Detroit, backed by a legend in Dr. Dre, and savvy music -industry heavyweight Jimmy Lovine. Who was this bleach blond asshole liberally speaking about slitting his father’s throat and stuffing his baby’s Mama into the trunk of his car? The answer was in the record’s first single. The album was definitely one of a kind. Love it or hate it, it was a pivotal moment in the annals of Hip Hop. Presenting Classic Rotation: The Slim Shady LP.
We all know the story by now. Marshall Mathers III grew up in a lower-middle-class neighborhood in Detroit with a family situation that could only be described as “unstable”. Being the only white kid in his area, he would constantly get picked on. Looking for an outlet, Slim took to rapping at the age of 14. He would sneak into rap battles at a near by high school during lunch, and attend open mic night at the infamous Hip-Hop Shop, always accompanied by his late friend Proof. His reputation in the underground scene grew and grew. He would eventually sign with the Bass Brothers and release his debut album Infinite. The album bombed. The insults began to fly. Anger filling him from head to toe, the content of Slim’s lyrics began to morph into something different, something dark. He began spitting the comedic/sadistic fuck-it-all type lyrics that he would eventually become know for. In 1997 he entered L.A’s Rap Olympics and placed second. Demo tapes were passed around, and one of them landed in the lap of the Doctor.
On February 23rd, 1999, Interscope records and Aftermath records released The Silm Shady LP. The hype surrounding the record was fairly large. Everyone wondering who this white kid was. What artist, let alone a white one, would be good enough for a west coast beat-making legend to sign? The first single “My Name is” would introduce the world to the comedic MC, with its purposefully goofy chorus, and twisted verses. Lyrics such as “I spit when I talk, I’ll fuck anything that walks” had everybody in an uproar, leaving them laughing hysterically or visibly disgusted. The rest of the album was just as twisted. Slim, leaving no stone unturned, would casually rap about killing Kim (his ex), what a bitch of a mother he had, his innocent daughter, and his overall Fuck you attitude towards life. It was a revelation to every angry kid, white or black, in the suburbs, city, or sticks. It rang true for anybody who had been dealt a bogus hand in life. A blessing for every kid who didn’t fit in. Eminem’s alter ego Slim Shady could say what they couldn’t. express all the sick thoughts that were floating around their scarred brains. He bragged about all the bullshit he’d been through, and did so sans restraint.
The album, despite all the reasons listed, is not even Marshall’s best. The Bass Brothers still provided much of the production, and all though they did a good job, more direct production from the Doctor might have been needed. The MC, although providing a breakthrough performance, was only touching on his ever-growing ability. He would only mature into the maniacal beat slayer we all know him as on Dre’s The Chronic 2001. That being said, the album is still a great listen. It begins as it finishes – with a journey into the profane and sadistic mind of its author. “Public service announcement” leads right into “My Name Is” which Segway’s beautifully into perhaps the most telling and ingenious track on the album, “Guilty Conscience”. The track finds Dre acting as the good to Slim’s evil. Working as angel and devil respectively, the two MC’s show up at three distinct life altering moments in the lives of three separate individuals. Each playing off the other to great success. Dark and dirty, this track leads perfectly into “Brain Damage” a comedic response to a horrible experience Marshall had with a bully. “If I had” and “Rock Bottom”, although not revolutionary in their lyrics or beat, give the listener a glimpse into the contemplative side of the MC; a side he would explore in his later albums. The ridiculous finds its form in the way of “My Fault” and “Role Model”, the latter finding Slim visually constructing a hilarious scenario in which his date ingested a whole bag of mushrooms. The only track on the album featured on both The Slim Shady EP and the LP is “ ’97 Bonnie and Clyde” a track that introduces us to his daughter and his ex (who he has just recently killed – in the album that is).
15 years after its release, The Slim Shady LP can still be lauded as a classic. Not because it offered incredible production, or consistently insightful lyrics, but rather for the mark it left on the music industry. In its own bizarre way, it broke down racial barriers and ushered in a new era of Hip Hop. It was the first in a series of events that would resurrect the career of Dr. Dre and lead to discovery of other artists such as 50 cent. Hilarious, disgusting, ingenious, misogynistic, awesome, or whatever adjective one uses to describe the album; try and remember one – classic.