Review Summary: Relentlessly dirty in a fresh style, this EP is where Eminem first developed the infamous Slim Shady persona. It's where he stopped trying to sound like other rappers and decided to blaze a new trail.
Why would I review this album instead of The Slim Shady LP, which had better production, more songs, and much more media attention? Because this album has sentimental value, because this was where I first heard Eminem. Of course, I'd like to say that when I heard this in '97, I said to myself, "oh, yeah, Eminem will be HUGE, I can tell from his wicked rhymes here!" I didn't think that; I thought he wouldn't make it and that it would be a tragedy. I thought this stuff was too far out and that the world really wasn't ready for a guy like Eminem on the hip hop scene. I didn't predict a huge producer coming across this and making Em his new project, so for a while this album was the diamond that I thought was doomed to remain in the dirt. And that's what made songs like 'If I Had' so powerful.
This album starts off with a true introduction to the Slim Shady persona. I loved My Name Is back in the day, but Low Down and Dirty introduces us to a twisted man, without the poppy references to the Spice Girls. Remember how everyone was dismissing Infinite because it sounded like Nas or AZ? Well Eminem is fed up with that - even if it was true. "And if you hear a man that sounds like me smack him, and ask him where the *** did he get his damn raps from.." says Eminem in the chorus. Well, Eminem has found his voice now and it's a voice that others are going to be influenced by. I also like some of the early rhymes here, like
"Wearing visors, sunglasses and disguises
Cause my split personality is having an identity crisis
I'm Dr. Hyde and Mr. Jekyll, disrespectful
Hearing voices in my head while these whispers echo
"Murder Murder Red rum"
If I Had is pessimistic and above all, depressingly genuine. I'm going to review it in full even though it's probably been discussed in SSLP. The beat is relaxed, gloomy, and perfect for the life-questioning lyrics that follow. Eminem's talking here about how he's tired of being white trash, broke, and poor. And since he seems stuck into his life as a ignored rapper, he's tired of life. It's songs like these that earned Eminem "stans", or fans that could relate to what he's saying and felt they had a connection to him. It has a similar feel to Tupac's "*** the World" with Eminem wishing he had an ass big enough for the whole world to kiss. They say misery loves company - it certainly is true. It's easy to tune into this song as relate Eminem's troubles to troubles in your life.
Just Don't Give a *** has a slightly different beat and feel than it does on SS LP. I can't say I prefer the EP one to the LP one nowadays, but this song, even on the EP version, is a constant stream of angry, brilliant lyrics spat by a fed up, apathetic Slim. It's the centerpiece of Eminem's "I don't give a ***" persona that little kids, teenagers, and more than a few adults tried on. And Eminem attacks Vanilla Ice here which was probably a good move - he's differentiating himself from the guy who gave white rappers a bad name.
Just the Two of Us - Better known as '97 Bonnie and Clyde from the SS LP. Same deal with Just Don't Give a ***. The version on LP has better production and sounds cleaning, with better sound effects, but the EP version is a solid 5/5 in my book too. This is the best, most twisted 'Hailie' and 'Kim' song. He perfectly shows us through his dark narrative how much he adores his baby girl and despises his baby's mama. There is no need for further songs about Kim - even though Kim from MM LP is worth listening to - because Em nails it here. He hates on Kim without whining. I do like his songs about Hailie throughout his career in general, but none of them are manage to weave elements of cruelty and adoration in such a damn catchy way.
No One's Iller is like some of the harder D12 songs on Devil's Night and it has a pretty good performance by Swifty and Bizarre. Swift has a pretty good flow and Bizarre has no flow but insane lines that you'll probably find funny if you like the macabre humor that Eminem kicks. Eminem's rapping here is a bit more of the Low Down and Dirty style and while his rhymes aren't too great on this one, it's just an overall catchy song than I think is definitely worth having.
Murder Murder is an interesting song, borrowing 2Pac's chorus and a more subdued, sadder beat than No One's Iller. I particularly like this song because Eminem is talking about how he's so desperate for money that murder is on his mind. The 2Pac chorus and chanting off "Murder Murder Murder and Kill Kill Kill" creates the right hellish atmosphere, where you can picture a world-weary, hungry guy like Em looking around at all the sinning, all the murdering, and deciding to sin himself. It's kind of like Rock Bottom, with a bit more emphasis on the murdering and less on the being broke and sick of life.
All I can say in conclusion is thank God Eminem didn't succeed in committing suicide after Infinite wasn't the success he was so desperate for. After Infinite, Eminem tried a completely new approach. Instead of mimicking what HAD worked in the past, like trying to sound like the successful Nas, Eminem tried something way out of the box that might now have worked. He took a huge risk, he was different and he didn't back down. That's what made him succesful; the seeds of his success are here, in SS EP, not in Dre's production. People say that after rock bottom, the only way is up.
So get this CD if you want to hear Eminem right after his rock bottom, when he's on his way up, and the letters M and M seem buried under the new initials S S.