Review Summary: The sound of a man filled to bursting with words finally getting his shot to let it out.
If you wanted a picture to sum up the state of Eminem in the last 12 years it would be a big fat >:(. Every Eminem album following The Slim Shady LP has been a bigger and bigger frown than the last album culminating in the giant slab of self-seriousness that is Recovery. When he pops up on camera he can manage at best a grimace but most of the time those lips remain curled firmly downward. Since Eminem has been this way for quite some time, revisiting The Slim Shady LP might come as a shock to the system. With only a few exceptions, it’s a giant sloppy grin of an album, and its more fun than anything Eminem has touched since.
The key ingredient to the songs here is their unpredictability. Songs like “As the World Turns”, which begins as a routine boasting song, ends with Slim slaying a gay porn watching woman with his earthquake-causing dick. On “Brain Damage” he crafts a story of revenge that climaxes with his mom beating him over the head with the TV remote causing his brain to fall out which is then sowed back into his head. Hard to find many rappers that wrote songs like that and had top 40 singles. Plus, for a guy who claims “This aint a joke/I’m no comedian”, Eminem sure did make a hilarious album. The entire second verse of “Cum On Everybody” in particular makes me giggle like an idiot (“I go onstage in front of a sellout crowd/And yell out loud/All y’all get the hell out now”).
One of the most interesting things about the disc is it’s the only time Eminem shows up on record in pure battle rap form. In particular, “Just Don’t Give A ***” and its sequel “Still Don’t Give A ***” are just total decimations of other rappers. Lines like “You wacker than the mother***er you bit your style from/You aint goin’ to sell two copies if you press a double album” make it very clear how many local Detroit rappers were vanquished by Eminem’s impeccable way with words. He mentions four rappers he had beef with right at the start of verse two of “Just Don’t Give A ***” and the song is so potent it wiped their discographies off the face of the earth, and this was his debut single. But having great lyrical skills alone isn’t enough to make Eminem a battle rap legend. He also turns the pen on himself so much it disarms the person he’s battling, “I don’t know why the *** I’m here in the first place/My worst day on this earth was my first birthday”. Change the first-person pronouns to second person and the line becomes just another battle rap line, but since Eminem shoots himself with it he seems more insane, like a man with nothing to lose.
Not everything works though; whenever Eminem gets dead serious it sends me scrambling for the skip button. “Rock Bottom” is as good as the serious tracks go but the awkward chorus and annoyingly earnest soul singing sink “If I Had”. “My Fault” is a vividly drawn concept song but confusing in its tone since it begins with a hammy skit and ends with Eminem genuinely bawling his eyes out. The sequencing seems to have been done at random; the skits are lame especially when they get stapled to the front of the otherwise excellent “Bad Meets Evil”. But Eminem’s love of rapping saves even the worst moments of the album. Seriously, I cannot stress just how good the wordplay is, you don’t even have to know what song “Livin’ amuck/never givin’ a ***/gimmie the keys I’m drunk/and I’ve never driven a truck” is from to understand what a great rhyme scheme that is.
While the title of best Eminem album still belongs to The Marshall Mathers LP, it’s his debut that’s the most interesting. I’d chalk a lot of this up to it being the only Eminem album with something at stake. Even if every album after this one was just mediocre they still would have sold respectably due to what a phenomenon this made him, but his success wasn’t guaranteed while this was being made and I’m sure Eminem knew that. But even with that kind of pressure bearing down on him The Slim Shady LP is damn impressive in the way it takes risks. It doesn’t play it safe in any sense of the word, nothing on here is for the ladies, no obvious concessions to radio, no R&B singer on the hook, just the sound of an artist fighting to make the debut he wanted to make. And he made fun of Dr. Dre for slapping Dee Barnes on a song featuring Dr. Dre. That takes some balls.
Fun fact: I was born in 1990, and yet I didn't really "discover" Eminem until this spring because I was a metalhead as a kid. I have now racked up over 4000 plays on last.fm. SSLP, MMLP and the Eminem show are all classic album, and it's amazing how relevant Em still is today. His flow is ridiculous, and Recovery was a solid comeback.
AFAIK, he wrote "If I had" after Infinite failed and he tried to kill himself. It was on the SSEP, too. The song still gives me the chills, it's the best one on here, I can't believe you dissed it! Knowing that makes it so freaking emotional. Also love Rock Bottom and everything else.
The only bad/mediocre song there is Drips, I think. It's just a little foul and stupid. I feel the rest are all brilliant songs. The Marshal Mathers LP was his serious, angry album, and on the Eminem show he's just having fun and showcasing his flow. However it also has plenty of serious tracks. Much to love. Anyway, do review that later and I'll make sure to read it
"I was born in 1990, and yet I didn't really "discover" Eminem until this spring because I was a metalhead as a kid. I have now racked up over 4000 plays on last.fm. SSLP, MMLP and the Eminem show are all classic album, and it's amazing how relevant Em still is today. His flow is ridiculous, and Recovery was a solid comeback."
Same thing for me, bro. I often avoid some of the more popular music and I never really listened to the radio. But I recently tried to get into hip hop in the last year and I thought Eminem would be a good place to start. Thank God, too.