Review Summary: Eminem shows many rappers how to create one of the most open and incredible works of art in the genre
Eminem. One of a number of hip-hop artists that has also achieved strong positive reactions outside of a purely hip-hop fan base. He has gained notoriety through his hit songs such as Stan and, most recently, Not Afraid and enormous commercial success. No matter how poor the quality of his more recent works; Eminem won over millions with his early works; and it is often said that he hit his peak on The Marshall Mathers LP. His career began when he acquired a strong underground following with his debut studio album Infinite, and his fan base rapidly grew with the release of his follow-up album The Slim Shady LP. This album in particular showcased a knack for being able to blend comedy seamlessly into some well-crafted verses; and from the release of his third album, The Marshall Mathers LP, the rest is history.
The album itself is fourteen songs long and there are also four skits. It was released to immense critical acclaim in May 2000; won a Grammy award; and has since received a Diamond certification in the United States. An interesting fact is that on the clean, censored version of the album there was an additional song called The Kids which replaced the song most likely to offend: Kim. The album was released via Aftermath Entertainment and has production credits from a variety of individuals such as Dr. Dre, Mel-Man and Eminem himself. In place of the dark humour that its predecessor was ridden with; The Marshall Mathers LP takes a much more bleak and honest outlook on Eminem's own personal life, switching to Marshall's viewpoint instead of the evil Slim Shady's. It runs for an hour and twelve minutes and features many of Eminem's most well-known tracks including Stan and The Way I Am, both of which were mega-hits that would later make his Curtain Call compilation.
Much of the album was spontaneously created whilst in studio in 20-hour sessions and involved little to no pre-meditation before writing the lyrics. Instead; Marshall would take an idea that came into his head whilst various events were taking place such as over-hearing a Jeff Bass song. The result is an album that feels as honest and open as can be. Before albums such as Rebirth by Lil' Wayne paved the way for rappers to take a minimalist approach, it took a lot of effort to create an album with the kind of scope as Eminem's third record. Nowhere on here is there a pedestrian beat that one would hear daily on the radio, but instead every beat on here feels fresh and different to the others. This is not an example of an album where the songs blend into one another and it just degrades into a snooze-fest with a couple of moments that stand out but instead the entire album is enjoyable and has some incredible beats. The Way I Am in particular starts with an almost gothic backing instrumental; whilst The Real Slim Shady has a bouncy and fun feel to it. Stan makes the best possible use of numerous effects such as the pit-pat of rain drops and the scratching of a pen mimicking the letter that Eminem is supposed to be writing to a suicidal fan. This is not a release where the beats take the centre stage but they are far from the re-hashed nonsense Eminem floods his newer releases with.
The lyrics also capture Eminem at his artistic peak. Whilst the humour is kept to a minimum on here, it is still present but it is the phenomenal story telling that Eminem shows off with; lovingly crafting a collection of emotionally intense tracks. Going into this release one might expect either an over-hyped and bloated release or one with a number of stand-out tracks due to the frequency of which albums are said to be "incredible" when they are, in fact, not. Coming out of this release, one would tell you a different story. It is unlikely any listener will ever forget the demented screaming and impressions of his former wife that Eminem puts you through on Kim. Nor will they let go of the dark and truthful representation of life as a famous rapper shown off on The Way I Am. Who Knew and Stan are both songs in which Eminem shows how someone’s actions can unwittingly affect others with a morbid but honest stand point. The lyrical content here really does capture Eminem as a story teller; equipped with some clever metaphors and air tight flows. He throws himself into every song with a lot of energy and character; and this entire release is one bucket of sweat and emotion, and it never lets up in its graphic snap shots into Eminem's personal life with tales of past relationships and suicidal fans.
The Marshall Mathers LP is a rare example of an album that not only lives up to its hype but actually eclipses it. Think of this as the OK Computer of hip-hop; an album where every moment of every song is crafted with such attention to detail that the entire thing becomes as precious and invaluable as life itself. Eminem was at his peak on here and it was really only a down-hill slope from there on out; culminating with his most recent album Recovery. It incorporates both the humorous side of Eminem and also the story telling side of him, with a far greater emphasis on the latter, and showcases some of the best lyrics in hip hop ever.