Rarely has an underground album come out and taken the whole world by storm. ‘Nevermind’ was that album of the 90’s; Eminem’s ‘Marshall Mathers Lp’ is the ‘Nevermind’ of the 21st century. The album has gone 9 times platinum in the U.S. and proves the motif ‘shock sells’ to be true.
As you would expect from the title, this album is a much more personal album than ‘The Slim Shady LP’, which concentrated on the exaggerated persona which he had created with ‘Slim Shady’. The songs are much darker, lyrically as well as musically, but Eminem’s black sense of humour and irony are still very prevalent. Lyrically the songs focus on the hypocritical parents of America, the critics who slated his first album and his rise to fame.
The album opens with ‘Public Service Announcement 2000’, which harks back to the intro found on the ‘Slim Shady LP’. In true Eminem fashion, he pokes fun at the listener and tries to be as offensive as he can to critics and ‘concerned’ parents. This is probably the best of the 4 skits found on the album which are nearly all unnecessary, especially ‘Ken Kaniff’ which is just lewd for the sake of it. The other 14 tracks (or 15 depending on which version you have) contain some of the finest rap of the 21st century.
It’s still surprising today that this album was, and still is, as successful as it was. Nearly all of these tracks are controversial and completely non – commercial. In a world dominated by songs by artists such as Britney Spears, ‘Stan’, a tale of a psychotic fan kidnapping and killing himself and his pregnant girlfriend because his idol Slim Shady wouldn’t reply to his letters, seems more than a little out of place.
The album as a whole is a lot more mature than its predecessor. Songs such as ‘Who Knew"’ show Eminem on his best performance lyrically, criticising the hypocritical nature and double standards of many American parents. ‘The Way I Am’ shows his disgust at the record labels for trying to make him censor his work and he also discusses the pressures of fame and the lack of privacy as a result. Compare these to songs such as ‘My Name Is…’ and you can really see how far Eminem came along as a rapper in the space of a year.
Some of the highlights are truly spectacular, such as the song ‘Kim’ which doesn’t contain any rapping at all, just heated arguments which result in Eminem strangling the ‘Kim’ (his ex - wife in real life) putting her into the boot of his car and burying her in the woods. The most amazing thing is that you actually sympathise with him rather than her. The ‘song’ musically consists of a piano playing in the background with a slow funeral-esque drumbeat and apocalyptic violins driving the song forward. If there is one song to hear from this album, it is this one. It really is the most under-rated song of Eminem’s career, which is a crying shame. It puts most metal which claims to be ‘intense’ to shame.
The production on the album is brilliant. Dr. Dre is credited with most of it, along with Mel-Man although it is the ‘Bass Brothers’ or ‘F.B.T. Brothers’ as they are credited here which really helped Eminem to come into his own as a rapper, having been there from the early days of his career. Dr. Dre was indeed important to Eminem’s career and has produced nearly all of his hit singles but the record company really used him as a marketing tool. The beats on this album are extremely good. From the sparseness of ‘Kill You’, which allow Eminem’s rapping to take centre stage to the incredibly catchy pop – beat of ‘The Real Slim Shady’ Dre did a superb job at producing this album.
Eminem raps about a variety of subjects on this album, from fantasising about killing his wife to the effect he has on children. His trademark irony is here in shed loads, such as on ‘The Real Slim Shady’ where Eminem pokes fun at the pop music industry was initially reviled by fans for being too ‘poppy’. They obviously didn’t get the joke. Eminem really was on the best form of his career lyrically for this record. Tracks such as ‘The Way I Am’ (the first track where he gets the sol credit) contain many complex-rhyming patterns. Here Eminem raps over the sound of church bells about people, including producers and overzealous fans that are putting too much pressure on him to top previous successes. He also lashes out at the media who seem to follow him everywhere looking for some controversy. The chorus line to the song nods to the Rakim song called ‘As The Rhyme Goes On’.
The album is not completely flawless. Many of the guest performances on the cd, such as Bizarre’s drag the overall quality down. Bizarre was never up to the standards of other people who perform on the cd so his inclusion on it remains a mystery to me. However on songs such as ‘Bitch Please II’ where Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, X-Zibit and Nate Dogg perform, they complement the songs greatly which they should do. As I’ve mentioned already the skits are also out of place and could easily have been left off the album.
With this album Eminem would be shot to dizzying heights of success and because of this, in my mind, he could never repeat the quality and intensity of this album. Maybe he no longer felt the need to exorcise his inner–most demons after this tour–de–force of emotion, or he simply didn’t have as much to worry about after this album.
I am giving this album a 4.5 rating. While an amazing piece of work overall, the quality isn’t maintained throughout. If Eminem had been more ruthless and cut out some of the guest performances and skits I feel the album really would be faultless. Nearly everyone has heard of this cd. However, if you haven’t, you really are missing out on a record that has helped shape the musical tastes of a generation.