Review Summary: The transformation is complete.
It really is amazing how much people over the course of a 365-day year can change. One year they're this kind of person, the next year they're a different kind. It couldn't be more evident as it was for Detroit rapper Marshall Mathers II, aka Eminem. Just a year before he released his debut EP "The Slim Shady EP": Marshall was a young aspiring, optimistic rapper who strongly desired fame but was rapping in quite a light-natured fashion, as it was showcased in his long-lost 1996 debut LP "Infinite". His lyrically strong raps about his struggles to make ends meet, his hopes for the future, and his love for then-wife Kim just wasn't appealing enough to radio stations, music critics, or to the hip-hop community. The general public shrugged him off, criticizing Eminem because he was a white rapper and a 'wannabe' of fellow NY rapper Nas with his similar rapping style and technique. The commercial failure of "Infinite" changed Marshall: it caused him to become deeply depressed, to the point of attempting suicide. After that failed attempt, he decided to entirely ditch the positive, optimistic persona that he showcased in "Infinite" and become an alter ego that was both cynical, sadistic, and downright violent. That alter ego would be the catalyst to his eventual success, and that alter ego is known to the world as the one and only 'Slim Shady'. What you see in "The Slim Shady EP" is a mere representation of what Eminem has turned to, and still is to the very day.
Don't expect to see much of the Eminem of "Infinite" to pop up anywhere here in this debut EP: that old self of his was put to bed and dumped in the river. You won't see anything about self-empowerment, love for a girl or any of that positive subject matter. Instead, expect to see a Eminem who's pissed deeply at the world for all the harsh criticism and jabs that he was thrown during the days of his long-lost debut album. Expect to hear the Eminem that we all know and appreciate: someone who isn't afraid to call out certain pop culture icons and most bluntly rip them to shreds, a crazed psychologically-tortured man who is venting his piled-up frustrations at the world and to his doubters. It is pretty prevalent as soon as you hear the intro, which is tense as the new persona of Marshall Mathers: otherwise known as 'Slim Shady' is 'reborn' after Eminem thought he killed him. The anger and downright sinisterness of 'Slim Shady' causes the old Eminem to break in the intro, which is nothing short of suspenseful yet also bringing some emotional depth to it because of the sheer yelling and conjured anger that Marshall brings to the table in the intro. It helps make the transition to the first track "Low, Down, Dirty" even more interesting, with Eminem bursting out of the gates with a killer hook and a heavy bass-laced instrumental that is one of the better ones in the album. It feels like after Eminem broke in the intro, that in "Low, Down, Dirty" he was done fighting his alter ego and instead embraced it. The production in 'Infinite' felt a bit average and just too basic, but in "The Slim Shady EP" you can definitely tell that the beats and instrumentals are more complex yet also very excellently-made. Not entirely perfected, with "Just Don't Give A F***" being a prime example that there are problems still a bit visible, but much better than the year before. Pretty impressive considering that the main producer of 'Infinite', current Aftermath Records producer Mr. Porter, is the one working it in "The Slim Shady EP".
With the production getting much-needed improvements from the last outing of 'Infinite', Eminem's rapping and lyrical subject matter have changed a complete 360° in this album. With the comparisons to Nas and AZ from 'Infinite': Eminem completely scratched that old style and replaced it with a new rapping technique, flow, and lyricism in the new one that was really taking major risks for him. Fortunately, it worked and not just that, he excelled at it and did it with such fluidity it felt like he's been doing it for years. His excellent delivery and flow, which is infinitely better than in 'Infinite' which felt in some tracks a bit bungled and fragmented, help make tracks like "Murder Murder": which was an ode to the skyrocketing crime being committed in Detroit, absolutely enjoyable and smooth. The lyricism isn't surprising to those who've followed Eminem over the years, with his verses touching on subjects from violence in the final track "Murder Murder", to how he hates his then-wife Kim with a burning passion yet loves his then-baby daughter in "Just The Two Of Us". Its undoubtedly more explicit than seen in his earlier LP, but you also can also see that Eminem's raps are much more conscious like in "Murder Murder" where it is seen the most. However, in some spots it feels a little too bit over-the-top and unimpressive like in "Just Don't Give A F***" where it feels like Marshall is trying too hard with his multiple jabs to his haters and the mere fact that he doesn't care what you think of him now. It definitely degrades the album significantly as sometimes the parts of that kind of lyricism can get a bit repeitive and annoying.
When you look back at "Infinite" and fast forward a year later to "The Slim Shady EP", you can easily see how they differ from each other. They are complete polar opposites! "The Slim Shady EP" feels like the transition of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader, where in "Infinite" Eminem was like a 'Jedi' and then in this album he coverts to the dark side and full-on embraces it. There are some definite improvements made in the album: the production has gotten better, capturing the dire and cold atmosphere in tracks like "Murder Murder", as well as the limited guest appearances too. Swifty nails it in the hook, and Bizzare battles it out full-throttle in the battle track "Iller Iller", even in some spots outdoing 'Slim Shady' himself. While Eminem's new rapping style and technique does manage to become a rousing success considering the massive risk, the sinister-directed lyricism does hit and miss. Its not nearly as impressive as it was in "Infinite", having its rather dull moments in "Just Don't Give A F***" and a bit in "Iller Iller" but it does have its great moments. The delivery and flow in Eminem's verses out-do the ones made in his debut album, showcasing more fluidity and better transitioning. After listening to "The Slim Shady EP", it left me yawning for more and more from the then up-and-coming rapper. Fortunately for Eminem fans and for hip-hop, it was only just the beginning of that.