Throwback Review: Eminem x The Slim Shady LP

(Released February 23rd, 1999)

Described as the best album released by Marshall Mathers, Eminem’s The Slim Shady Lp is brash and bold; released during a time when this rap style shocked the general public and left many disgusted. But, in a weird, twisted way it worked for Em. No other artist can paint scenarios of killing his wife, mother and everyone else in between whose name wasn’t Hailey the way Shady does; and actually get away with it while simultaneously crossing over into the mainstream Pop world while sticking to his guns, figuratively and quite literally.

The brashness and comedic style is portrayed as soon as the album hits the one second mark. Public Service Announce is a take on exactly that, a PSA, but in the world of Slim Shady. Advising the listeners to stay away from drugs and to not actually try any of the things Eminem has; this advice wasn’t taken too seriously by some obsessed fans and later turned into the infamous song Stan. But, I digress.

The first official track, My Name Is, is controversial to say the least. Listening to this 17 years later I’m still appalled that he was able to pull this off and it became his breakout hit. Everything from his moms drug use, wanting to assault Pam Anderson, and killing his absent father in a dream, on paper that sounds like a catastrophe. And that’s what it is. But the playful, believable flow of the Detroit native keeps your attention and leaves you craving for more. Even though May Name Is is what caught the eyes of everyone and skyrocketed Eminem’s career, I was stunned to learn he has never made a dime from the record due to a falling out with the owner of the sample the song uses. Labi Saiffre was upset over the homophobic lyrics and forced them to be changed from “My English teacher wanted to fuck me in Junior High/ Only problem was my English teacher was a guy” to “My English teacher wanted to flunk me in Junior High/Thanks a lot, next semester I’ll be 35.” He agreed, but in true rebel Eminem fashion he released the original version of the record on the B-side of the single Guilty Conscience, Labi Saiffre also demanded 100% of the publishing.

Speaking of Guilty Conscience, what a record that is. The Dr. Dre assisted track narrates three different scenarios, all bizarre and cringeworthy in their own ways. The NWA founder takes the role as the “good conscience” and combats with Em’s, or Shady’s, ill approach to “helping” people decide on how to handle life obstacles. The climax involves the pair fighting over right and wrong while coming to the conclusion that there was only one way to take care of the situation at hand, which involved a shotgun.

The outlandish bars and ideas seem to never die as one song comes to an end and fades into the next track. Brain Damage is a real life story about a bully that used to beat him up almost everyday. The beatings from D’Angelo Bailey caused Marshall serious injuries back in the day, to the point where he bled out of his ears and slipped in and out of consciousness for five whole days.

Ever since the day I was born, drugs is what they say I was on/They say I never knew which way I was going/But everywhere I go they keep playing my song

The album takes a turn from being blunt and comedic and transitions into more somber territory. If I Had, ’97 Bonnie and Clyde, Role Model and Rock Bottom hit home in a different way than the previous tracks. “What is life?” Em asks on If I Had. The song expresses the frustration with not being financially or even mentally stable enough to live the life he’s dreamed of living.

Okay, I’m going to attempt to drown myself. You can try this at home. You can be just like me. 

The opening lines of Role Model, and it’s chorus, completely contradict what was stated in PSA. But the lyrics are conveyed with a mimicry undertone. In his own way, that may have been overlooked at the time by some, he’s  pointing out and detailing his flaws. Well aware that the vices he uses to escape his reality shouldn’t be condoned in any way, shape or form.

’97 Bonnie and Clyde is a play on Will Smith‘s Just The Two Of Us, which was released two years earlier. What other artist could devise a plan about murdering his wife, and mother of his daughter, and get away with it while also having the toddler appear on the song? Only Eminem. In The midst of having his daughter be an accomplice of her mothers murder, Eminem intertwines dialogue that would make the child feel comfortable. The switch between a psychopathic killer and loving father is effortless and doesn’t seem out-of-place at all.

I told you it’s okay Hai-Hai/ Wanna ba-ba?/ Take a night-night?/ Nan-a-boo, goo-goo ga-ga?”

Rock Bottom was initially intended to be Eminem’s last song…ever. The rapper actually planned on ending it all by way of swallowing over a dozen pills; he did go through with it but ended up vomiting up the drugs. Clearly written and recorded during a depressive state, that tone flows throughout the song and the pain can be felt decades later.

This song is dedicated to all the happy people/ All the happy people who have real nice lives/ And have no idea what it’s like to be broke as fuck.

The more comedic side of Shady reappears on My Fault, Cum On Everybody (such a neat title, right?), As The World Turns and his breakout underground hit Just Don’t Give A Fuck and it’s sequel, appropriately titled Still Don’t Give A Fuck. There’s also an appearance by Royce Da 5’9″ on Bad Meets Evil, which would later become the duo’s name.

Overall, The Slim Shady Lp still stands its ground almost 20 years after it’s release. There’s not too many cons on the project and the ones that are there can be dismissed easily. Although the majority of this album was recorded while Em was under the influence, those negative effects don’t hold him back on his mainstream debut but would ultimately come back to haunt him in years to come. For most music lovers SSLP sits at the top when it comes to listing Eminem’s albums from best to worst, and rightfully so. Everything from his flow, rhyming superiority and ability to make statements that others would only dream of continue to hold weight today, pushing this record and Marshall Mathers into classic and legendary status.

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