#352: The Slim Shady LP, Eminem
Eminem, we meet again, and for the last time.
Em’s major label debut was released in 1999, and if you were in elementary school around that time, then you know just how massive Eminem’s influence was.
For instance: I was in the third grade when I became aware of this album, and purchased the clean version of “My Name Is.” Hearing the dirty version was shocking — not because I’m some delicate flower who is afraid of swears, but because virtually every single line is different. Hi kids, do you like violence? Becomes Do you like Primus?/ Wanna see me stick Nine Inch Nails through each one of my eyelids? (As it happens, I do love Primus.) God sent me to piss the world off becomes Dre sent me to tick the world off. He basically wrote two separate songs to the same beat — and don’t get it twisted, neither one of them is “clean.” No matter how offensive you find his lyrics, you gotta give him credit for that.
Eminem is innovatively graphic. On “Paul,” his manager leaves a frank voice memo asking Em to tone it down a little bit — then just a song later, “If I Had,” Em tells his listeners to **** his **** with a ****** on. His defense is, of course, that he is no “Role Model,” and that he “Just Don’t Give A Fuck,” doubling down with “Still Don’t Give A Fuck.” Of course, to a degree, he’s right — he’s not making music for children. Hell, he says as much on opener “Public Service Announcement,” stating frankly that Children should not partake in the listening of this album.
But like I said: me and all my friends discovered Em in the third grade. And just like with The Marshall Mathers LP, you do get the sense that Eminem may just hate women. “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” is yet another song about Em fantasizing about murdering his ex-wife, made even grosser by the fact that his daughter Hailey is also featured babbling baby talk on the track. “Guilty Conscience,” which casts Em as the devil on your shoulder and Dre as the angel, references the time that Dre assaulted female rapper Dee Barnes. Quote Wikipedia: Dre “began slamming her head and the right side of her body repeatedly against a brick wall near the stairway” and later “grabbed her from behind by the hair again and proceeded to punch her in the back of the head.” Yep, super funny.
In anticipation of this criticism, “Bitch” calls out any woman who dares to complain about this exercise in freedom of speech. The only song featuring a woman that landed with me was “My Fault,” a song about Em accidentally giving a girl far too many drugs. Maybe it’s because it’s the only song where he seems to feel remorseful for a woman’s death.
As RS points out, though, the person Em has the biggest problem with is himself. He shares that people have counting him out since childhood in “Brain Damage,” and “Rock Bottom” is similarly revealing. “Cum On Everybody” has the following upsetting lines: I tried suicide once and I’ll try it again/ That’s why I write songs where I die at the end.
Look — Eminem is a relic. This came out nearly 25 years ago, and in that quarter-century, the culture has tired of men in power abusing women, in real life and in music and media. I certainly am tired of it. But the reason Eminem was so successful was his ambivalence about the violent thoughts that he so often expresses. It doesn’t feel good to be an angry person, and no one raps about that better than Eminem.
Favorite Reference: “I’m Shady” has Em as a seedy drug dealer, and the chorus is lifted from Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman.”
Fun Fact: On “Bad Meets Evil,” Em collaborates with Jeff Bass. Later on, the two would become a duo that released music under the name Bad Meets Evil. Apt!