The Slim Shady LP, by Eminem
Suggested by Andy Devine (FA)
If there’s anyone that can give Snoop Dogg a run for his money in the self-promotion stakes, it’s Eminem.
Eminem’s major label debut, and the subject of this review, is The Slim Shady LP. Slim Shady is, of course, Eminem’s nickname. On this album is the song My Name Is, the chorus of which relies on constant repetition of this nickname. Eminem’s follow-up album is The Marshall Mathers LP, reviewed for this project as Album 249. Marshall Mathers is Eminem’s real name. Two years later, his following album is called The Eminem Show. So that’s three straight albums, each taking their title from his name.
At the turn of the century, I was quite the Eminem fan. I owned The Slim Shady LP, and The Marshall Mathers LP, and I unironically enjoyed them both. Here was a fresh new rap voice with enough of the familiar tropes (such as repeated name use) to feel comforting, but with enough horrorcore edge to be genuinely shocking. I danced to the beats, laughed at the skits, and sang along with him.
The characters he portrayed in his songs were in-your-face, burn-your-bridges, to-the-hilt. Loud, crass, and impossible to ignore. He’d talk about dysfunction, about getting drunk and high, about violence towards women, about child abuse, about intolerance to homosexuals. About rape, about murder. It was dark stuff, but it wasn’t real, and it’s all tongue in cheek, right? I’d hand-wave it all away, mostly because that was easy.
I’ve documented my inner conflicts about The Slim Shady LP and its artistic merit in my Album 249 review. There’s nothing new I can add to that in relation to my thoughts on the artist in general, but I suppose there are things to be said about this album in particular.
For a start, it’s not as angry as the follow-up. The songs still deal with the dark half of humanity, but there’s a more noticeable whimsy and even self-deprecation in the margins of each. There’s fewer tracks that channel direct aggression, and a lot more with a scattergun approach, lightly spritzing the listener’s moral compass instead of power-washing it with a firehose. Some songs are genuinely funny, like the ode to an O.D. on shrooms that is My Fault, or the duelling devil-and-angel act with Dr Dre that is Guilty Conscience. There’s still a lot to object to in the content, but my mouth was twitching in mirth, like hearing a resonant fart at a funeral.
For me, the most objectionable song is ‘97 Bonnie & Clyde, in which Eminem sweet-talks his infant daughter into helping him dispose of his murdered wife’s body. That was just horrendous. My standout song is the de facto opener My Name Is, as it captures the rapper’s early temperament to perfection.
I enjoy The Slim Shady LP a touch more than The Marshal Mathers LP, so I’ll award it 6/10. I can’t go higher, as the disquieting seeds are clearly sown and sprouting throughout this debut, the sour fruits of which are plattered up in double-downed diatribes on further ugly works.