Having crash landed into the mainstream music world, Eminem swiftly followed up on his brilliant and wildly controversial Slim Shady LP with a prolific and monumental record that would smash sales records and go to ship massive volumes of sales. Commercial success aside it was an artistic statement the world had never heard before, Em dropping his Slim Shady persona, for all but one song, and striking back hard and critics and fans alike. Em didn't take kindly to fame and the heat he came under for his lyrics, in response he mustered this firestorm of emotion lashing out in all in his path.
If the despairing self parody of Slim Shady, drenched in drug abuse and self harm, wasn't enough, Em stepping back from his character and coming from his heart proved to be an even more violent and troubled affair. His emotional expression manifested to new extremities with alarming tracks like "Kill You" about raping his mother and the wildly theatrical "Kim" where he in-acts a frightening argument between the two and eventual torturous murders of his wife. The enormity of his struggles channeled through his raw talent makes for a level of involving song writing unheard of before.
At the time it was Em's make or break record, unsure if his fate would be that of a one hit wonder, the pressures funneled into a wildly reactionary record that would fuel the flames of controversy higher than ever, to the extent that protest groups brought it federal courts to discuss if it would be banned. Of course freedom of speech protected, all this would do is aid sales as it brought more and more attention to the rapper. With memorable MTV Award performances and a duet with Elton John at the grammys Em had forever solidified his place in music history in just a couple of years after many more as a struggling artist no one would take seriously.
Controversy and sales aside, The Marshall Mathers LP is a frozen slice of time spent inside the mind of an artist thrusted to the forefront of the worlds attention. Its reactionary nature is genius and from the keenest mind with cutting edge rhyming schemes and an undeniable flow comes a slew of consciousness that crushes all in its path. Em also brings on more guests voices, the likes of RBX and D12 upping the anti with equally vile and destructive lyricism who can never have the last laugh with Em dropping classics like "When I go out, I'm a go out shooting, not when I die, when I go to the club stupid" and "We don't do drive bys, we park in front of houses and shoot", his verses crush, its pure menace.
The record has a couple of "sequels" with Dr.Dre and Snoop teaming up to reinvent Xzibit's Bitch Please. Its a masterclass production from Dre and Mel-Man who could of easily snuck it in Dre's 2001 record. Drug Ballad is admittedly a weaker song in a string of classics but one can't help but notice the similar beat and flow to "Cum On Everybody", both are the 13th track and this song feels like a bridge between the two records. While we are talking on specific tracks I couldn't pass up on "The Way I Am" and "Stan". Two dark and harrowing songs of lyrical genius, both singles that would thrust dark subject matter to the top of the charts. The first a vivid, animated, passonate response to his critics and memorably defending Marylin Manson in a couple of lines. "Stan" is a work of art, rapped from the perspective of Em and a deranged fan exchanging letters. The scribbling of pencils and cinematic sound design but wholly the back and forth story telling has solidified it forever as a truely timeless song.
Its all been said before and it will be talked about for time to come. For me It all happened at the beginning of my love for music and every time you turned on MTV this guy was killing it. Fond memories but listening to it back all these years later its as air tight as it was then. The level of profanity and alarming lyrics that went over my head as a kid is a curiosity of sorts, especially the amount of Columbine references with Em rapping of stolen trench coats and machine guns reaching kids... There is certainly more to this record than I realized at the time but its brilliance has never been in question. A must listen for anyone who's curious.
Favorite Tracks: Stan, Remember Me, Amtyvile, Bitch Please II, Criminal