Eminem season continues today with a look at his commercial debut, 1999's 'The Slim Shady LP'. After being signed by Dre and Interscope Records - it was do or die for this white boy in a black mans genre, who had to take his opportunity here and impress the masses or risk going back to poverty. You know what they say, pressure makes diamonds and that's what we got - a diamond with this classic hip hop album.
Firstly, this is classic Dr. Dre production so of course it sounds class and is full of catchy melodies. The key elements of the beats include animated boom bap beats, guitar bass' and just a whole comical feel to it overall. It may be a bit outdated at times - but it's definitely enjoyable to this day. The first beat we hear is this comical beat on 'My Name Is', which is a prime example of the beats on this thing being comical, as Em introduces his Slim Shady persona with violence and misogyny, giving us some of musics most iconic lines, "Hi, kids, do you like violence? (Yeah, yeah, yeah) // Wanna see me stick nine-inch nails through each one of my eyelids? (Uh-huh)". It's a wacky song, iconic and a real sign of what's to come. The beat on '97' Bonnie & Clyde' is an incredible beat, with haunting beat which sets up the eerie atmosphere as Em talks to Hailie about how they're going to hide her mums body - what makes it genius is how effortlessly it was rapped as if he was actually talking to Hailie, "And Mama said she wants to show you how far she can float // And don't worry about that little boo-boo on her throat // It's just a little scratch, it don't hurt // Her was eatin' dinner while you were sweepin' // And spilled ketchup on her shirt // Mama's messy, ain't she? // We'll let her wash off in the water // And me and you can play by ourselves, can't we?". Em showcases great storytelling and gives us this repetitive, simple yet catchy hook - an incredible song. 'Just Don't Give a Fuck' has this eerie screeching beat which creates a menacing atmosphere as Em gives us the perfect showcase of Slim Shady. With funny and controversial lines Em tells us he don't give a fuck while creating an amazing song in the process.
As for Eminem himself - he is brilliant on this album. You can pick a hilarious line from him in the majority of these songs as it is full of witty one liners, great punchlines, slick wordplay and lyrical acrobats. "I try to keep it positive and play it cool // Shoot up the playground and tell the kids to stay in school (Stay in school)" is a prime example of that on 'I'm Shady', as Em again introduces his alter-ego with a catchy hook over this catchy guitar melody and heavy drums - it's probably the funniest song on the album and one of the most hilarious songs I've ever heard. His ability to rhyme words just isn't matched in the rap game and this is a good showcase of that. Em's flow glides over any beat required with his smooth flow, and it is one of the reasons he's considered the best of all time. 'Role Model' is a track full of these random but witty lines, "I get a clean shave, bathe, go to a rave // Die from an overdose and dig myself up out of my grave", as in this track he takes a sarcastic approach to argue that he shouldn't be viewed as a role model. The one liners keep you intrigued over this catchy beat with an almost Western/Asian sounding beat and it's one of the best songs on the album. Em's lyrical acrobats and wordplay is clearly seen on the finale to this project 'Still Don't Give a Fuck', "I get imaginative with a mouth full of adjectives // A brain full of adverbs, and a box full of laxatives". A personal favourite of mine on the album, a sequel to 'Just Don't Give a Fuck' but with a darker tone as he takes a more mean approach and gives us an easy 10/10 song.
There's not many features on this album which really allows both Eminem and Slim Shady to properly introduce themselves without the attention going onto anyone else. The features that do appear all perform though. Eminem's mentor himself Dr. Dre joins him on 'Guilty Conscience' as the pair play devils advocate during 3 situations - a robbery, a date rape and a man catching his wife having an affair. It's full of funny lines and solid verses with Dre and Em both playing their roles great with great flows over this hard piano and catchy, animated beat. Dina Rae has a small input on 'Cum on Everybody' giving us nice backing vocals, as Em gives us some more witty lines and a great rhyme scheme/flow, "You thought I was ill and now I'm even more so // Shit, I got full-blown AIDS and a sore throat". The catchy drum pattern and lowkey dance vibe is nice but the hook is a bit meh and repetitive - the only weak part of the song (it's not horrible though). Royce Da 5'9" undoubtedly has the best feature on this thing on the track 'Bad Meets Evil', as the pair introduce the Bad Meets Evil group by being as mean as they can with clever lines, hard bars and slick wordplay. An example begin when Em says "I'm not a real person, I'm a ghost trapped in a beat // I translate when my voice is read through a seismograph // And the noise is spread // Picked up and transmitted through Royce's head (Uhh)", or when Royce uses great wordplay with "Dismissal, I'm not a fair man, disgraced the race of an atheist // Interceptin' missiles with my bare hands like a patriot". The chemistry is there for everybody to see and it's lyrically the strongest song on the album with this steel guitar and heavy drums giving us such a good beat.
This album is full of skits all throughout, and for the most part they're enjoyable and don't damage the listening experience. The first skit is the intro 'Public Service Announcement' which is just a funny introduction to the album giving us the kind of goofy, comical feel the album will produce. 'Paul' begins a run of iconic skits where Em's manager talks to Em, in this skit telling him to tone it down a bit, it's humorous and short so definitely fits in well. We then get 'Bitch' which is just a voice mail of a girl saying how disgusting Eminem's lyrics are - really promoting the controversy around this project, before moving onto 'Lounge' which just sings the hook to the following track 'My Fault'. It's not very necessary but it's short so it's not the end of the word. Then we get 'Soap' which is just the spoof of a soap opera, it's quite humorous and decent but the best skit has to be 'Ken Kaniff' where someone prank calls Eminem pretending to be a homosexual man and some of the stuff he says is hilarious and yeah it's an iconic skit.
This album for the most part is about introducing the character of Slim Shady with songs about violence, misogyny and even rape at times - controversial topics and funny stories are told throughout - such as on 'Brain Damage' where he tells us tales of him being bullied and getting brain damage - before he gets his revenge. A funny track with good storytelling as he creates a vivid image in your head over this jumpy boom bap and guitar beat with a great rhyme scheme - my only issue is it gets a bit too silly at the mother part. It does have its moments of introspection as well such as on the track 'If I Had...' where he talks on what he's tired of not having while focusing on his poverty and failing rap career. He does this over this melancholy beat with vocal samples and it's a great track but compared to other tracks on the album it's more bland and monotone than most - the repetition of tired adds effect to the introspective lyrics however as he covers a wide range of life issues. However, Em is his most vulnerable on the track 'Rock Bottom' as he tells us all about dealing with poverty and having to raise a daughter during this. With this melancholy beat he gives us emotional and introspective lyrics, "I want the money, the women, the fortune and fame // That means I end up burnin' in Hell, scorchin' in flame // That means I'm stealin' your checkbook and forgin' your name // This lifetime bliss for eternal torture and pain". You can hear the pain and hurt in his voice and I feel this is what 'If I Had...' should've been, there's more passion in this song. Not to mention the incredible rhyme scheme found throughout. I felt content wise, there was more to come of him and we still needed to know about the man Marshall Mathers himself - and luckily in the future that's what we'd get.
Other tracks on the album to look at include the song 'My Fault' which once again tells a funny story of Em at a party with this girl, as he convinces her to take shrooms and she ends up having a bad trip until she eventually dies. With funny lines and vivid storytelling, it works well over this catchy guitar melody and once again very animated beat. The last song to look at would be 'As The World Turns' which is again an entertaining story as Em tells us how he became Slim Shady before moving onto the second verse where he tries to rape and kill a fat girl before she fight backs, with Em then raping her to death, "Just tryna buy me some time, then I remembered this magic trick // Duh-dah-duh-dah-duh-duh, go-go gadget dick // Whipped that shit out, and ain't no doubt about it // It hit the ground, caused an earthquake and power outage // I shouted, "Now, bitch, let's see who gets the best" // Stuffed that shit in, crooked and fucked that fat slut to death". It's just a funny and catchy song like most on here and that's why I love it.
To conclude, this debut album from Em is an absolute classic full of funny lines, hilarious songs and lyrical stunts. It's nearly flawless, with no bad songs but you just felt Em had more to offer - and he definitely offered more with the following couple of projects. It's one of my favourite albums of the 90's and is the birth of a star and of a GOAT.
FAVOURITE TRACKS: My Name Is, 97' Bonnie & Clyde, Role Model, Rock Bottom, Just Don't Give a Fuck, As The World Turns, I'm Shady, Bad Meets Evil, Still Don't Give a Fuck
LEAST FAVOURITE TRACK: If I Had...
OVERALL RATING: Light 9.5/10