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Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

February 14, 2014

[Album 287/1001]220px-The_Marshall_Mathers_LP

He came out swinging with the Slim Shady LP; he didn’t exactly settle down for the next round.

The Marshall Mathers LP contains several exemplars of Eminem at his most effective: when he’s in retaliation mode.

He tosses out his most devastating critical counter-arguments on the track Who Knew.

One of the many punches he lands:
“And told me that my tape taught ’em to swear
What about the make-up you allow your 12-year-old daughter to wear?”

The guest stars surprisingly detract from the album, with the exception of the Dido sample on Stan.  Marshall Mathers is at his most compelling as a one-man show.  Or I suppose a three-man show if you include his alter-egos Eminem & Slim Shady.

Undoubtedly, he says plenty of irresponsible things, at a particularly sensitive time period in U.S. history.  You could argue it’s patronizing to say that people won’t realize he is usually, to borrow his term, ‘clowning.’  Then again, as even he observed on the exceptional track Stan, not all fans will realize it’s theatre.

I like to think much of the controversy was intentional.  When responding to criticism, I picture him reacting like Axl Rose in GNR’s Get In The Ring: “You want to antagonize me?  Antagonize me ______!  Get in the ring  _____!  And I’ll kick your _____!”  Though he outdid GNR when it came to romance gone bad; if the subject matter of GNR’s Used to Love Her was disturbing, Kim is unbearable.

The Marshall Mathers LP is horrifying at times, darkly funny at others.  Throughout, Eminem understood the fundamental equation that was lost his protestors:  More protests + more controversy = More airtime/publicity/sales.

Business savvy aside, there’s some steak with the sizzle.  Eminem may will never be universally embraced as the ‘spokesperson of a generation’ but few in recent memory have been better with a pen.

There’s no denying the talent.

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From → 2000s

27 Comments
  1. A spokesman for a generation is always that guy that says what everyone else is thinking but are too scared to say. That is always Slim Shady.

    • I’d imagine there were those at the time who thought he was a flash in the pan, the ‘shock value’ wouldn’t last. 15 years later he doesn’t seem to be slowing down or mellowing out!

  2. One of my favorite releases, I listen to it a bunch.

  3. Personally not a fan, but full respect for the man’s talents.

    • And that may be the greatest fear of his critics – he’s not just a mean jerk saying stupid things. He’s quite sharp. Disturbed, but sharp.

      • Yeah he’s no dummy. He’s had a long successful career and people who know hip-hop tell me he’s amazing and I trust them.

  4. Totally agree with you on this, Steven! Not just on the rating, but what you’ve said about Eminem and the way he’s been able to take that controversy and make himself not only more popular, but a whole lot richer as well. Nothing like bad publicity, right?

    • Indeed – I always think of the Oscar Wilde line, the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about!

      Eminem later openly admitted his strategy on ‘WIthout Me’ –
      “I’m not the first king of controversy
      I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley,
      to do Black Music so selfishly and use it to get myself wealthy”

      Even though he explicitly gave away his business model, nobody has come close to competing with him!

  5. Do you have you 1001 albums decided yet, or us it always changing?

    • There’s a book series – 1001 movies/paintings/books/albums etc. you must experience before you die.
      I’m going through the original 2005 edition of the albums book. They’ve since updated the list to include new ones (and to make room, they cut some of the more recent ones).
      So yes it is always changing in a way but I’m sticking with the original edition – even if some of them are no longer ‘must hear’!

  6. I absolutely hated him til I heard Stan. That was incredible.

    • I think that & Lose Yourself would have been turning points for a lot of listeners. It was refreshing to hear someone rap about something completely different

  7. I totally agree with your post Stephen. I’m kinda ambiguous when it comes to Eminem. But if I remember correctly, he has said that his Slim Shady persona (usually the most violent one) appeared among others things because of the horrible abuse (bullying) that Marshall Matthers had to go through at school. Having those three personas (Marshal Matters the “ordinary” citizen, Eminem the artist, and Slim Shady the crazy wacko) puts things into perspective a bit.

    • That’s how I understand the personas as well – and this album has a bit of all 3. The alter ego strategy doesn’t always work well, he and Bowie seem to have been the most effective with multiple personalities.

  8. I love me some Slim Shady!
    Best line:
    “And there’s a million of us just like me
    Who cuss like me; who just don’t give a f–k like me
    Who dress like me; walk, talk and act like me
    It just might be the next best thing but not quite me!”

    So vulgar and so hated back when the LP was released, but I couldn’t stop listening!

    • With “Will Smith don’t gotta cuss in his raps to sell records;
      Well I do, so F him and F you too!” following close behind – instead of just targeting one group, he did a good job of offending everyone!

  9. Man, this is the best review you’ve ever written in my opinion. I fully agree with every word. MM LP is one of the only two hip-hop albums I own, but there’s some great stuff here. ‘Stan’ is a true masterpiece to me, on every level imaginable. Can’t think of another artist that would make this grim, disturbing, devastating, yet perfectly anchored in reality tale come alive more than Eminem does.

    ‘Kim’ is indeed disgusting and maybe too much for my taste, but the fact that I’ve never heard anything like it alone makes me respect it.

    The whole record is based on the ideology “those smart enough will realize this is just fuckin’ pop music, and those dumb…well, why the hell should I be responsible for the actions of idiots?”. And, combined with Eminem’s great and attitude-full rapping style and backing tracks, it works for me.

    But yeah, the songs with featured artists are not that strong (Stan excepted). I would give it an 8/10 if I were to.

    • Thank you sir, very much appreciated!

      I’d say he and Ice Cube are the two rap artists that have matched talent, early career controversy & longevity better than anyone. Cube came out swinging with NWA, “do I look like a____ ____ role model?!” being among his more memorable quotes. As you mentioned, MM had a similar (explicitly stated!) lack of desire to be a positive influence.

      Eminem has branched out a bit more musically but both have had acclaimed movie roles (Boyz in the hood, 8 mile) and both are still relevant, well into their careers.

  10. Lately there haven’t been an albums on your blog that I knew who the artist was. But this one!! YES!!! This was totally my college years. I was way into hip-hop at the time and everyone was just blown away by this album. I still like that Eminem is relevant today.

    • And I’d argue this album as well is still quite relevant – not all records hold up this well!

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