I remember Eminem breaking though in a big way with My Name Is and pretty much immediately writing the song and its performer off as a novelty. He was white and had a silly, nasal, jokey delivery. All that, with the wacky lyrics and video for My Name Is, and it’s asking a lot for him to be taken seriously, no matter how clever and quick fire the lyrics are. Now, almost 20 years later, he’s an undisputed hip hop legend, and I have no problem with that. But I realised, I have only ever heard the hit singles and still kind of off handedly consider Eminem novelty. But I know there’s a lot more to Marshall Mathers, which I’m hoping to discover with his breakthrough, The Slim Shady LP.
My Name Is sounds just as gimmicky and tossed off as it always has. The wordplay is impressive and there’s a certain wit to his rhymes, when they’re not being undermined by the easiest of dirty jokes and entendres. And the constant references to mentor Dr Dre sound a little needy. Like Eminem is determined to make sure we all know he’s friends with the N.W.A legend.
Speaking of Dr Dre, he brings a lot more structure and solid grounding to the conscience splitting back and forth duet/battle of Guilty Conscience. In a little over three minutes, it tells several fully formed stories about how hard it is to make the right decision, and the consequences of talking the seemingly easy way out.
“If I had one wish, it would be for an ass big enough for the whole world kiss”. Coming midway through The Slim Shady LP, If I Had is a relentless list of everything in the world that Eminem is tired of, and it kind of exemplifies the best and worst of The Slim Shady LP. The lyrics and rhyming schemes are impressive, intricate and honed to the absolute sharpest of points. But that precision is undercut again and again by the blunt instrument that is the young, dumb mind of your typical 25 year old.
It’s the same kind of young, dumb mind that would make a love song to his baby daughter built around the rapper and his child ditching the body of the freshly killed mother. But the slow groove beats and arrangement are kind of cool if you ignore the lyrics.
When Eminem announces that Cum on Everybody is his “dance song”, the amazing bass loop is almost enough to make me look past the terrible, terrible, pun-terrible title. And once again, the controversially shocking rapper is his own worst enemy. Like the best and worst parts of The Shady LP as a whole, he’s trying so hard to be shocking and controversial, every time I’d be getting lost in the awesome flow, I’d actively start listening to his insecure, childish lyrics and immediately regret it. And while the late track I’m Shady tries to put a, “only joking” wink on the entire album, too much has come before then to be dismissed with one song.