The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of AllHipHop.com
On May 23, 2000, thirteen years ago today, Eminem’s second major-label album, The Marshall Mathers LP, was released. I was a thirteen-year-old and in seventh grade at the time.
I’ll never forget how much of an impact that album had in the hallways of my middle school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Guys started wearing plain white T-Shirts and girls that had been reciting Britney Spears songs knew the lyrics to “The Real Slim Shady” word-for-word by Memorial Day. When I heard the album for the first time in its entirety early that summer, it was morbidly mesmerizing.
As I listen to that album today, it holds up incredibly well. I am now twenty-six and so The Marshall Mathers LP has been in my music collection for half of my life. And while some pop culture references may be dated, the lyrics, beats, and delivery remain some of the best ones that Hip-Hop has ever produced. I still play the album on a somewhat frequent basis, and recently came to realize that it is to Generation Y what Nirvana’s Nevermind was to Generation X: an example of artists becoming mainstream as a result of spitting in the face of it.
In honor of The Marshall Mathers LP’s thirteenth anniversary, I reflect on hearing it for the first time and what it’s like listening to it now. Some opinions have changed; some haven’t. Regardless, it definitely proved Eminem wasn’t a fluke and that he was, in fact, one of the most skilled emcees to emerge in a very long time.
I recall watching “EmTV” on MTV the weekend before Marshall Mathers came out, and after Eminem picked his favorite music videos and parodied MTV shows for a few hours, he did an interview with Kurt Loder. During their conversation, it became clear that the album was very explicit. But after hearing “Guilty Conscience” and “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” from The Slim Shady LP a year earlier, I remember thinking, “How much more shocking could he be?” But after I heard “Kill You,” I saw what all the hoopla was about. And that was just the first song.
By the time the album ended, Eminem was my new favorite rapper. The album was funny in a way that hardcore rap usually wasn’t (and still isn’t). My favorite lyrics were, “Cause if I ever stuck it to any singer in show biz, it’d be Jennifer Lopez / And Puffy, you know this / Sorry Puff, but I don’t give a f*** if this chick was my own mother / I’d still f*** her with no rubber / And c** inside her, and have a son and a new brother.” It was offensive and disturbing, but also a little clever and honest.
“Kim” and “The Way I Am” were powerful records, but the album’s best song was “Stan.” The way that he gave the perspective of a fan and then what it’s like to be the person that’s idolized was astonishing.
Eminem is still one of my favorite rappers and “Stan” remains one of rap’s best songs ever. And in addition to solidifying Eminem’s chops, the album also made a major contribution to the legacy of Dr. Dre. While he obviously gave Em his break, The Slim Shady LP only had a few tracks produced by him. The Marshall Mathers LP, on the other hand, had more and that is reflected in the quality of the album.
One of the reasons I think the album connected so powerfully with audiences was that Eminem put so much of his personal life into his songs. He got more specific- he didn’t just say Detroit, he said that ICP “ain’t seen a f****n’ Mile Road south of 10.” He didn’t just rap about a wife- he put a name, Kim, with it. Listeners knew about the relationship with his mother. By putting detail into stuff like that, he made his subject matter real people, places, and things, and that gave him a way to be authentic and make people really care about him.
In a nutshell, Eminem’s second Aftermath release is about the pressure of being in the spotlight. The rhyme that I now feel is the best is from the verse he closes the album out with, “If I ever gave a f***, I’d shave my nuts / Tuck my d*** in between my legs and cluck / You motherf***ing chickens ain’t brave enough / To say the stuff I say, so just tape it shut / S**t, half the shit I say, I just make it up to make you mad so kiss my white naked a**.” That pretty much sums it all up.
While Eminem has seen incredible success since The Marshall Mathers LP, it still remains his magnum opus. Yes, it is the fastest-selling solo album in music history and the winner of countless awards, but that’s beside the point. This is a great album because the music is really damn good and it deserves to be recognized for that more than the controversy it created or the commercial success it achieved.
What do you think of The Marshall Mathers LP? Share your thoughts in the comments section!