Founded in 1999 by Eminem and his manager Paul Rosenberg, Shady Records was first used as an outlet for D12. But in a few short years, the label evolved and became a force that could no longer be easily dismissed by naysayers. Today, November 24, 2014, Shady XV hits shelves. It is not only a collection of new music, but also a culmination of 15 years of greatest hits from a company responsible for some of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful music in rap history.
In honor of this milestone, AllHipHop.com has decided to review, in chronological order, the 14 Shady releases that made XV possible. Like all rap dynasties before it, the label has experienced highs and lows. Through it all though, it’s undeniable that the house Mr. Mathers and Mr. Rosenberg built changed Hip-Hop forever.
Happy 15th Anniversary Shady Records!
Devil’s Night by D12 (2001)
Devil’s Night, in certain parts, could be interpreted as a continuation of The Marshall Mathers LP. To D12’s credit though, it never truly feels as if the five other members of the group are riding the coattails of Eminem. Instead, the 19 tracks play like a cypher of witty and clever emcees trying to out shock one another for upwards of an hour. And while that shtick can grow a bit tiresome, consistently dope production makes up for it. The album isn’t quite a classic, but it certainly proves that, like the Wu-Tang Clan, D12 ain’t nuthing ta f**k wit.
Music From and Inspired by 8 Mile by various (2002)
The fantastic thing about this soundtrack is that a lot of the music on it reflects the same hunger that the character Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith, Jr. has in the movie. It is precisely that common thread that allows music from Hip-Hop legends like Rakim and Gang Starr to fit comfortably with tracks from then-newcomers 50 Cent and Obie Trice. But it’s the way in which Eminem sounds determined to prove himself all over again on his three solo records that make the biggest impact. Stripped of his ego, these songs find Em going for broke and creating some of the best music in his entire catalog. Even with the movie in mind, the line between Eminem and B-Rabbit has never been blurrier than it is on “Lose Yourself,” “8 Mile,” and “Rabbit Run.”
Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ by 50 Cent (2003)
One of the things that made 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ such a success upon its release is that it benefited from great timing. 50 stopped Ja Rule’s Hip-Pop winning streak, and injected a much needed dose of aggression into mainstream music. The reason it holds up so well today, over 10 years later, is that it is a versatile gangsta rap album. From the sordid tale of him getting shot on “Many Men (Wish Death)” to the infectious “In Da Club” and everything in between, Curtis Jackson created a modern music masterpiece.
Cheers by Obie Trice (2003)
Obie was signed to Shady for two years before his debut was released; it was definitely worth the wait. The opening song is called “Average Man,” but he quickly proves that he’s far above one when it comes to lyrics. Additionally, Trice’s flow is able to adapt to a variety of soundscapes. There is some filler on Cheers, yet it’s minimal. Deep cuts like “Bad B***h,” with a great beat from Timbaland, are clearly given just as much consideration as a radio-friendly single like “Got Some Teeth.” And Obie always holds his own, even when sharing the mic with people such as Eminem, Busta Rhymes, and Nate Dogg.
D12 World by D12 (2004)
The Kanye West produced title track is underwhelming and there are a few other records that are forgettable, but D12’s second album certainly has its high points too. Right from the jump, Eminem’s clever incorporation of “hide and go seek” and “The Name Game” song into the album’s opening verse on “Git Up” is attention-grabbing. And while it would be an overstatement to say Proof, Mr. Porter, Kuniva, Bizarre, and Swifty are out from under Em’s shadow, they do find more moments to shine here than they did on the group’s previous go-round. “Good Die Young” is a touching ode to lost loved ones (without Eminem), and Proof, in particular, spits a really cool verse on “40 Oz.”
The Massacre by 50 Cent (2005)
When listening to 50’s sophomore album, one can’t help but think that he is trying too hard to convince listeners of things they already know. He proved he wasn’t afraid of the music industry years earlier with “How to Rob,” so “Piggy Bank” feels unnecessary when atop the throne. Street cred? There was already “U Not Like Me,” so “In My Hood” just plays like the 2005 version. First, “21 Questions,” and now “So Amazing” and so on. That being said, the music isn’t bad (the Disco D produced “Ski Mask Way” especially stands out). It’s just all been done before, and by the same artist.
Second Round’s on Me by Obie Trice (2006)
Because of the bullet he took to the head, it’s understandable that Obie’s second album has a much darker tone than his debut. On one hand, the production relies heavily on creepy synths and keys (courtesy of Eminem in many cases), and the raps often reflect that same bleak point of view. But on the other, Obie seems set on telling his personal stories more than ever. The best example of this in beats and rhymes is the album closer, “Obie Story.” The way the energy of the music changes with the content of the lyrics is an outstanding touch to a very compelling autobiography.
Eminem Presents: The Re-Up by various (2006)
This compilation was originally intended to be a mixtape, and it should have stayed that way. The fact that it’s album music in mixtape format makes for a very unfocused and disjointed collection of tracks. Even with the best intentions of introducing Shady Records new talent, that mostly gets overlooked by The Re-Up’s involvement from already established rappers. “You Don’t Know” is a descent song, but far from enough to build the momentum needed to push the entire label forward.
The County Hound EP by Cashis (2007)
Time isn’t used as wisely as it could be on this release. It’s only a little over a half an hour, and too many minutes are spent on tough talk. And that’s disappointing because when Cashis is not g’d up from the feet up on record, he puts some real substance in his stanzas too. Not to say his gangsta content is weak, but he is capable of more. Take “Ms. Jenkins” for instance, it's a record where Cashis addresses the mother of someone he killed, and then the victim himself. “I had to bang you, before you bang me / Just like I blame you, you could blame me / We both gave up our lives for banging / We didn’t know each other, but we share the same hate / Your death is my life, so we share the same fate.”
Curtis by 50 Cent (2007)
50 Cent once described Curtis as “a dud” and “a blockbuster that didn’t go off.” Those are both accurate descriptions. Sales battle with Kanye West aside, a lot of the beats aren’t great and the subject matter is superficial. However, the album wasn’t a complete bomb. “I Get Money,” with its sample of Audio Two’s “Top Billin,’” was an undeniable hit and still has replay value in 2014. Plus, 50 already has a commanding flow, so when that is coupled with a rhyme like, “I took quarter water, sold it in bottles for two bucks / Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions, what the f**k?,” it creates memorable lyrics for the ages.
Before I Self Destruct by 50 Cent (2009)
Overall, Before I Self Destruct is slept on. If the mixtape-era 50 Cent were to make an official album, this is what it would sound like. While a valid case could be made that it came a few years too late, that doesn’t make the music any less powerful. “Crime Wave” finds 50 sounding as menacing as ever, and “Then Days Went By” plays like a darker more detailed version of his verse on Game’s “Hate It or Love It.” At the end, something that clearly brings the album down is the R. Kelly-assisted “Could’ve Been You” where Kellz sings about, albeit metaphorically, him and a woman smelling their own s**t. It’s just a weird way to conclude such an aggressive release.
Hell: The Sequel by Bad Meets Evil (2011)
In the Beef II documentary, narrator Keith David, when talking about Eminem and Royce da 5’9” on the come up, describes them as “potentially the two best unsigned emcees in Detroit.” And it seems that is the same state of mind that Em and Royce had when they stepped in the booth for this EP. Hell is simply two phenomenal emcees rapping their asses off. And while Slim Shady’s star power certainly helps the project with exposure, it’s less for fans of “Love the Way You Lie” than it is for ones of “Scary Movies.” If one were expecting the former, they’d be disappointed. If they wanted the latter, in the words of Em at the end of the first song, “Welcome to the CD.”
Radioactive by Yelawolf (2011)
Track 5 on Disc V of Shady XV, “Let’s Roll,” perfectly captures Yelawolf’s strong points. His sound is akin to Eminem’s, but his swagger is much more like Kid Rock’s - who also delivers an excellent hook. Mystikal and Killer Mike deserve props too for their contributions to the album, “Get Away” and “Slumerican Shitizen” respectively. Unfortunately, other parts of Radioactive feel like forced crossover concessions, and so they don’t connect. Yelawolf is an extremely talented rapper, but, because of some artistic compromises, this project is less powerful than its title suggests.
Welcome To: Our House by Slaughterhouse (2012)
Slaughterhouse is obviously a group of outstanding rappers and wordsmiths. Therefore, the thing that’s noteworthy about this album is the production. More often than not, lyrical artists get subpar beats so that the words standout. Not in this case though. For example, Mr. Porter’s instrumental for “Throw It Away” is fantastic. And the Imogen Heap-sampling “Flip a Bird,” courtesy of Black Key Beats, thinks outside the box for the better. The only misstep with Welcome To: Our House is that there isn’t much cohesion to the album as a whole, but fortunately the records themselves don’t suffer because of it.
What is your favorite release from Shady Records? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!