Eminem creates quite the conundrum for listeners. You love his razor sharp satirical wit but he’s full of wicked inspiration. When he pulls back the curtain and allows you to peer inside, it’s a marathon of psychosis; song after song of brilliantly spun words that outline the brutal aftermath of abandonment and abuse. It’s a dark flash of fantasy insanity that can make you cringe in astonishment; not only because he said what he said, but because you listened to and enjoyed every bar. Hell, you can’t listen to crazy Larry from marketing at the water cooler for 30 seconds, but you allow Slim Shady to whisper the most sinister of sweet nothings in your ear and you beg for more.
Eminem’s music was never separating fact from fiction because he pulled you into the world he created; everything was real. However, critics and fans alike have debated the authenticity of Em’s words for years and the two albums at the forefront of that discussion have always been The Slim Shady LP and the Marshal Mathers LP. Legitimacy aside though, which one do you think is better?Eminem-Feat-Royce-da-59-Bad-Meets-Evil1.mp3
When Eminem released the video for “My Name is,” it was fun and games. The pot shots at the celebs and his mom momentarily raised an eye brow but overall it was harmless youthful brashness. His cadence on the song was child-like, the track was cartoonish and the video was silly. It wasn’t until you removed the shrink wrap and settled in for the entirety of the Slim Shady LP that you realized that beneath that mischievous precociousness was a dark deviance that was both gripping and repulsive. It was a wild, imaginative ride rife with murder and mayhem; topped off with a wink.
The production, courtesy of Dr. Dre along with Mark and Jeff Bass, was scant and atmospheric. Just enough thump when necessary as the producers acquiesced to Em’s feral thought process. Gone were the overlapping funk samples and r&b vocal arrangements of Dre’s Death Row. There was just enough music to give Eminem something to ride and when the production did get a bit chunky it was to lend emotion to the contorted story Em was telling.
There were tales of drug use, statutory rape and suicide with especially venomous monologues reserved for his wife and mother. Death by shrooms, making your toddler weigh down and dispose of her own mother’s dead body and having your brain beat out of your head just so you could duct tape it back in. It would have been gawd awful if it wasn’t so brilliantly irreverent and amusing. But Em came back a little over a year later with the Marshall Mathers LP and with it he ushered in a much more grounded persona. The bars were more personal so the concepts were even more disturbing because for the first time they seemed based in reality; perhaps this really was Eminem.
Marshall was projecting from a totally different socio-economic plane on The Marshall Mathers LP. While he spent half his time bemoaning being broke and fantasizing about being super duper rich on Slim Shady, he spent just as much time decrying the new set of problems that came with the fame and fortune he worked so hard to obtain on his 3rd release.
From there, Marshall dove back into his dysfunctional childhood and seemingly almost as dysfunctional marriage. The uber controversial album cut, “Kill You” provided yet another horrible vision of Mathers relationship with his mother and his thoughts on the fairer sex in general. The production was somber and his delivery was missing the lilt and bouncy intonation from Slim Shady. The realism involved made you wonder if his previous album was the tongue in cheek romp through the surreal side of Em’s mind that we made it out to be. Marshall Mathers was much darker and unsettling.
The album ran the spectrum on style and technique, switching lanes and speeds like a Testerosa on an open road. Multiple flows and rhyme schemes either clung tightly to or bounced all over the production. Dre, Em, Mel Man, FBT and even the 45 King lent a hand behind the boards and the construction was impeccable. It also softened the blow of Eminem’s demons being hurled at you at fastball speed over and over again.
The Slim Shady LP was a breakthrough on several levels, mixing taboo and comedic elements with gloriously repugnant results, but The Marshall Mathers LP honed that success into a project that sliced and diced through all of your PC nonsense like a Hattori Hanzo. However, one has to be the best. Which is it?