So it’s 1999, Bill Clinton is still President, Millennium Dome is being opened in London and a relatively unknown rapper named Eminem releases this major label debut album called The Slim Shady LP.
He was an overnight success with the record selling 283,000 copies and debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 chart behind TLC’s FanMail. With catchy beats and a unique lyrical style, you can understand why this was so successful and with Dr. Dre producing this album, it was not in doubt this was going to be a success.
However, it’s weird listening to The Slim Shady LP now knowing that there’s no hope in hell this album would be a success today, with the subject he was rapping about from drug use to beating on women, but like most things, you have to listen to it, with an understanding of the time it was made. If you can do that, then this album is still a lot of fun to listen to.
We start with a skit, of which there are a lot of on this album, “Public Service Announcement“, which was voiced by Jeff Bass, and feels almost like when a celebrity makes an apology but you don’t believe them, and it really sets the tone for the whole album.
This leads nicely to the song that this album is most known for, “My Name Is“, which sees Eminem just bitching about all the things that piss him off, and with no filler it’s great to listen too. With the “I don’t give a f**k, God sent me to piss the world off” line, this pretty much sum up what this song is about, and conversely demonstrates Eminem at his best.
The musical backdrop is simple but works to keep you interested enough to listen to what Eminem has to say. There is an instant change of structure with “Guilty Conscience“, which features Dr. Dre. It about three different people in the middle of committing violent or sexual crimes, with Dr. Dre on their good side, trying to prevent them from committing the crime, and Eminem on the bad side, egging them on.
Both get one win a piece, and the back and forth between Eminem and Dr. Dre on this song is great. If it was anybody else, I doubt if it would have worked. I love that, right at the end of the song, Dr. Dre switches allegiance and sides with the Eminem, and I understand why this song is a highlight.
We take a look at Eminem’s childhood and school day with “Brain Damage“, which tries to explain why he is so crazy, with a nice simple beat that works and just lets Eminem go off on one. I can see why people would relate to this song if they were bullied at school. It does get uncomfortable on the second verse, with him describing getting beat up.
Another skit comes in titled “Paul (Skit)” featuring Paul Rosenberg, his lawyer, just telling him to tone it down on the lyrical context. The skit does well to show how must Eminem doesn’t give a damn about what people think. The next song “If I Had” has a similar production to the previous track, but it touches on how fed up he is, of being poor and not being able to provide for his daughter.
We get really dark on “97′ Bonnie And Clyde” which is like a prequel to “Just The Two Of Us” from his EP two years before. With a straight up beat and cool bassline, this is nothing surprising music wise, but for the really uncomfortable subject matter. However, with the overall tone of the album, it works – the song is about his daughter Hailie and getting rid of his wife.
We get to another skit titled “B***h (Skit)”, featuring Zoe Winkler, with her leaving a voicemail saying she hates the record and works with getting a reaction to the song before. “Role Model” is another middle finger to people not happy with what he raps about, and Eminem is at his best once again, when he tell you how he feels.
The skit “Lounge” is a play on the famous bar scene from the film Top Gun, where Maverick and Goose sing to the girl, while “My Fault” looks at drug culture, and tells a story of Eminem giving a girl drugs, only for her to overdose and die. This feels heartbreaking with the weird style with which Eminem performs and raps on this particular song.
The weirder of the skits on the album, “Ken Kaniff“, features Aristotle and Mark Bass pranking Eminem over the phone, and recording his reaction. It is a simple skit but turns out to be one of the funniest ones on the album, and is certainly a highlight. “Cum On Everybody” which follows and features Dina Rae, is just more of a dance song and isn’t his best, with the lyrics not hitting as hard as the other tracks.
“Rock Bottom” looks into how Eminem feels about not being able to provide for his kid after losing his job and getting kicked out of his flat, this was a low point for him and is similar to “If I Had”. This is from the heart and a lot of people can relate to this song, even to this day and it is an underrated track.
This theme was also explored in “Just Don’t Give a F**k“, with Eminem going through a lot of bad times, and him feeling like nothing can get any worse, so he stops caring. Like the previous track, a lot of people will be able to relate it.
Eminem parodies soap operas in “Soap (Skit)” voiced by Jeff Bass and Royce da 5’9″, which leads into “As The World Turns“, it’s a story “about stereotypical white trash“, according to Eminem himself. I like that it is over the top, like it is in most soaps, but Eminem’s style makes this song a good listen.
“I’m Shady” is about him being a drug dealer, and where the Slim Shady character seems to first appear. The song has a really cool hook with the chorus, and is one of the songs that showed Eminem’s crossover potential. “Bad Meets Evil” featuring Royce da 5’9” follows on the album, it is a creative track about the friendship between Royce and Eminem, with Royce being Bad, and Eminem being Evil. The back and forth rapping works well, and is great to listen to.
We finish with Eminem at this very best with “Still Don’t Give A F**k”, which sees him looking back at all that he has said and done, but still not giving a f**k, which ends this album very nicely.
Overall, after 21 years, this is still a great album and I understand why fans say it’s his best. Packed with cool production, strong emotion and great rhymes, listening to this record is a nice nostalgia trip and a look back at better times for Eminem and his fans.
As I said at the beginning, this record wouldn’t get as must love with the world we live in today, but if you understand the time it was made, you can look past much of the subject matter, and still love this album. Released on February 23, 1999, via Aftermath/Interscope Records, purchase Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP on iTunes here, and stream it below.
Words by Stuart Irvine