Eminem - The Slim Shady LP


Record Label: UNI/Interscope
March 1999 Review by Brian Bender    Author


Eminem - The Slim Shady LP

7 reasons why The Slim Shady LP just might be the best hip-hop album of the year:

1. My Name Is...

The video for Eminem's first single tops the charts on cable television music video formats. In the video, Eminem appears at various times as satirical versions of President Clinton, Marilyn Manson and a ventriloquist's dummy operated by the NBA's George Mureghsant. To be honest, this is one of the weakest tracks on the album, so it's not really a good indicator of Eminem's talent. However, it features a catchy hook, so its popularity is understandable. As the album opener, it's a good way to warm up the the zany messed-up mindset that Eminem portrays. The major themes of the album--drug abuse and self-deprecating humor--are hinted at, and we're given a small taste of the insanity to follow.

2. Guilty Conscience

Dr. Dre, who produced many of the album's tracks, is featured as a guest vocalist on this track. The story is set up in a cheesy television news magazine format (think American Journal or Inside Edition), with a narrator introducing each segment before Shady and Dre take over. Throughout the song, we meet a guy who wants to rob a liquor store, a raver who considers getting-it-on with an underage guest and a construction worker who discovers his wife's adultery. Dre plays the part of the "good conscience", while Slim Shady plays the part of the "evil conscience". Like an angel and a demon whispering in the ears of the protagonists, the two argue the possible consequences of each action. Dre appeals to morality and reason, while Eminem advocates revenge, lust and violence. It seems to be a stalemate until Eminem calls on Dre's past, and questions his credibility as a voice of reason:

Mr. Dre, Mr. N.W.A, Mr. A-K
Comin' straight outta Compton, y'all better make way
How in the fuck you gonna tell this man not to be violent?

In the end, Dre realizes the absurdity of his role, and agrees that it would be so much more satisfying to give in to the dark side.

3. Brain Damage

In this one, Eminem tells a story in the spirit of the Fresh Prince's classic, "I Think I can Beat Mike Tyson". Using different wacky voices, he paints a scene of many different characters interacting with one another. As an elementary school student, Eminem is harrased by an eigth grade bully. Turning to his teachers and the school's principal for help, he is dismayed when they both join in--beating the crap out of him. Looking for sympathy at home, he only finds an alcoholic mother who swats at him with a television remote-control. In the end, he visits a doctor who diagnoses him with brain damage.

4. If I Had

"If I Had" is set up as a poem. As the beat starts, Eminem begins as if he were reciting a poem in school. "Life--by Marshall Mathers" (his real name). Eminem expounds on the questions of life, then begins a long list of everything that makes him tired of living.

Tired of using plastic silverware
Tired of working at Builder's Square
Tired of not being a millionaire

After listing everything that frustrates him about his life, he pretends that he receives a million dollars, and lists everything that he would do with it, including "Buy a brewery and make the whole world alcoholics" and "Get a big enough ass for the whole world to kiss."

5. '97 Bonnie and Clyde

This gem is the centerpiece of the album, and takes a macabre look at a more sensitive side of Slim Shady. As illustrated on the album cover, this songs contains the story of a man who murders his wife, takes his daughter and runs away to Mexico. Nothing special. It's a grim theme, but nothing terribly out of the ordinary. What makes it so mesmerizing is the way that the entire rap is designed as the father's nervous babbling to his baby daughter. Filled with goo-goos and gah-gahs, he explains to "Baby-La-La" what a bad person "Da-Da" has been, then reminds her that he loves her more than anything. In contrast to the way most mainstream rappers glamorize violence, "97 Bonnie and Clyde" expresses the fear and desperation of a man running from the law. It reminds us that criminals are everyday people who made mistakes. This tale is definitely not glamourous; it will make you shiver and feel like crying at the same time.

6. Role Model

In "Role Model", Slim Shady takes a look at the curious phenomenon of celebrity role models. With his typical sarcasm, Eminem brags about how "bad" he is--and encourages everyone listening to emulate him.

My middle finger won't go down, how do I wave?
And this is how I'm supposed to teach kids how to behave?
Now follow me and do exactly what you see
Don't you wanna grow up to be just like me?
I slap women, eat 'shrooms and O.D.
Don't you wanna grow up to be just like me?

As the song goes on, he gets more and more ridiculous--making it very clear that nobody in their right mind would ever choose Eminem as a role model. With absurd seriousness he brags: "I just sprayed an aerosol can at the ozone layer", before finally finishing with:

I got genital warts and it burns when I pee.
Don't you wanna grow up to be just like me?

7. Cum on Everybody

In stark contrast to most hip-hop party songs, Eminem's dance number is a triumph of self-hate. It's refreshing to find a rapper who concentrates not on mindless boasting cliches, but with creative ways of putting himself down.

I'm bored outta my gourd
So I took a hammer and nailed my foot to the floorboard of my Ford
I guess I'm just a sick, sick bastard
One sandwich short of a picnic basket
One Excederin tablet short of a full medicine cabinet

This is only half the album--but it summarizes the lyrical context. It's hard to compare Eminem to other rappers out there--but his sound is occassionally reminiscent of Cypress Hill, The Beastie Boys or Snoop Doggy Dogg (which makes sense with Dre at the console). As I was listening, I actually had some other comparisons come to mind. In its overall tone and thematic content, The Slim Shady LP reminded me of The Violent Femmes's teen-angst anthems or Beck's "I'm a Loser, Baby". It can be wacky, gruesome, hilarious, angry, satiric and just plain stupid. And it just might be the best of the year.


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