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Will The 'Slim Shady LP' Still 'Stand Up'? 20 Years Of Eminem's Breakout Album

Eminem performs on stage at the MTV Movie Awards, on Sunday, April 13, 2014, in Los Angeles. (John Shearer/Invision for MTV/AP Images)
Eminem performs on stage at the MTV Movie Awards, on Sunday, April 13, 2014, in Los Angeles. (John Shearer/Invision for MTV/AP Images)

This show originally aired Feb. 28, 2019.

Editor’s note: This hour contains language and music that some listeners may find offensive.

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Eminem’s “Slim Shady LP” at 20. We look at the legacy of the landmark album that courted as much controversy as record sales.



Brian McCollum, music writer and critic for the Detroit Free Press, where he’s covered music for more than two decades. (@freep)

Bakari Kitwana, author of “Why White Kids Love Hip Hop,” among other books. Director of “Rap Sessions: Community Dialogues on Hip-Hop.” (@therealbakari)

Listen To ‘The Slim Shady LP’

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Detroit Free Press: “Eminem’s ‘Slim Shady LP’ turns 20: An oral history of the album that created a superstar” — “Few introductions in music history have been more blunt.

“‘Hi! My name is!’

“With that opening line, Slim Shady sent himself hurtling into notoriety, bringing Eminem and Marshall Mathers along for the ride.

“‘The Slim Shady LP,’ released 20 years ago this week, was a raw, colorful, parental-advisory-plastered shock wave of a major-label debut.

“Speaking mostly through his alter ego, the character he dubbed Slim Shady, Detroit rapper Eminem dished up knife-edged wit, pop-culture savvy and deep dives into his own turbulent psyche and domestic life. In its blurring of fantasy and reality, the album provoked accusations of homophobia and glorification of drugs and violence. Produced by proven hip-hop heavyweight Dr. Dre and Detroit’s aspiring Bass Brothers, it was a pop crossover smash and a glimpse of rap brilliance.”

The Daily Beast: “Eminem’s White Privilege: How Slim Shady Was Crowned the ‘King of Hip-Hop’” — “Gucci Mane isn’t one to mince words. The Atlanta trap guru sparked a small bit of controversy this week after he was asked about the stature of one of the most famous rappers in the game. Eminem has a litany of platinum-selling albums, awards and undeniable success—his name is undoubtedly going to come up whenever you mention the biggest rappers in the industry. During an appearance on Rickey Smiley’s morning show, Gucci was asked if the Detroit rap superstar was the king of the game. He balked at the notion.

“‘You gotta come with a better name,’ Gucci said. ‘I ain’t playing Eminem in my car. You play him in yours? You sliding around playing Eminem in your car with your old lady?!’

“Gucci’s take seemed to surprise a lot of commentators, as several sites ran with the story and added commentary describing Eminem’s massive commercial success, industry awards, and cultural reach over the past two decades. There’s no denying that Eminem is a major star and undoubtedly one of the most famous rappers of all time. Since the early 2000s, no one has sold more than Slim Shady.

“But Gucci’s perspective belies an interesting point. So many hip-hop fans have voiced similar thoughts on Em’s career—particularly over the past 10 years or so. Eminem’s fame and popularity may be undeniable but what they mean to hip-hop fans is absolutely debatable. And it’s impossible to have an honest conversation about what they mean without acknowledging how much Eminem being white and having a large white fan base contributes to those staggering numbers and ever-present award nominations.”

The Ringer: “Eminem Has Been America’s Nightmare for 20 Years” — “He was so young, so raw, so angry, so hungry, so irresistibly crass. But at first, almost everyone managed to resist Marshall Mathers. ‘You b—— get a hysterectomy disrespectin’ me,’ boasted the Detroit rapper known semi-professionally as Eminem on his very independent 1996 debut album, Infinite. ‘You wanna feel the full effect of me, hand a TEC to me / Intellectually superior, I’ll make the wack wearier / Inferior, deteriorate, like bacteria.’

“Sir, this is an Arby’s. The song is called ‘Open Mic’ and sounds like it, gloomy and brash but not a little amateurish. You could marvel at the kid’s abrasive charisma, and maybe even laugh at his dopiest it-came-from-the-third-grade punch lines (‘You couldn’t flip s— playin’ in toilets with a spatula’), but still find young Em far too dense, too clever, too Nas-worshiping earnest, too fixated on rhyming for rhyming’s sake. Not wack, exactly, but certainly wearying, his wordplay often so overwrought it devolved into word salad. Like many a petulant early 20-something with precious little to his name and way too much to prove, he was, to put it simply, using way too many napkins.”

Allison Pohle produced this hour for broadcast.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.