Welcome to Musical Appreciation. Doing a series like this is great because it gives me the opportunity to talk more about my favorite songs, albums, and artists. And it was inevitable for me to make a post about Eminem. Enough has been said about Marshall, dude is simply one of the best emcees to have ever lived. Ignoring his huge commercial success, Eminem’s technical skills as a rapper are nearly unmatched with clever wordplay and a sense of humor to back up some of the more fucked up things he say. Today’s Musical Appreciation is Eminem’s third studio album, his most successful to date, and my favorite album from him along with The Eminem Show. This is The Marshall Mathers LP.
- Public Service Announcement 2000 (Skit): We start things off with a PSA warning the listener that Eminem simply doesn’t care what you think of him. It let’s you know what to expect while listening to this record.
- Kill You- The first proper track is Kill You, where over a minimal Dre beat, Eminem raps about, you guessed it, murder. This is one of the songs that garnered a lot of controversy against Eminem because most of the violence of the song is aimed against women. Funny enough, at the end of the song, he says that he was just kidding, meaning the song is Eminem trolling people looking for a reason to be pissed.
- Stan ft Dido- And we’ve reached one of the best written rap songs of all time in Stan, a tale of an obsessed fan named Stan who writes letters to Eminem, hoping to hear from him, but after a while, he gets agitated, kidnaps his pregnant girlfriend, puts her in the trunk, and drives himself into a lake while recording a message to Eminem. In the final verse, Eminem himself writes a reply to Stan and tries to understand what’s wrong with him, but then he finds out that Stan killed himself and his girlfriend. With each verse, we see the deterioration of a disturbed fan who doesn’t hear back from his idol immediately until his death and I like the way it interpolates Dido’s Thank You, which got a huge boost of popularity thanks to this song. This song is pretty much legendary at this point and one of the things that came out of it is the term “stan,” used to describe people who are overly-obsessed with a celebrity.
- Paul (Skit)- Anyone who listened to The Slim Shady LP will remember a skit called Paul where Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg calls him and tells him to tone down the content of his music. In The Marshall Mathers LP, he calls again about the new album and he just goes “fuck it,” because Eminem is just gonna say whatever he wants to say.
- Who Knew- Songs like Who Knew showcase Eminem at his best lyrically. He takes more shots at people who take his lyrics too literally and who think his music influence kids to do violent things. He takes all of the criticisms about him and turns them against the people making those arguments. It’s that clever sense of self-awareness that sells this track and makes it one of my favorites.
- Steve Berman (Skit)- We then run into another skit, this one is where Eminem meets with the President of Sales and Marketing at Interscope, Steve Berman. Steve complains that the album wouldn’t sell because of its lyrics and want Eminem to change the record so that it could sell more (ironically, this would be the best selling rap record of all time). And it transitions into the next track.
- The Way I Am- In The Way I Am, Eminem expresses his frustrations with being a famous rapper, dealing with fickle fans who won’t let him have his privacy in public and his label wanting him to make another My Name Is. He doesn’t want to be the nice guy nor does he want to be a commodity like his nemesis, the boy bands. You can hear the rage in his voice when he raps and the dark beat fits perfectly.
- The Real Slim Shady- And we’re at The Real Slim Shady, the big Slim Shady single in the vain of My Name Is where Eminem takes more shots at pop culture and saying whatever he wants to say. Honestly, while the Slim Shady songs are always the weaker songs of an Eminem album, this (along with Without Me) is one of the songs I don’t mind and I would rather listen to more than My Name Is, mainly because the beat and the bars are better.
- Remember Me ft RBX & Sticky Fingaz- Here’s a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on Chronic 2001 and it’s all on the beat. I like the beat to this song, it has a cool bass line that’s easily memorable along with the drums. RBX was okay, but he got blown out the water by both Sticky Fingaz and Eminem, whose bars are nonstop fire. A definite highlight.
- I’m Back- To me, I’m Back is one of the best songs off the album and it’s more of Eminem doing what he does best, not giving a fuck. This is actually the best Slim Shady song ever because of how unapologetic he is with his lyrics (along with being very skilled at rapping) and he’s working with a great beat. Another one of my favorite Eminem songs.
- Marshall Mathers- With this song, Marshall Mathers, Eminem deals with the aftermath of becoming a prolific celebrity, dealing with his mom suing him, the trends of hip-hop back then, and, of course, dissing the Insane Clown Posse because why not? I do like the more rock-inspired production, especially that acoustic guitar. Good song overall.
- Ken Kaniff (Skit)- This is a skit where Ken Kaniff, a stereotypical gay character, receives a blowjob from the Insane Clown Posse and…WHAT THE FUCK AM I LISTENING TO?! I don’t need to hear this!! Nobody need to hear this!! *cringes* Moving on.
- Drug Ballad ft Dinah Rae- Drug Ballad, to me, is one of the weaker songs on the album. It’s not bad, but it really isn’t that great, either. The beat is okay and Eminem still has some good bars on this track about substance abuse, but it just doesn’t do anything for me personally. Sorry.
- Amityville ft Bizarre- Amityville is Eminem’s tribute to his hometown Detroit and he talks about some of the evil, mischievous things that occur there. And of course, a song with a horror vibe would be complimented by a dark, haunting beat ripped from the underground. Oh, and Bizzare is on here, being Bizzare. I could’ve done without him because I can’t stand Bizzare. If you’re someone who likes creepy music, this is the track for you.
- Bitch Please II ft Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, & Nate Dogg- Here’s one of two posse cuts of the album, this one with Dre, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Xzibit. This song is pretty much a sequel to Snoop Dogg’s Bitch Please song (which also has Xzibit and Nate Dogg on it). The beat is classic Dre and every rapper on here does their thing with Nate Dogg blessing the hook. Just like with Remember Me, this song wouldn’t sound outta place on Chronic 2001.
- Kim- This is probably the darkest song on the album (which is saying a lot because a lot of this record is dark). Kim is basically a prequel to Bonnie And Clyde ’97, a song where he buried his dead wife with their daughter along for the ride. In Kim, we see what happened that lead to the events of the previous song where Eminem takes out his frustration and anger onto his wife and kills her, accompanied by intense screaming vocals and horror movie-esque production. This shit pulls off horrorcore way better than anything from ICP. Can you imagine the look on Dre and the Bass Brothers’ faces when they were recording this?
- Under The Influence ft D12- So what follows after the bleakness that was Kim? How about a lighthearted posse cut with D12? To be honest, I’m not a big D12 fan. Don’t get me wrong, they have made some good songs, but the only good rappers in the group were Eminem and Proof, everyone else are tolerable at best and this song showcases that. Eminem and Proof were great as usual, Swifty, Kuniva, and Kon Artis were okay, and Bizzare was the weak link. The beat was decent, though.
- Criminal- And we’re at the final track of the album, Criminal, where Eminem once again makes fun of people who takes his lyrics seriously by going, “You know what? Maybe I am what you say I am. And you know what else? I’m going to keep offending you by saying more controversial shit because I don’t give a fuck.” And he mentions that half the stuff he says is made up just to piss off critics. This is classic Eminem with great bars and production. And that’s the end of the album.
And that was The Marshall Mathers LP, one of the best rap albums of all time and Eminem’s magnum opus. The rapping is A-1 and shows some of Marshall’s best bars to date in spite of some dated pop culture references and overblown misogyny and homophobia. Dr. Dre and the Bass Brothers did an excellent job on the production side with the beats fitting every song. The tone of The Marshall Mathers LP is much darker than The Slim Shady LP, which was already dark to start with, and it’s much more personal. It’s a phenomenal record from a man dealing with fame for the first time and being under the media’s microscope, dissecting every single one of his words. Even with the odds against him, Eminem always finds a way to succeed.
So that was Musical Appreciation. Next time, we’ll talk about Random Access Memories. Next week is the arrival of the Worst Songs of 2000 list. Stay tuned for that.
SONGS OF THE WEEK
The Way I Am-Eminem
Come Down-Anderson Paak
Say It Right-Nelly Furtado