Album Remarks & Appraisals:
The Marshall Mathers LP is the third studio album by American rapper Eminem. Released May 23, 2000, the album sold more than 1.76 million copies in its first week just in the US, earning a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest selling solo album ever. In 2001, the album won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album and was nominated for Album of the Year. The album was certified 9x platinum by the RIAA in the United States, and sold over 10.2 million copies in the US. As of 2005 the album had sold over 19 million units worldwide.
Often cited as Eminem's magnum opus, The Marshall Mathers LP has been ranked as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time by such magazines as Rolling Stone, Time, and XXL. Rolling Stone placed the album at number 7 on its list of the best albums of the 2000s. The album was ranked number 302 by Rolling Stone on their list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2010, Rhapsody named it the #1 record on the "The 10 Best Albums By White Rappers" list.
"Albums, sometimes, are big. You know Elephant? That was big. And then, sometimes, albums are huge. Hybrid Theory? That was huge. And then, every so often, an album comes along that practically eats the world. Everywhere you go, it's there. It seems like everyone you know owns a copy. The lyrics and images within the album become an essential part of our culture. The artist comes to be among the world's most important fashion icons, and has their entire career made up. And for a while at least, it feels like nothing and nobody is seperate from its influence.
Albums like this don't come every day. In the 90's, only 3 albums could really claim that status - Nevermind, Jagged Little Pill, and OK Computer. And this decade, only one - The Marshall Mathers LP.
You'd have to be about 7 years old to not remember how massive this album was. It broke all records for first-week sales by a solo artist. It went 5-times platinum in its first month of release, a feat matched only by 2Pac and Notorious BIG. It has since sold 9 million copies in the US alone, and 15.3 million worldwide. It helped turn hip-hop into the most commercially lucrative form of music in the world. Without it, D-12 and 50 Cent wouldn't exist, and it's probable that Jay-Z and his ilk wouldn't be the stars they are today.
Nowadays, in the wake of this album, Eminem's every move and every utterance is scrutinized. He's recently come under fire for 2 bootlegs - one saying he wished the President was dead, and one attacking an ex-girlfriend - these events led to FBI investigation and a public apology after the song about his girlfriend was construed as racist by The Source (a magazine that has declared all-out war on him). Oh, and he's won an Oscar.
Perhaps the influence of this album can be put to words by the reader's comment on Q's Top 100 Albums Of All Time. 'It made me give a shit about music again.' That's exactly what this album did for me. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Before this, I saw music as being one of three things - unintelligible noise, boring, or for little kids. Sometimes all three. Then this album came out.
It still amazes me how well this album did, commercially. It's witty, intelligent, and not easy to listen to. Those aren't qualities you tend to associate with a 15-million seller. Eminem resolutedly HATED pop music. The moment this album dropped, he BECAME pop music. The face of the charts changed. Just as symbolic as Nirvana displacing Michael Jackson, Eminem displaced Britney Spears in the Billboard charts.
The key element to The Marshall Mathers LP is its intensity. Eminem didn't water down his sound to become such a success. This album was more intense, harder, louder, cruder, scarier, funnier, wittier, more shocking, infinitely more soul-bearing.....it was The Slim Shady LP to the nth degree. And you know he means every minute of it. You know that's he's hungry to prove himself - to prove all those Vanilla Ice comparisons wrong, to prove he's not a gimmick, to prove that white guys can rap.
And prove it he does. This is the album that stamped Eminem's reputation as possibly the best MC since Rakim - certainly the best to gain mainstream acceptance. There's more than enough here to prove his wit and technical ability - Who Knew's explanation of the hypocricy of middle American parents; Amityville's portrayal of the Detroit he grew up in; The Way I Am as a whole.
What elevates this above most mainstream rap albums is the variation. From Kill You's excellent use of silence and sparcity, to Stan's sampling of Dido and use of rain and writing sound effects, to The Real Slim Shady's twisted pop, to Marshall Mather's lonely acoustic guitar, to Bitch Please II's Dre-trademarked G-funk, to Kim. Oh man, you have to hear Kim. It's utterly incredible. Emotional, epic, tragic, disturbing, thought-provoking. It's the under-rated jewel in this LP, and indeed, Eminem's career.
The album is flawed only by a couple of skits (the Ken Kaniff skit is disgusting and has no place in music) and by guest appearances. Amityville would be much better off without Bizzare. D12 have never been up to Eminem's standards, a fact first proved on Under The Influence. Remember Me is better, but below average for this album. No such problems with Dido on Stan or Dre, Snoop, Xzibit, and Nate Dogg on Bitch Please II, though. Something that should be mentioned - although it is not necessarily a flaw as such - is the amount of nods to The Slim Shady LP. Drug Ballad is a sequel to Cum On Everybody, Kim ends the way '97 Bonnie & Clyde started, and the skit for both albums run parallel (Public Service Announcement, Ken Kaniff, and Paul are all on both albums). This may mean that this album becomes more enjoyable after having heard Slim Shady.
I'm willing to lay money on the fact that the vast majority of people reading this have already heard this album and made up their minds. If you haven't you pretty much missed out on the most culturally important musical event since grunge - maybe even since punk. Nevermind though. (Pun intended.) And it's for that reason that I'm not sure what score to give this album. It's not perfect (the 3 skits and Under The Influence could be slashed from this album without any caring), and thus doesn't deserve 5 on that scale. Not to mention, it is an immensely opinion-dividing album, and one blamed for offending as many people as it delights. And yet, a 5 denotes an album that everybody should hear and should own - and I believe that to be true of this album. Even if you ignore the album's importance, it remains a truly special album, unique in rap's canon, owing its spirit to rock and its heritage to rap, in a way I've rarely heard. How can I give it anything less?" - SputnikMusic
"Eminem had a hard life coming up, violent and traumatic. He felt abandoned by his single mother, watched a lot of TV, was beaten into a coma by classmates, quit school after three tries at the ninth grade, and flipped burgers for a spell. In between, he paid his MC dues at local contests and on all kinds of stages. This much you know from the bijillion and one interviews the 27-year-old Detroit native has done since turning out two multiplatinum records within a year. And yes, homeboy's come out on top: however dreadful his childhood, he's learned to work his demons. Check the lyrics quoted above, off his new album, The Marshall Mathers LP: what's more awful than a man who will do damage to himself? Or these lyrics, from the song "Under The Influence": "Some bitch asked for my autograph / I called her a whore, spit beer in her face and laughed / I drop bombs like I was in Vietnam / All bitches is hos, even my stinkin' ass mom." (This would be the same mom who has famously hit him with a $10 million slander suit.) Eminem deploys his bad experiences like artillery, rat-a-tat, and doesn't mind displaying his pissed-at-the-planet mania like some kind of medal he's awarded to himself: good job, asshole, you've survived.
Angry and sad, boastful and self-disparaging, Em follows many artists who've emerged from bad beginnings, maybe a little surprised that he's made it, but also resentful and looking for payback. Most accounts of Eminem focus on his true survivor status, because, you know, authenticity is important for credibility, not to mention sales. In the star profiles and the feature stories, Em comes off as really angry, really crazy, really belligerent, and, even better, really having reasons to be all of that. Those reasons make him good copy. And his whiteness makes him simultaneously terrifying and unscary, the perfect pop product. As the flavor of the minute, he's the cover boy for Spin, The Source, Muzik, Stress, and XXL. He's touring with Dre and Snoop for Up in Smoke, partying hard and causing trouble, just like he's supposed to. Mad at his detractors, he accuses them of hypocrisy, of not accepting him as he thinks he is. In "Bitch Please II," he spews, "So when you see me, dressin' up like a nerd on TV / Or heard the CD usin' the fag word so freely / It's just me being me; here, want me to tone it down? / Suck my fuckin' dick, you faggot." You see the pattern, and it's not news.
That Eminem's imagination takes him to dark and disagreeable places is predictable; that he exhibits it so relentlessly and so profitably is something else. When people fret about Eminem's wickedness or call him out for writing misogynistic and homophobic lyrics, they're only stating the obvious, what he and his fans already know. And he's ready with an answer. Or better, he is the answer, a walking-and-talking cultural symptom. In "The Way I Am," Eminem expounds, "Since birth I've been cursed with this curse to just curse / And just blurt this berserk and bizarre shit that works / And it sells and it helps in itself to relieve / All this tension, dispensin' these sentences." So there it is: he's performing therapy. And the culture in turn rewards him for being "outrageous," for marking its limits. Undoubtedly, these limits are familiar. Eminem is no different from other wild-white-boy celebrities who punch out paparazzi, crash their cars, or dis their girls in public; sometimes they even smoke dope and carry concealed weapons. But they're never so alarming as black men with guns. Not even. Eminem's anger confined to specific targets and characters and often funny in its delivery is somehow understandable, even when it's whiny. Listeners can assume he's not talking about them ("I'm not a bitch!"). He claims to speak for social and political victims, kids who don't get respect, who are pissed off and afraid (for instance, on the new record, the Columbine shooters, verbally abused by their classmates). He says he speaks for those who can't speak for themselves (excepting, of course, those "bitches" and "fags," who apparently don't deserve to speak anyway). True, he's no longer disenfranchised, but he remembers it well enough, at least for the moment, to act like he is.
This is, of course, the standard dilemma for artists whose currency is being -- or seeming -- real. There's no way to win at this game: the industry loves authentic artists and immediately turns them not-authentic (the dreaded sell-out). Which means that even those performers who don't claim authenticity (say, 'N Sync), eventually succumb to its demands, assuming songwriting or producing duties on their albums, even if they're not equipped. Eminem is working very hard to maintain his measure of realness. But it's an uphill struggle. For all his raging and cursing, he's adorable. Girls and boys love him on TRL, voting him into the same countdown as the Backstreet Boys and Christina Aguilera (and, to be fair, those rebels Limp Bizkit and Korn). Hilariously, the kids vote him in even though his video is all about hating the consuming conformity exemplified by Britney, et. al. (And in fact, we've been here before, with Blink-182's "All the Small Things," a dis of popstars that made them popstars).
In a number of songs on the new album, including the current single, "The Real Slim Shady," Eminem slams his "enemies" with comic book intensity. In the video, he wears a superhero costume and an insane asylum straitjacket while rapping, "I'm sick of you little girl and boy groups, all you do is annoy me / So I have been sent here to destroy you / And there's a million of us just like me / Who cuss like me; who just don't give a fuck like me / Who dress like me; walk, talk and act like me / And just might be the next best thing, but not quite me!" Of course, the irony is built into the song: Eminem's signature style the bleached blond hair, pale skin, humungous T-shirt has spawned droves of lookalikes and wannabes. Voila, he's a teen idol. Poor Em, can't win for losing.
Perhaps this is just desserts. As XXL and Salon, among others, have noted, Eminem's targets are easy and have been hit previously by other social critics. On The Marshall Mathers LP, he repeatedly disses the usual suspects: Britney, Carson Daly, the Insane Clown Posse, his mother. These aren't exactly folks who have done or will do him harm, and they don't cost him much; most of his fans (and others) are openly delighted to see the Christina fuck-me doll caught between Fred Durst and someone who vaguely looks like Carson. You know, it's like, awesome.
And so, that these days, Marshall Mathers is doing battle with himself, spitting venom and verse like there's no tomorrow. He's remade himself between the two albums: the first was named for the "real" Slim Shady, the new one for the "real" Marshall Mathers, as if either of them is "real." Still, the concerns on the two records are not so different: he remains mad at his wife for cheating on him, the pop industry for being crass and commercial, homosexuals for threatening his manhood (or something like that). And yet, as hardheaded and fucked up as he is when in performance mode -- which appears to be continuous -- Eminem is nothing if not self-conscious of his own artifice and extremity. There's may be some irony in his current circumstances: after a couple of scuffles, he's been charged with assault and carrying a concealed weapon. Ever-ready to talk about himself, he's now telling interviewers that his fame has turned into a "nightmare," that all he ever wanted was a "career in hip-hop," as if this is a simple and straightforward desire. More often than not, such a career involves controversy and noise. And so Eminem, demonically clever white boy, brings it.
What's most notable about all this hasn't been much noted in the press. He's termed inane and offensive, clever and ignorant. But he's not called representative, not for his race, generation, genre, or gender, not even for his class (whatever that may be at this point). No one is saying that Eminem's vile language or violent imagery typifies the white race or even the young urban white male. In part this is a function of his own acerbic self-censure, which allows him a comedic, almost Woody-Allen-style cut-and-run. And in part it's because he's hanging with Dre and them: he doesn't "act white." But the more immediate and discomforting reason is precisely this: he is white. And white boys don't have to represent." -PopMatters
Rolling Stone (1/4/01, p.106) - Ranked #1 in Rolling Stone's Top 10 Albums of 2000 - "...His tortured conscience gives the album its complex emotional kick..."
Rolling Stone (7/20/00, pp.135-6) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...He's more funny and much more scary....A car-crash record: loud, wild, dangerous, out of control, grotesque, unsettling. It's also impossible to pull your ears awat from."
Spin (1/01, p.73) - Ranked #3 in Spin's "Top 20 Albums of the Year " - "...What 'going too far' means: really, finally brought that psycho rude s*** home to the 'burbs....leaving more things unsettled than when he started."
Entertainment Weekly (6/2/00, pp.76-7) - "...Indefensible and critic-proof, hypocritical and heartbreaking, unlistenable and undeniable; it's a disposable shock-rap session, and the first great pop record of the 21st century..." - Rating: A-
Q (1/01, p.90) - Included in Q's "50 Best Albums of 2000".
Q (8/00, p.98) - 3 stars out of 5 - "...[His] disaffection sucks you in and the wholesale nihilism can still provoke shivers..."
Uncut (8/00, p.90) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...You might not like where he's dragging you, but there's no denying the style with which he does it..."
CMJ (1/08/01, p.10) - Included in CMJ's "Best of the Year" for 2000.
CMJ (6/12/00, p.3) - "...Musically, the album is a triumph....You can't deny [the lyrics'] searing honesty, and that's what makes [him] one of pop's compelling artists."
Vibe (8/00, p.162) - "...Should forever erase the notion that [he] is the Elvis Presley of hardcore hip hop. If anything, he's rap's Eric Clapton: a white boy who can hang with the best black talent based on sheer skill - enhancing the art form instead of stealing from it."
The Source (8/00, pp.225-6) - 4 mics out of 5 - "...You wanna peep [this LP], if not for the intense lyrics and witty punch lines, at least for the chance of witnessing one of the craziest MCs grow up right before ya ears."
Melody Maker (6/6/00, p.54) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...It has an answer to everything, filling every parking-spot in the towering multi-storey of ego with a triple-bluffmobile....No one else puts such a rocket under rap's self-consciousness or makes it so shocking..."
Rap Pages (7/00, p.45) - "...Even more abrasive and offensive....proving again that his imagery and storytelling abilities stand tall over most other rappers..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.57) - Ranked #78 in Mojo's "100 Modern Classics" -- "The results were brutal, politically insane, loaded with pop hooks, and hysterically funny."
NME (Magazine) (12/30/00, p.77) - Ranked #7 in NME's "Top 50 Albums Of The Year".
NME (Magazine) (6/3/00, p.39) - 9 out of 10 - "...Real twisted...one long, disillusioned whine....[It] may be the white noise of America's Most Unwanted, but it also the product of a talent supremely Untouchable."
Personnel: Eminem, Snoop, Xzibit, Nate Dogg, Sticky Fingaz (rap vocals); Dido (vocals); Jeff Bass, Steve Berman, Paul "Bunyan" Rosenberg (spoken vocals); Mike Elizondo (guitar, keyboards, bass); Sean Cruise, John Bingham (guitar); Tommy Coster, Jr., Camara Kambon (keyboards); DJ Head (programming).
D-12: Kon Artis, Proof, Kuniva, Swifty, Bizarre (rap vocals).
Producers include: Dr. Dre, The 45 King, Mel-Man, F.B.T., Eminem.
Engineers: Richard "Segal" Huredia, Mike Butler, Aaron Lepley.
THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. "The Real Slim Shady" won the 2001 Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP was nominated for the 2001 Grammy Award for Album Of The Year.
Personnel: Eminem (vocals); Mike Elizondo (guitar, keyboards); John Bigham (guitar); Tom Coster, Jr., Camara Kambon (keyboards).
Audio Mixers: Mike Butler; Michelle Lynn Forbes; Akane Nakamura; Eminem; Rob Ebeling; Chris Conway ; Richard Huredia; Rick Behrens.
Recording information: 54 Sound, Detroit, MI; Chung King; Encore Studios; Larabee Sound Studios; The Mix Room; The Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographer: Joe-Mama Nitzberg.
A Caucasian rapper from Detroit, a Dr. Dre disciple with bright blonde hair--at first glance, Eminem seemed the unlikeliest of hip-hop stars. However, his debut, THE SLIM SHADY LP, contained clever rhymes and even the occasional innovation. His sophomore effort, THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP, proved that Eminem was no fluke, but instead a legitimate rap visionary.
While his horror/shock rap can be unsettling, it's more often hilarious, as he and his Slim Shady character skewer anyone and everyone, notably the MTV-based world that surrounded him after the success of his first record. Few can come up with rhymes as consistently clever as this Motor City madman, and lines that will be repeated as long as this CD is spun. The most startling moment has to be "Stan," featuring haunting, ethereal guest vocals from Dido; an incongruously sublime track, it spins an O. Henry-meets-'60s teenage-death-song tale of obsessed fan worship gone terribly wrong.
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