There was a time when Marshall Mathers could do no wrong.
He had two platinum-plus plaques in one year, for his third studio LP and the soundtrack to 8 Mile. He damn near nabbed a Golden Globe in his debut as a lead actor, for his work in his critically acclaimed semi-biopic. And he was also in the process of signing a street-hustler from Jamaica Queens with some serious chompers, who would eventually commend paychecks only those in high society could hold.
On top of that acquisition, a foundation for any promising roster, Detroiters like Obie Trice and D-12 were helping to solidify the legitimacy of Slim’s own label, Shady Records.
It was also during this time when the man known as Slim Anus to some, one of hip-hops most disputed emcees, was at the peak of a career that would eventually lead to 70 million albums sold worldwide.
The Eminem Show, which was pressed and sent out in the Spring of ’02, was the album that almost makes that gaudy number warranted. It was the ignition to a fire that would take the white boy to the next level, and lead him to a spot amongst the greatest to ever do it.
For the emcee notoriously known for his antics, with his skill seemingly an afterthought, playtime was over. Choc-full of diverse album cuts and singles alike, with no filler whatsoever, the album showed the parameters of this emcee were as ghost as his skin. Tracks like “Soldier,” “Square Dance,” and the amazing “My Dad’s Gone Crazy,” are prime examples of how album cuts should sound. Actual concepts, intertwined with real passion and more emotion than the radio can handle, made the songs stand out in an album that’s deeper than Lake Michigan. On the flip side, even the singles’ concepts and liveliness were nothing to sneeze at. As played out as they got, “Cleaning Out My Closet,” and “Sing for the Moment,” are beautifully written, and valid hits in airwaves full of vanity. Lastly, “Till I Collapse,” with its poignant power and ability to make your air-hair stand upright, is a song the great ones would be jealous of. The song’s unwavering words (I don’t say lyrics, because it’s like he’s speaking directly to you) are incredible, to say the least, and a prime example of his time in place.
“Soon as the verse starts, I eat at an MC’s heart/What is he thinkin? How not to go against me, smart/And it’s absurd, how people hang on ev-ery word/I’ll probably NEVER get the props I feel I ever deserve/But I’ll never be served, my spot is forever reserved/If I ever leave Earth, that would be the death of me first/Cause in my heart of hearts I know nothin could ever be worse/That’s why I’m clever when I put together ev-ery verse/My thoughts, are sporadic, I act, like I’m an addict/I rap, like I’m addicted to smack like I’m Kim Mathers/But I don’t wanna go forth and back in constant battles/The fact is I would rather sit back and bomb some rappers/So this is like a full blown attack I’m launchin at ’em/The track is on some battlin raps who want some static?/Cause I don’t really think that the fact that I’m Slim matters/A plaque and platinum status is WACK if I’m not the baddest”
After The Eminem Show got Em’s swag in tact, he basically just didn’t stop. While most artists would ride the success of an album of that stature directly to the concert halls, Slim used it to solidify a legacy. He went right back in the studio, and got to work on his next project, the soundtrack to his first feature film.
Say what you want about the actual movie itself, but let’s face it, the 8 Mile soundtrack was undeniable.
Featuring songs by Em and the rest of Shady/Aftermath, alongside legends like Rakim, Jay-Z, and God’s Son, it proved that the would-be talent of the Shady Records roster could outshine even the greatest, if given the right opportunity. More impressive, the fact that Eminem simultaneously delivered maybe his best work ever and the album’s lead single, all in one song. It went on to be the first hip-hop song to ever win an Academy Award, and based on the songs’ energeticallyâ€“fueled truthfulness and overall power, it was rightfully so.
During this same period, a budding DJ Green Lantern helped Em and crew deliver one of the most classic mixtape series’ ever, The Invasion. During the height of their beef with “The Sauce,” Eminem directed his current unwavering vigor at a pair of businessmen trying to play the world against him.
Unfortunately for Dave and Ray, and eventually Ja Rule, Slim led the way on some scathing all-out diss fests in parts one and two of the series. Tracks like “Nail In The Coffin,” “Bump Heads,” and “The Invasion” are the reason you haven’t heard of Ray Benzino in any other capacity than the courtroom since 2003, and why Ja Rule’s new solo singles can’t break into the mainstream.
These tapes would eventually lead to the dismantling and re-establishment of one of the original hip-hop publications, and also make way for endless Aftermath/Shady-related XXL covers. Some justified, some not.
Since then though, when Shady Records’ hype was definitely real, some things have changed.
Eminem still has more talent than any arguably any rapper in the game. However, he seemingly just chooses not to use it as much as he did. As much as he’s capable of, some would say.
He’s put out another album, and select material since, yet most of it’s lacked the luster of the aforementioned. He doesn’t seem as hungry on the newer stuff. Like rap’s just a 9-to-5 and he doesn’t want to be there. Rhyming and sometimes sounding forced.
Maybe, it’s because he’s started to step up into the latter-half of his career, and he’s realized the need to broaden his horizons, igniting his passion for producing. A hobby, turned into a potentially long-term financial fallback, has possibly become of more importance to the rapper.
Maybe, it’s because his girl problems are still the top story on your local news programs (or at least mine, anyways). That his family argues over Q 95.5’s airwaves, seemingly on the regular. And why it’s come to the point where everything in his life has become extremely tedious and taxing, and the reason why not caring is second nature for everyone involved. Which, unfortunately for Em, is not only him anymore; it’s the entire world.
Recently however, and more realistically, it’s because Shady Records has lost one of their prime talents, Big Proof. More importantly, Slim lost his best friend. Something even the strongest-willed have a hard time dealing with.
So, with these things said, it just seems as if maybe Eminem has reason not to care anymore. Which, for the fans, is really just a bummer because the 2002-2003-era Slim Shady was one of a kind. He stood out above and beyond his worldwide superstar image, and showed why he had earned it in the first place.
However, a recent rumor stated that his forthcoming album, his 5th studio LP, would be titled King Mathers. Seemingly, a title fitting for one who would want to uphold it. Apparently, Em’s enlisted the legendary DJ Premier for production, along with the Good Doc (Keep in mind, that’s something not even the God MC himself could do).
If he can use his assets, of which there a lot, and tune back into the Eminem mentioned above, we’re about to be in for a treat.
King Mathers drops in ’07…if we’re lucky.