Origins of the Real Slim Shady

by Andrew Ventura ‘19

Twenty years after its initial release, Eminem just dropped the new expanded edition of his classic album, “The Slim Shady LP.” As soon as I heard it, I knew this was not a traditional rap album. It made me smile and laugh at all the ridiculous stories and funny bars embedded through it.
Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known as Eminem, entered the scene around the mid 90s. Signed and produced by Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records, “The Slim Shady LP,” blew up at a time when big MCs like Dre and Snoop Dogg dominated air waves. Eminem was the first new protege and sound from Dre in years. Eminem was also a white MC in a rap scene that was predominantly African American. After two decades, the album still holds up. Eminem wrote the majority of the album from the perspective of his alter ego, Slim Shady. Over the years, the album’s lyrics have been criticized for their attitude toward women and violence. In response, Eminem has argued that they depict the views of his persona, rather than himself.

The beats on “The Slim Shady LP” have a vintage West Coast funk sound. Songs like “My Name Is” feature Eminem dissing pop stars, talking about his childhood, and using drugs. Other songs like “Guilty Conscience” and “97 Bonnie and Clyde” contain awesome — though sometimes disturbing — story-telling. From a man struggling with his conscience to conversations with his daughter, Eminem paints clever stories that unravel through different characters. While Slim’s harsh perspective dominates most of the album, “If I Had” laments the struggles of the nine to five, expressing relatable frustrations. “Rock Bottom,” the most personal track on the album, reveals Eminem’s soft side, sounding depressed rather than angry. The remaining bonus tracks feel tacked-on, a bunch of instrumentals and acapellas that don’t add much to the beautiful madness this album has to offer.

Marshall, Slim, Eminem, whatever … managed to make one of this most important rap albums in history. His alter ego is widely known, but it was exciting to listen to the album that started it all. If one is tired and bored with the contemporary state of hip-hop, listen to “The Slim Shady LP.”