Monday, December 31, 2007
No. 302: The Slim Shady LP
Album: The Marshall Mathers LP
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: On Eminem's second record, the Detroit rapper produced a considerably more personal record. The record lost a lot of the humor of the first album, but the record became smarter.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: The anger is a little off-putting to me, especially when he acts like he's being persecuted. Eminem, I'm sorry to mention this to you, but you're treated with kid gloves because of your skin color.
Best song: "The Real Slim Shady" is problematic, but decidedly catchy.
Worst song: "The Way I Am" is classic narcissism nonsense.
Is it awesome?: I don't think so.
I've said most of what I wanted to say about Emimem already, but there are a few notable things about his second record. For one, this is the album that took Em from being a dude with a huge record to being the biggest star in rap music. This occurrence came largely out of "Stan," a huge crossover hit that finally had everyone listening to him. The Dido song "Thank You" provides the sample that Em raps over, as he goes with a somber lyric about an obsessive fan.
"Stan" is interesting if only because it created the mass impression of Eminem as thoughtful introspective dude. That's not a bad thing and not totally inaccurate, but it's immediately shot down in "The Way I Am," a song that's easily Eminem's worse popular single. The song is Em's idea of self-definition and it pulsates with adolescent anger. The song's hook has the line "Radio won't even play my jam," a proposition to ludicrous, it's hard to even mention it.
And that's the thing. The level of humor on the record is less than "The Slim Shady LP." "Kill You" has the humor that dotted Em's first record, but also bubbles with real anger that he probably wasn't able to include on his first record. It's hyperbolically angry (which is clever in and of itself), but also troubling in its sincerity.
(That's one of my overriding problems with Eminem. I worry that his recent work is more indicative of the type of artist he is. His first record was his first work with a major label; I'm sure he had a lot of guidance and advice and probably wanted to please them. He probably changed his style a fair amount. I like that Emimen better.)
The highlight of the album is, once again, the lead single, "The Real Slim Shady." Brimming with pop culture references, Em mocks Tom Green, Carson Daly, Will Smith, Britney Spears, nursing homes, and just about everything else under the sun. With his signature snark, he recounts his self-definition in a way that's far more humorous and clever than "The Way I Am."
Because I nitpick, there are two problematic lines in the song. The first is "Half of you critics can't even stomach me, let alone stand me," another of Em's delusions of persecution. The idea that critics don't like Eminem has been patently ludicrous since his second single was released (just as the idea that radio won't play his jam is idiotic). The other is the faux populism of "The only difference is I got the balls to say it," a notion that attacks "political correctness."
Now, the concept of "political correctness" is something that bothers the hell out of me. There is no such thing as "political correctness." It is simply being correct. So, when you say "fag," you aren't being correct. You're being offensive. When you call a Korean-American "Chinese," you're being incorrect. It's as simple as that.
So, when Eminem implies that he's being the voice of the anti-political correct world and he's being persecuted because of his bravery, I find that to be patently ridiculous. It's idiotic.
Because I find each Eminem record to be of deteriorating quality from the one before, "The Slim Shady LP" is not a terrible record, but it's not nearly as good as his first record.