Eminem's 1999 triple-platinum major-label debut, The Slim Shady LP, was a shot in hip-hop's arm, the grand entrance of a hurricane dressed as a Detroit kid with major-league skills and a potential mental disorder. This time out, he's more funny and much more scary. On The Marshall Mathers LP he hits you with the lyrical complexity and detailed narratives of Biggie,... Read More
the hilarious, is-he-kidding-or-not button-pushing of Howard Stern, the disaffected angry-white-boy-ness of Fight Club
and the fearless, kill-me-if-you-can energy of Tupac. He has a macabre imagination to rival Satan's and an incredible ability to create new rhyme patterns. He has a frightening proclivity to spit venom one moment and humor the next, and a never-ending slew of jaw-dropping punch lines. He is, simply, better than any other MC in hip-hop except for Jay-Z -- yes, better than Beanie Sigel, Pharoahe Monch, Snoop, Common, Prodigy, Xzibit, Redman, Big Pun and all of the Lox. It feels dangerous to think of a white boy nearing the aesthetic zenith of the celebration of black maleness called hip-hop, but just as blacks have to be twice as good to get ahead in life, to get ahead in hip-hop Eminem has had to be twice as ill.
Expect, during this summer of Shady, to hear Marshall Mathers following you around the hip-hop nation, flowing from boomboxes, trucks and lips the same way Dre's The Chronic, Raekwon's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx . . . and B.I.G.'s Life After Death once did. You may find Eminem popping out of your own mouth, because he's the most quotable MC alive, both consistently funny and ridiculously far over the top. He rarely uses the same rhyme pattern twice, and he changes his vocal style again and again on Marshall Mathers, often in the space of one verse -- he uses six different voices in one stretch of "Criminal." His feelings on Jennifer Lopez: "I'm sorry, Puff/But I don't give a fuck if this chick was my own mother/I'd still fuck her with no rubber." And life in Detroit: "That's why we're crowned the murder capital still!/This ain't Detroit!/This is motherfuckin' Hamburger Hill!/We don't do drive-bys/We park in front of houses and shoot/And when the police come, we fuckin' shoot it out with 'em, too!"
Expect, also, many of these tracks to become the beat of the summer. Dr. Dre and partner-of-late Mel-Man produced much of the album, while Eminem and his Detroit crew, F.B.T., handled most of the rest. The sound shifts between slick, bright, melodic funk that's so R&B-ish, you can dance to it ("Who Knew," "The Real Slimy Shady") and slow, driving, outrageous-bass hardcore raw hip-hop made for cruising in lowriders ("Amityville," "I'm Back"). Seven years after The Chronic and fourteen after the dawn of N.W.A, Dre is that legendary coach t