>Requested Review: "The Slim Shady LP" by Eminem

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yeah he’s just not a very subtle dude

Tonight’s requested review has been requested by my good friend Matt Hoffman (no, not the BMX star we all know and love, unfortunately), who has been waiting diligently for his Eminem review since… I don’t know, December? Yikes. Sorry, Matt. I hope this long, sad wait has not hindered our loving friendship.

Matt didn’t specify any particular Eminem record for me to review, so I took it upon myself to choose 1999’s The Slim Shady LP, his inauspicious debut that thrust him into the pop consciousness. Admittedly, the main reason I chose Slim Shady is because, despite having never heard it before, I was almost certain that I would like it, at least a lot more than his newer stuff (I would not touch Encore with a ten foot pole, especially after “Ass Like That”). And thankfully, I was not disappointed.

My choosing of Slim Shady LP is also a pretty personal choice; since I’ve been following Eminem since “My Name Is” debuted on TRL, listening to this album is a nice nostalgia trip for me, especially considering that it – along with The Marshall Mathers LP a year later – were arguably the era-defining rap records of the late 90s/early 2000s. They were critically acclaimed, commercially huge, and probably two of the most controversial records ever released – so of course they were everywhere. And admittedly, while I always liked Eminem as a kid, he scared me straight, which probably prevented me from really embracing his work. I just didn’t know if he was joking or not! I mean, have you guys heard “Kim”?? Yikes. A friend of mine played that song for me, late at night on my 13th birthday, and I almost ran out of the room crying. I had to smack my hand against my boom box several times until it finally turned off. Oh God Eminem was gonna kill me!!

But The Slim Shady LP is all in good fun. Yes, there is cursing, and there is violence, and there are some slightly insensitive remarks. But it’s all pretty funny! When I was 12 I couldn’t get into this stuff because all of the aforementioned cursing and violence and whatnot intimidated me. A decade later, it’s all so common to me now that I barely even notice it. Oh, sure, this is still a pretty rough record when you get right down to it – throughout the course of The Slim Shady LP, Eminem gets nasty revenge on schoolyard bullies, forces a girl to OD on shrooms, encourages a man to rape a drunk 15-year-old girl and dumps his wife’s body into the harbor while his daughter watches. But Eminem’s lyrics – and his gift for storytelling – shine through here, turning these otherwise horrible acts into pure entertainment.

There are a lot of great lyrics here. As I am the laziest of men, I don’t feel like wading through every song here trying to find my favorite lines – that would take quite a while! So instead let me explain why these songs are so funny. “My Name Is,” for instance, is the perfect introductory single – I mean, not only does it very bluntly introduce you to Eminem, but it is also a very funny, goofy song that properly summarizes Eminem’s brand of humor. And then there’s the other single, the classic “Guilty Conscience,” which might be the best song on the record, and arguably the most theatrical. The premise is well known: Dr. Dre and Eminem attempt to give advice to three people encountering a moral dilemma, with Dr. Dre as the voice of reason and Eminem as the exact opposite. The premise is already funny considering that, compared to Eminem, the hot-tempered Dr. Dre is the good guy here; Eminem plays off the “evil little bastard” persona well, especially during the song’s climax where he mocks Dr. Dre for giving advice considering his violent past (dropping a few choice N.W.A. references) – it might be one of the funniest parts of the record. Doesn’t hurt that the song has a hard-hitting, danceable beat to go along with the subject matter.

Beyond the singles, there are a lot of choice album tracks that display Eminem’s knack for storytelling – I’m particularly fond of “Brain Damage,” where he describes a succession of bullies that beat on him in high school (including his principal and even his own mother). Then there’s the notorious “97 Bonnie and Clyde,” which – despite kicking off his well-publicized feud with his ex-wife Kim – is another very funny song, albeit probably the darkest on the record. It worried me for a bit when I first heard it, since it starts off with Eminem talking cutely to his daughter Hailie; I’m still getting over that gross “Blackbird” song off of Encore so maybe it was just a Pavlovian response. But then it turns out that, hey, he just slit his daughter’s mother’s throat and he’s dumping her into the harbor, with his daughter in tow! And he’s describing it to her in these cutesy baby terms (“Mama wanted to show you how far she can float / and don’t worry about that little boo-boo on her throat / it’s just a scratch!”). Man that’s terrible! Awful! But it’s really funny. You will feel guilty, it is so funny.

I enjoy most of Slim Shady in this matter. One complaint – while lyrically, Slim Shady is solid, musically it can be a little weak at points. Some songs are downright ugly, in fact, and are saved by Eminem’s creepily entertaining witticisms. “My Fault” is a perfect example – while it’s a humorously bizarre story about Eminem sharing some shrooms with a girl and her freaking out and ODing, the chorus is so unusual and ugly that it almost seems intentional. Probably was intentional. Also, the album as a whole kinda starts to lose my attention near the end, probably because it’s over an hour long; the last few songs are solid, though, especially the epic, defiant closer “Still Don’t Give A Fuck,” a perfect segue into The Marshall Mathers LP.

The Slim Shady LP is a perfect reminder of what made Eminem such a phenomenon in the first place – simply put, he was a jokey, dark, scheming little bastard, a personality that years of media hatred and layer upon layer of serious self-consciousness eventually obscured beyond the point of recognition (no wonder “Just Lose It,” the only joke-single released off Encore, felt so forced). It’s a shame he lost his edge, because for a few years he was arguably the most bluntly honest pop superstar of all time – and looking back, it is unbelievable that the same kids my age that bought up N*Sync and Britney Spears records would even touch an Eminem release. I guess it was just for the poop jokes?

Anyway. There you go, Matt. The Slim Shady LP is good! Okay?? It’s done. It’s over. Stop peering through my window.

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>Carson, We Hardly Knew Ye: A Trubute to TRL

>Kids, have you heard the news? TRL died today. That’s right – after ten glorious years at the top of the business, the only program on MTV that bothers to show music videos anymore is leaving forever. In the age of late-night VH1, FUSE, and MUN2 (it’s Spanish okay), America has just run out of love for TRL. How sad.

I know what you’re asking yourself – why? And you’re not alone; it’s a question every warm-blooded American across the country is asking themselves right now. What sparked the tragic downfall of America’s Greatest Countdown? Was it when Carson left? When N*Sync broke up? When Eminem lost his sense of humor? When Blink did that crappy “Miss You” Song?? God, I don’t know. We’ll never know, will we? And asking these questions will not bring our beloved TRL back. We, as a nation, have to let this one go.

Two things pop into mind upon hearing this news. One, I realize that 1998 was ten years ago. (Ughhh.) Two, I realize that TRL, despite its crass commercialism and questionable musical content, made me love music videos – and pop music in general – as an ever-developing teenager. I mean, the show started right when I hit the sixth grade, and peaked right smack dab in the middle of the seventh; boy bands, rap rock, irish girl pop (come on, B*Witched ruled) were all over my radar. Hell, I watched TRL before I even bothered listening to the radio when I went to sleep! That’s gotta mean something, right??

Oh, sure, I stopped watching the show after I grew a couple balls my freshmen year of high school (I guess 9/11 changed everything… but not really). Carson Daly left, popular music turned from teen-pop confection to crunk and that “I Kissed A Girl” song, and I started listening to the Beatles. But for all intents and purposes, TRL was the most important music-based TV show in my formative years, and I will never forget it. Even when they only played like 30 seconds of a video, I still loved it!

Here’s a few of my personal favorite popular TRL videos from back in the day. A warning: you’re not gonna find much of anything past 2001 here.

Korn – Freak On A Leash

Say what you will about the song itself, this is one cool video. I’ve never been a Korn fan, and probably never will be one, but this video was one of the first to attract me to TRL. Not only is it a compelling mish-mash of animation and live-action, but it’s got a part where there’s a bullet, and you see the bullet go through shit in slow motion like the Matrix. My favorite part: the bullet narrowly misses a fat man cannonballin’ it into a pool.

N*Sync – I Drive Myself Crazy

Boy bands always had great music videos – mostly ‘cuz they had the money and the fame to pull it off. Hell, most of the success of late 90’s boy bands could be directly connected to their success on TRL. My personal favorite has to be this one, featuring the members of N*Sync goofing around in a looney bin jaded by their past lovers. See, they were all materialistic and mean to their ladies, so they got dumped and went crazy and ended up in a mental institution – HENCE the video, HENCE the SONG! But then at the end they’re all released for some unexplained reason, and their WOMEN end up replacing them! Ha ha! I have no idea how that makes any sense!

Sum 41 – Fat Lip

This, ladies and gentlemen, is the ultimate pop-punk cream dream. Kings of Rock Sum 41 play in the middle of a GEEEEEEI-GANTIC skatepark, with black-haired lip-pierced dumb teenagers moshin’ around, skating in cardboard suits, riding around in shopping carts, shaving a girl’s head – you name it, they’re punkin’ it. There’s even a 13-year-old-lookin’ kid getting macked-up on by some HOT CHICKS! Man, I wished I were him back in 2001. “Fat Lip” was already the most cartoonishly ridiculous pop-punk song ever recorded when it came out – all it needed was an even more ridiculous video.

Sugar Ray – When It’s Over

I remember thinking when this song first came out, “Man, Sugar Ray are BACK!” It was mid-2001, two years after the Raymen graced us with such laid-back classics as “Every Morning” and “Someday” – and now here they were, with a bangin’ new tune and a bangin’ new video. The concept: the five Sugar Ray dudes can’t think of a video for the song (how META!), so we get a glimpse of what each one wants to do. That’s right – we get to peer straight into the minds of some of the early 2000’s best pop musicians. After a bunch of weird detours, hunky lead singer Mark McGrath puts a stop to it all, saying “Why don’t we do what’s right for the SONG?” And they do – the rest of the video is just the band ridin’ around on mopeds and partying down. And ain’t that just what Sugar Ray’s all about??

Come back to us, Shuggs. We miss you.

Eminem – The Real Slim Shady and Blink-182 – All The Small Things

Seriously, there are so many videos I haven’t covered here it’s embarrassing. It doesn’t help that my white-boy instincts have tainted the legacy of Nelly, TLC, Jay Z, and numerous other hip-hop artists that deserve my prized recognition in this blog post. So I’ll take the lazy way out and include the two most notable “joke” videos during TRL’s peak – videos that perfectly encapsulated almost every aspect of TRL culture in the span of three minutes. While Blink-182 cheerfully parodied the videos for “I Want It That Way,” “Someday,” “Genie In A Bottle” and “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Eminem thoroughly dissed weirder targets like Tom Green’s inexplicably popular “The Bum Bum Song” and a bizarro love triangle between Fred Durst, Christina Aguilera and Carson Daly. Sure, they’re completely dated – nobody that wasn’t alive in 2000 is going to know just what the hell is going on in these things – but as pop-culture catch-alls, they pretty much work perfectly. It was videos like these that made my dumb teenager self watch TRL every single weekday.

Get ready to pull out those Kleenexes come this November, Requestophiles. I know it won’t be easy.