Release Year: 1999
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Eminem is my favorite rapper of all time. I used to listen to rap a lot more, but since it’s turned into nothing but songs about moving body parts in a stupid way, I’ve stopped listening to all of it except for Eminem. And this is the album that started it all; this is the album that created Slim Shady mania during the late 90’s. If anything the record shows you that this guy is one of the sickest lyricists around. The debut has everything that the rapper would become known for: controversy, violent and insane lyrics, and some of the best rap songs to this day.
If you’ve read any of my reviews on Eminem’s other albums, you know that I hate the skits that he includes on them and here it’s no different. There are more than there needs to be on the record, but what makes them bearable is that they’re pretty short and funny. My favorite one has the be “Bitch” which has this girl making a phone call saying how this album is the most disgusting thing she’s ever heard. And most of the skits continue in this manner; they basically warn the listener of how horrible the record is. My only question is are these messages real; if they are it just makes them funnier.
Of course the album begins with everybody’s favorite song “My Name Is.” This is the song that introduced the world to the crazy ego Slim Shady. He’s rude, violent, and fueled by drugs as he states in the song. The lyrics are insane, catchy, and beyond clever. Who doesn’t love to sing “Hi my name is, what?” whenever this song comes on? Everything about the track has this jarring style from the way Eminem raps to the music and the main beat. Oddly enough, it’s one of the most upbeat songs on the record, not necessarily in lyrical content, but in terms of music and the way he’s rapping. The high pitched vocals he uses are what define Eminem from Slim Shady. What;s even better is that the song still stands to this day.
The next song “Guilty Conscience” is one of the best songs on the album. I really love the good and bad dynamic presented by Dr. Dre and Eminem. Just like the previous song, this one has a lot of humor in it as well. I also love the music; it sounds creepy and dramatic, which fits the mood of the song perfectly. It’s really cool how the melody is made with a few notes on the piano. My favorite part has to be when Eminem takes several shots at Dr. Dre’s expense. The only thing I wonder about the song is why the chorus from the clean version isn’t found here. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is a great track. Things get more personal on “Brain Damage,” where the rapper retells the story of how he was beaten up everyday by one particular bully who he calls out by name. It’s like the ultimate revenge tale because he then kicks the bully’s ass, what he couldn’t do at the time it was happening. Another reason the song is so good is because he describes everything in vivid detail it’s like you’re hearing a story and you can picture everything in your head.
Another great song and another one of my favorites is “Role Model.” This is basically a response to critics who say rappers and musicians have a job to be role models for kids. Even though this was one of the album’s singles it doesn’t seem to get as much love as the other songs do. That’s a shame because it’s really good. Not only is the music cool with this odd Middle Eastern twang, but the lyrics are funny and clever as usual. One of my favorite lines from the song is “My mind won’t work if my spine don’t jerk/I slapped Garth Brooks out of his Rhinestone shirt/I’m not a player just a ill rhyme sayer/That’ll spray an Aerosol can up at the ozone layer.” Also, I love how insane Eminem sounds towards the end where he’s screaming “Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me?” It’s almost like he’s trying to challenge you.
The record is full of controversial content and one of them stems from the song “’97 Bonnie and Clyde.” In a nutshell, it’s an early version of “Kim,” where the rapper kills his wife and dumps her body in the water. But the song isn’t as disturbing as the one found on his second album. Some may say it’s even more disturbing because his daughter is featured on the track while he’s murdering her mother. What’s interesting about the song is that Eminem talks about the murder to his daughter in a cutesey manner that makes it sound like she’s not dead at all. Rather, he makes it sound like she’s asleep with ketchup stains all over her shirt. It’s definitely a dark song and one that won’t be easily forgotten.
Eminem has said time and time again that he and Slim Shady are two different egos; they don’t even rap about the same things. After listening to the content of this album and comparing it to his later work, it’s easy to understand what he’s talking about. Songs like “Just Don’t Give a Fuck,” “Role Model,” and “My Fault” all come from the mind of Shady. They’re all full of violent lyrics, drug references, and behavior so crazy that it’s hard to take him seriously, which seems to be the point. There are a few songs like “Rock Bottom” and “If I Had” that are full of heavy material dealing with the rapper’s life, such as getting bullied, struggling for money, and trying to make it in the rap game. It’s similar to the material that would be found on this second album. But for the most part the record is full of songs taken from Slim’s point of view.
Overall, the album gets 8.5/10. This record shows that Eminem was destined to be one of the most successful rappers even to this day. The songs are amazing with awesome beats and sick lyrics that will make your head spin. There aren’t as many personal songs here that would be found on his later records, but there’s enough of Slim Shady to keep you full. For me, I had to get used to the record. I though it was pretty different to his later material, which I was used to. But now I have a new found love and appreciation for it. After listening to this album again, it’s easy to understand why the world went so Eminem crazy when he first came out.