Having gone from the underground battle-rap circuit, to making an album with Dr. Dre, to being a triple-platinum, two-time Grammy winner in the space of a year, Marshall “Eminem” Mathers might have thought he’d peaked. Nope. When his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP, came out in May 2000, it sold 1.8 million copies its first week in stores—the second biggest opening week in music-industry history. (Justin Timberlake’s boy band N’Sync had sold 2.4 million in a week two months earlier.)
While the album remained at the No. 1 spot throughout the summer, legal trouble and public controversy threatened to eclipse the Detroit MC’s pop chart supremacy. Weapons charges, assault charges, marital strife, an ugly lawsuit with his mother and protests staged by activist groups upset at his “hate lyrics.” Still, the American public couldn’t get enough of the trailer-park kid turned MTV darling who could rap circles around his peers, and by the end of the year, The Marshall Mathers LP had sold a whopping 7.9 million copies. Best of all, for us, the album’s title track included this famous diss/shout-out: “Double XL! Double XL!/Now your magazine shouldn’t have so much trouble to sell.” Turns out he was right. (Thanks, Em!)
In a candid interview, Eminem reflects on the year he became a worldwide phenomenon.
The Marshall Mathers LP set the record for the biggest opening ever by a solo artist when it sold 1.8 million copies its first week. Did you look at those numbers as a huge success or a tremendous pressure to come?
I’m always way more interested in the creative side than anything else. I’m not the type of artist who is asking every 10 minutes what we have sold so far. Of course, I was happy and shocked by those numbers—they are crazy, especially with the way sales are today. I can’t really remember exactly what I was expecting to sell. We were just trying to do as well as the last album did. The problem is that once you reach those kinds of sales, everyone expects it to keep coming, which is pretty impossible.
You started 2000 by winning Grammys for Best Rap Album and Best Solo Performance for The Slim Shady LP. Did you ever imagine you would be a Grammy-Award-winning artist?
I never really understood what the hell a Grammy was. Growing up, it always seemed like a bunch of older people wearing tuxedos, deciding whose album they thought was the best. It’s nice when people want to give you an award, but I’d rather have the respect of my peers in the type of music that I make than anything else first. But now, I don’t mean to brag, I have nine of those muthafuckas, and I love them, so I’m trying to get one more, to make it an even 10.
You also won three MTV Video Music Awards that year. Were you happy, or did all of the recognition go against what you wanted to say as an artist?
I definitely feel like, with the MTV Awards, the people watching are more so the types of fans that buy hip-hop music. So to receive those kinds of awards was more like the type of attention I wanted. I was, of course, worried that I was becoming like all of those pop artists that I was taking stabs at around that time. But then again, I was taking stabs at just about everyone. I should start doing that again.
XXL Staff Picks
Songs of the Year:
“Country Grammar (Hot…),” Nelly
“The Next Episode,” Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Dogg & Nate Dogg
“Whoa!,” Black Rob
“Shake Ya Ass,” Mystikal
“Bad Boyz,” Shyne featuring Barrington Levy
“Ante Up (Robbing Hoodz Theory),” M.O.P. featuring Funkmaster Flex
“Southern Hospitality,” Ludacris
“Big Pimpin’,” Jay-Z featuring UGK
“Ms. Jackson,” OutKast
“Stan,” Eminem featuring Dido
Albums of the Year:
The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem
Country Grammar, Nelly
Back for the First Time, Ludacris
Supreme Clientele, Ghostface Killah