#eminem-xxlfirst5-featured

Eminem

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Since a co-sign from Dr. Dre brought him to mainstream almost 13 years ago, Eminem has grown to become something more than a star, or even one of hip-hop’s all time greats. He’s become an international icon. While there’s been professional and personal ups and downs along the way, one thing has remained constant: an absolutely unbelievable way with words and a person who’s always been willing to rip themselves open for the rest of the world to see. His catalog is proof; see for yourself.

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With apologies to De La Soul, five is the magic number. It’s usually the amount of albums in a standard record deal, but few MCs ever fulfill their contractual obligations with as much aplomb as they started. Whether an artist peaks early or late, staying consistent over the duration of five albums has proven challenging no matter the era in hip-hop. XXLmag.com decided to rank the best first-five album runs in hip-hop history (First 5). A new act and their ranking will be revealed each day of the week throughout the month of October and the Top 5 will be revealed on November 5th. Get in on the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #XXLFirst5.

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1. The Slim Shady LP (1999)

1. The Slim Shady LP (1999)

Released: February 23 1999

Label: Aftermath / Interscope

With both critical and commercial success, The Slim Shady LP launched Eminem into stardom. “My Name Is” introduced the world to the brilliant mind of Slim Shady to the delight of critics and the dismay of parents, many of whom decided Em was the one to blame for the ills of today’s youth. While the album also gained notoriety for the lawsuits filed against Shady by his mother among others, it’s best known as the introduction to Dr. Dre’s protégé who would go on to change rap forever.

2. The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

2. The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)

Released: May 23, 2000

Label: Aftermath / Interscope

Selling more than 1.75 million albums in the first week alone is befitting of one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. A deeply personal, at times unsettling, look into the mind of Marshall Mathers, the album examined a troubled childhood and struggles with fame. The controversy surrounding Em from the release of his debut album exploded after the release of his sophomore effort, as people called it misogynistic and homophobic. Protests withstanding, The Marshall Mathers LP went on to win a Grammy for Best Rap Album, where Em performed what many consider his greatest cultural moment of all time, “Stan” with the openly gay Elton John.

3. The Eminem Show (2002)

3. The Eminem Show (2002)

Released: May 28, 2002

Label: Aftermath / Shady / Interscope

Following up The Marshall Mathers LP was a tall order to fill, and on The Eminem Show, Marshall proved to be up to the task. Sharper than ever lyrically, Em excelled in a variety of different types of records, the poppy “Without Me,” the deeply personal “Cleaning Out My Closet,” and even taking on Dick Cheney and Tipper Gore. It also marked the first album in which Em handled the majority of the production.

4. Encore (2004)

4. Encore (2004)

Released: November 12, 2004

Label: Aftermath / Interscope

Despite catching some flack for a drop in lyricism on Encore, Em’s fourth album was still well received across the board thanks to strong ideas behind songs. The lead single “Just Lose It” occupied a similar space as “Without Me” had on The Eminem Show, while “Like Toy Soldiers” touched on his beef with Benzino and “Mockingbird” addressed his relationship with daughter, Hailie, and adopted daughter Alaina. Despite huge album sales, though, Eminem later expressed that it was during the recording process of this album that he developed an addiction to prescription drugs and that he was unsatisfied with its outcome.

5. Relapse (2009)

5. Relapse (2009)

Released: May 15, 2009

Label: Aftermath/Interscope

After a four-year hiatus due to writer’s block and an addiction to prescription drugs, Eminem returned with Relapse, an album that to many, missed its mark. It’s lead single “Crack a Bottle” didn’t flop, per se, but its impact wasn’t close to that of his previous albums. Even Shady admitted it wasn’t his best effort, revisiting the album on Recovery, saying “Let’s be honest, that last Relapse CD was ehhh.”