Today In Hip-Hop: Eminem Releases ‘The Eminem Show’

On this day, May 28, in hip-hop history…

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2002: After dropping the fastest-selling solo album by any artist in American music history with The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem was suddenly mainstream hip-hop’s most coveted act. So much so that although The Eminem Show was scheduled for a June 4 release, copies were hitting the shelves a full week early. The facetiousness of “White America” aside, Shady was right: seemingly everyone loved his shit. Because of its abrupt new release date, The Eminem Show only had one day of official sales for the weekly Billboard charts; the LP still debuted at No. 1 with more than 284 thousand units moved.

The Eminem Show faced even more personal urgency than commercial anticipation. In less than two years, Em became the biggest rap star in the country, prompted protests by everyone from GLAAD to Tipper Gore, was sued by his mother and ex-wife, and faced two years of probation after two separate assault charges. The result was Eminem’s most introspective and lyrically advanced effort of his career; “White America” breaks down the hypocrisy of the Bush administration, while “Hailie’s Song” finds him singing a humble hook to his six-year-old daughter.

The album was primarily produced by Eminem himself, with assists from longtime collaborator Jeff Bass. After producing six beats on  The Marshall Mathers LP, Dr. Dre was behind the boards of just three of The Eminem Show’s 20 tracks. Sonically, the album made heavy use of guitar and stadium rock, and songs were broken up by Em’s infamous recurring skits with Steve Berman, Paul Rosenberg and the fictional Ken Kaniff.

In retrospect, what’s most amazing about The Eminem Show is the bleak subject matter of its singles. Millions of kids from the suburbs were rapping along as Shady detailed pulling a gun on Kim in “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” while a song about the responsibility of entertainers in the post–9/11 milieu (“Sing For The Moment”) charted around the world. But the rest of the album almost registers as tame compared to the final cut, “My Dad’s Gone Crazy,” which featured Eminem snorting lines of coke in front of his daughter and blowing “every fucking thing except Afghanistan on the map off.”

Though never promoted as a single, “‘Till I Collapse” is perhaps the only song from the album still in rotation, thanks to every intro video at every professional sports game over the past five years. The Eminem Show won a Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2003, and was certified ten-times platinum in 2011.—Steven Goldstein