On this day, May 23rd, in hip-hop history…
2000: A little over one year after abrasively disrupting the world of hip-hop with his riveting and controversial first major release, The Slim Shady LP, a then twenty-seven year old Eminem followed up his groundbreaking alter ego based project with the equally as fascinating The Marshall Mathers LP. Under the guidance of rap icon, Dr. Dre, the enthralling Caucasian rapper from Detroit harnessed the attention and notoriety he received from his previous release and converted that momentum into an exploding bomb of hip-hop potency.
With an enormous chip on his shoulder, and having recently collected an overabundance of skeptics and cynics because of the brash insensitivity in his lyrics, Eminem, who was seemingly unconcerned with the negative feedback regarding his content, applied those same fearless tactics to his approach on The Marshall Mathers LP.While the two albums were similar in triggering widespread reaction (whether it be positive or negative), this effort was significantly more personal of an album. Eminem spends the majority of The Marshall Mathers LP openly assessing the immense struggles he’s endured within his family life (“Kim”, “Kill You”), his troubles with his sudden rise to fame (“Marshall Mathers”, “The Way I Am“) his weakness for overindulging in drugs (“Drug Ballad”, “Under The Influence”), and his uneasiness with the inevitability of his music’s impact on the youth (“Who Knew”, “Stan”).
Where Eminem really showed creative growth on this album is that while most of his lyrics do hold colossal meaning, he also introduced a more matured and intelligent sense of humor and sarcasm. He certainly understands the impact of his words, and in specific moments throughout the album decides to go so far over the top with his lyrics just to provoke chaos that it really leaves you no option but to appreciate not only his self awareness but also his wildly authentic imagination.
One of only twenty-three albums in the history of hip-hop that XXL has ever issued a perfect “XXL” rating to, the complexity of The Marshall Mathers LP landed it endless amounts of awards and recognition. It won the Grammy Award for “Best Rap Album” in 2001, has sold over twenty one million copies worldwide, reached #1 on the Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart, and among a continuous list of other accolades was also certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America in 2011.
Powerful, offensive, influential, and unforgettable all in the same breath, The Marshall Mathers LP was official confirmation that Eminem had positively arrived and hip-hop as we knew it would surely never be the same again.—Michael Blair