The Real Slim Shady LP – Eminem (1999)


“The Real Slim Shady LP” is the full debut album from Detroit born rapper Marshall Mathers who is professionally known as Eminem.

Produced mainly by Dr Dre, Bass Brothers and Eminem himself the album would launch the career of one of the most successful hip hop artists of all time.

For me this is one of  best debut sets you will hear from any artist because it sets the tone for an entire career and no matter when you listen to it the whole thing sounds fresh and new.

The story of how he has grown up, his cynical take on life, and his opinion on people and their reactions is very clever. The nasal whine that his vocal portrays only helps with this sarcastic and often vulgar lyrical diatribe.

The lyrics are unapologetic in their deception of violence, murder and drug taking. They are so brutally honest sometimes you may even wince.

But most of all this is a very funny album. Like comedy in general it might not be to everyone’s taste but it certainly makes me laugh.

After the “Public Service Announcement” skit we go straight into Eminem’s first hit single  “My Name Is”. It is a perfect introduction to Mathers and his alter ego Slim Shady.

The first lyrics of the verse are:

Hi kids! Do you like violence? (Yeah yeah yeah!)
Wanna see me stick Nine Inch Nails through each one of my eyelids? (Uh-huh!)

The theme of younger people copying how he is suggesting he lives his life is something he touches on throughout the album as their seems an almost disbelief that younger listeners could be in anyway influenced by his lyrics when talking about such extreme subjects.

“My Name Is” is an attack on everything. It’s an attack on convention and formality. He is attempted to say everything he feels he should not say. There is perhaps a little contrived air about the song given that Eminem clear wants to shock but by giving it the humorous edge this song duly delivers.

“Guilty Conscience” is a duet/duel with Dr Dre. Eminem takes on the role of the bad influence whereas Dr Dre is the light in this particular story which sees three situations explained in spoken announcements and then advice given by Dre and the devil like Eminem.

[Shady]Now all you gotta do is nibble on this little bitch’s earlobe..
[Dre] Yo! This girl’s only fifteen years old
You shouldn’t take advantage of her, that’s not fair
[Shady] Yo, look at her bush.. does it got hair? (Uh huh!)

The situations depicted in the song are still all relateable and the choice to be calm or given into your violent side is delivered in an an engaging and witty way.

“Brain Damage” is another droll take on his life and how he has been beaten over the head both physically and metaphorically. This is a surreal take on how he was bullied as a teenager in school and in the second verse he names his bully as D’Angelo Bailey who subsequently attempted to sue him after the release of this record.

This hyponagogic recalling of events may seem funny at times but the vitriol Mathers puts into the delivery of the verses clearly tells us that there is pain locked away about these dark times in his life. The production on the song like many of the tracks is big bass driven West coast style hip hop beats.

“Paul (skit)” is a call from his attorney who leaves Eminem a voicemail stating that he needs to tone down the album lyrics as he is struggling to explain it.

We then go straight into “If I Had” which changes the tone of the album with a more serious tune and sombre lyrics. This song is basically Eminem having a moan yet you can’t get away from the fact that he is talking about things that are personal to him and he hasn’t resorted to the tired Hip Hop subject of money, bitches and the hustle.

I’m tired of being white trash, broke and always poor
Tired of taking pop bottles back to the party store
I’m tired of not having a phone
Tired of not having a home to have one in if I did have it on.

“97 Bonnie & Clyde” is a dive into some dark territory. It features vocals from his then young daughter Hallie. The song is about Eminem killing his ex wife Kim, disposing of her body and explaining to Hallie what has happened and that in fact it is all great. The song is quite macabre and certainly not what you might have expected. For me its not a track I like greatly, not because of the lyrics but the beat and monotonous chorus of “Just The Two of Us” is a little annoying.

Mama said she wants to show you how far she can float.

And don’t worry about that little boo-boo on her throat.

“Role Model” goes back to the theme explored on “My Name Is” which is the ridiculousness of being influenced by Eminem especially to the point that you would copy him in every day life is treated with a jokey disdain.

I came to the club drunk with a fake ID
Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!
I’ve been with 10 women who got HIV
Now don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!
I got genital warts and it burns when I pee
Don’t you wanna grow up to be just like me!
I tie a rope around my penis and jump from a tree
You probably wanna grow up to be just like me!!!

The song as a great beat and a catch guitar rift which Eminem finds it almost easy to flow over. There isn’t a great deal musically within the album but the style of rap from Shady complements this simple yet booming production.

“My Fault” is hilarious. It’s a story about Eminem going to a rave (with his mates Ron and Dave) and met a blonde babe who had half of her head shaved whose name is Susan.

Instead of taking other drugs or even drinking Shady invites her to try Magic Mushrooms with him. He takes one, she takes the rest of the bag and subsequently falls very ill.

I never meant to give you mushrooms girl
I never meant to bring you to my world
Now you sitting in the corner crying
And now it’s my fault my fault

The song is crass and easily offensive, yet despite his sarcastic way of dealing with this situation there is always a bit of fear in his voice that this girl is really not going to be okay and as the song is fading out we can hear him shouting at her to wake up and also saying “You’re not dead”. Morbid, obscene and gruesome but still a highly enjoyable listen! To me anyway.

“Ken Kaniff” is a skit where a the character Kaniff calls Eminem and proposes many extreme homosexual acts. Kaniff will appear on every Eminem album.

“Cum On Everybody” is an upbeat track featuring the vocals of Dina Rae. The theme of no subject being off limits is evident with the first line of the first verse:

My favoite color is red, like the blood shed
from Kurt Cobain’s head, when he shot himself dead
Women all grabbin at my shishkabob
Bought Lauryn Hill’s tape so her kids could starve
(I can’t stand white people!)

His wittiness is in full swing yet what he is saying is easy to understand and whilst not exactly relateable the satirical look at life in the media is brilliant.

“Rock Bottom” loses the humor and is a tad bitter. The lyrics are about what he feels he deserves and how bad life is. I feel this is the weakest track on the album as it’s dour and whilst he is trying to explore desperation and poverty I don’t connect with what he is saying and the way the song is structured.

“Just Don’t Give A Fuck” is a head nodding track with a early 90’s feel akin to Beastie Boys or Cypruss Hill. The song is self explanatory from the title with Eminem delivering some of his best lyrics and delivery on the entire album. With this track he shows that whilst he can do the humour and the witty observations he is also a first class rapper who can go toe to toe with anyone.

“As The World Turns” is the most appalling lyrics you are likely to hear. The song is about raping a fat girl. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a slight overstep and pointlessness about this track. Skip.

“I’m Shady” is one of the best tracks on the entire set. Using a sample from the Curtis Mayfield track “Pusherman” that sample give the song it’s most soulful feel. The lyrics are clever and Eminem about his life as a waster as he was into drug dealing and other crime.

“Bad Meets Evil” features rapper Royce Da 5’9. It is a forgettable track with Royce sounding like he could be anyone. Eminem and Royce would go on to form their own group called Bad Meets Evil. This track is one of those where you can’t wait to end.

“Still Don’t Give Fuck” is the final track on “The Real Slim Shady LP”. It’s another sombre darker track which the album as only a few of.

There is vivid imagery over a quite traditional hip hop beat with Shady again telling us he doesn’t give a fuck which he did only tell us a few songs ago. Clearly he felt the need to tell us again.

“The Real Slim Shady LP” is a great debut album and introduces us to Eminem and makes us interested in his character. After this album you want to know what he going to do next – his vocal style and brash lyrics makes him fascinating and when listening to this album 17 years after it’s release it is easy to see why he became so popular because Eminem is an engaging, insightful, slightly warped individual whose appeal is widespread.

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