On this day two decades ago in Hip Hop history, Eminem released his third and most successful studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP.
Executive produced by Dr. Dre and released under Aftermath/Interscope Records, this album sold 1.76 million copies in the first week alone, making it the fast-selling album in music history (until 2015 when Adele’s 25 smashed the record, selling 2.43 million). This success was set up well by Eminem’s previous release The Slim Shady LP, which shocked the world.
If you’ve ever listened to Eminem, you know how he rolls. If you’ve never listened to Eminem, this album may be the perfect amount of overwhelmingly violent and grotesque lyricism to either make you a life-long fan or turn to away forever (Slim Shady himself wouldn’t have it any other way). Eminem even kicks things off with a disclaimer warning any listener of what they’ve gotten themselves into listening to the album. Eminem touches subjects that a sensitive to the American public such as: depression, murder, rape, violence, suicide, mental disorder, drug abuse, homosexuality, and more. As beautifully painful as this album is, it is not for the faint of heart.
No album that speaks on what Eminem did on this project can be put out without ruffling feathers. The controversy that was met by this diamond-certified album was monumental and set a precedent in Hip Hop for what you can and cannot say. Due to the ridiculous success of this project the backlash was international. Government officials across the globe had taken public stances against Eminem, his music, his supporters, and all that he stood for. US Senator Lynne Cheney was so up-in-arms against Eminem and his sponsors that she made an official statement against him saying,
“[Eminem is] promoting violence of the most degrading kind against women …[he is] a rap singer who advocates murder and rape.”
Ontario Attorney General Jim Flaherty attempted to keep Eminem from entering the country to perform at his October 26th, 2000 Toronto Skydome show saying,
“I personally don’t want anyone coming to Canada who will come here and advocate violence against women”.
Commercially, this is the most successful rap album of all time. The album is certified diamond in the selling 12.5 million copies in the United States alone. Overseas, the album went multiplatinum in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. It goes without saying that this album was also #1 on charts across the world. The album claimed the top spot on music charts in three continents, appearing on charts in four. The album was nominated for two Grammy including Album of Year and Best Rap Album which it won.
The critical response to the album was just as outstanding as its sales. Eminem has been hailed as one of the holy trinity of biggest-selling rappers, the other two being 2Pac and Biggie of course. This album can be said to be the project that earned him his spot in that conversation. Regardless of how dark and twisted the lyrics may have been, the way they were put together was nearly flawless. Each bar spat was masterfully crafted. Slim Shady’s diction and syntax were unparalleled to anything out at the time. He balances both punch line concentrated rap and storytelling so well that this album is less of a compilation of songs and more of an autobiographical narrative describing what was going on in Em’s life at the time this album was written.
Following this project, Eminem went on to release two albums that were only marginally less successful than their predecessor before taking a five-year hiatus from releasing music. In 2009 Eminem came back on the scene with three new albums over the next four years, none of which were as successful as the first four. Nonetheless, Eminem is one of the greatest and the top-selling rapper in the history of the genre. He deserves all accolades that he has been awarded. Take some time out today to listen to his greatest work.