10. I was 10-years old when this album came out. And my parents bought it for me. More specifically, my mother. My father didn't want me listening to rap or watch wrestling at that age. I was doing both without his knowledge because I was a badass. I remember being 10-years old, as most of us do. And I remember thinking I was as much of an adult as anyone else. Why wouldn't I listen to this album? I didn't have older siblings, but I did have neighbors who had put me on to artists like DMX, Prodigy - the band, not the rapper - and other expletive laden pieces of art. But before this album really the only exposure I had to Eminem was on "Forgot About Dre." Again, I was 10. The internet then was not the internet now. And as an only child I was left to finding things mostly on my own. "Forgot About Dre" was EVERYWHERE the year prior, it was unavoidable and deservedly so, those strings are timeless. But after hearing it on the radio non-stop, the music video finally appeared on my television one day randomly. I couldn't believe my eyes. "That guy is white???"
Years later, after "The Marshall Mathers LP" took Eminem to a different stratosphere of superstardom, my father became a fan. Not of his music, he couldn't have less of an interest in that. But of the human. "He's an angry white boy. And he makes people even angrier." He respected the rebel. For his age bracket, he was mostly alone in that sentiment. This album is the last time I really remember large groups of people standing outside in protest, buying up albums and smashing them by the hundreds. All the "free speech" warriors were on the other side of the fence when someone was exercising that same right to say things they didn't care for. Funny how that works. But he wasn't saying certain things just to flex his constitutional rights. He just didn't really like people; specifically his mother, ex, the guy fucking his ex, anyone who looked at him a certain way, Benzino, the vast majority of pop stars, and at least 17 other people. And he never felt the need to hide that fact. After a very inspiring Public Service Announcement to star this album, "Kill You" is the first track we hear from Shady.
Simple and plain, straight to the point, flexing that his multi-syllabic rhyme schemes have leveled up since the last time we heard from Marshall. That goes right into "Stan." We go from murder to muder-suicide at the drop of a hat. We're on track three. "Stan" is one of the most influential rap songs in the history of the genre. The word alone 20 years later is so far removed from this song it's hard to believe this is its etymology. But it is, and it's Eminem's best story-telling on display. This is more of a drama/horror movie than rap. And it's perfect.
I don't do black music. I don't do white music. I MAKE FIGHT MUSIC, for high school kids.
"Who Knew" is my favorite kind of Eminem. There's a topic at hand but he's really just skating. Crazy imagery, vivid bars over production that can only be described as uniquely Eminem. "Who Knew," "I'm Back," "Drug Ballad," and "Bitch Please 2" remain my favorites to this day off this album because of this trait. These are "let me show these motherfuckers I'm really the GOAT" tracks. We know that's not the case in 2020, but he's up there. And in 2000? For the next five years? Shiiiiit, they don't make peaks much higher. I'm not even sure they get higher than the run this man went on.
"The Marshall Mathers LP" is Eminem's best work. He had plenty of songs after this that met the highs of this album but never a project that front to back was as perfect as this. It is a classic in every sense of the word. It's a word that gets thrown around frivolously these days and I don't have much of a problem with that. If something is a classic to you then enjoy, music is subjective, another bullshit colloquialism you could inject here. But you better acknowledge the ones that came before. The ones that influenced the masses. The ones that put numbers on the board long before streaming. I can't believe I was 10-years old, with a physical CD in my hands, reading through the liner notes with a big black and white picture of Eminem and Dr. Dre in the studio with a BIG bag of weed, listening to lyrics I wouldn't fully appreciate for another few years. I can't believe that's a 20 year old memory. I don't much care for it, time and what have you, but I suppose there's not much I can do about that other than appreciate the greatness I've been fortunate enough to witness from all walks of life over the time that has passed.