Last fall Eminem delivered a follow-up to The Marshall Mathers LP but would it be plausible to give his 1999 album, The Slim Shady LP, a similar treatment?
The project was released 15 years ago, on February 23, 1999, inviting negative criticism for its gritty and violent lyrical content. In the current rap landscape, where artists are more inclined to apologize for provocative lyrics — thanks in part to the mania that spreads through social media like wildfire — this is one classic album that should probably remain immortalized in time, as a stand-alone piece of work.
Eminem made some big steps on MMLP2, like reconciling with his mother Debbie Mathers on the track “Headlights.” For fans who have followed Em’s career over the past decade, that was a bit difficult to digest, since Debbie has been a target of his rage through multiple tracks, albums and concerts.
Em tapped into some of his original fire for that sequel, but he also showed growth and maturity, and as a Stan, it would be heartbreaking to see that happen with The Slim Shady LP — unless, of course, he grew to be even more demented and disillusioned on part 2.
The album is told from the perspective of Marshall’s manic alter ego Slim Shady, and unapologetic was the theme. If “Just Don’t Give a F–k,” didn’t get his point across clearly enough, there’s a little reminder on the final track, “Still Don’t Give A Fuck,” where Shady declares, “If I offended you–good, ’cause I still don’t give a f–k.”
Parents hated it, but it was glorious.
Keep in mind that, on “Role Model,” he jokingly encouraged kids to “smoke weed, take pills, drop outta school, kill people and drink, jump behind the wheel like it was still legal,” and on “97′ Bonnie and Clyde,” he rode around with his daughter in the car while his girlfriend Kim was gagged and bound in the trunk.
That’s the kind of content that would be difficult to sell in this day and age.
In the past 12 months, we saw J. Cole apologize for a line about autism, Rick Ross swallowed his lyrics about slipping Molly into a woman’s drink and Tyler, the Creator got abandoned by Mountain Dew for a commercial that was (unfairly) deemed “racist.” All of those slips were way milder than the scathing content Eminem poured into The Slim Shady LP.
And although Em has earned himself more immunity than a younger artist like J.Cole, it might still be difficult for him to inject that level of fury into new music, considering his deals with companies like Chrysler, G-Shock and his position as Shady Records CEO. His young, reckless, nothing-to-lose attitude on The Slim Shady LP is a kind of magic that could never really be duplicated in 2014, or beyond.
On MMLP 2 he revisited that old habit of throwing around homophobic slurs, and it really pissed people off, igniting another series of debates about his lyrics that echoed all the way back in 2000.
Of course he didn’t apologize, but can you imagine the trending topics, online petitions and never-ending “think pieces” that would be birthed, if Eminem really resumed rapping like he did on The Slim Shady LP? I have a headache just thinking about it.
“Since I came in this game, my mentality still, to this day, is very much like it was at the Hip-Hop Shop, where I rap to get a reaction,”Shady told MTV News in November. “A bad reaction is better than no reaction. If my music sparks debates and conversations or whatever — be it right, be it wrong or whatever — I would rather have it get a reaction — a bad reaction — than no reaction. ‘Cause no reaction sucks.”
While Em deserves respect for maintaining that stance, the fallout from MMLP2 was enough for me to decide that I could certainly live without a sequel to The Slim Shady LP. A worthwhile follow-up would be crass and deliciously offensive, but the Internet would make that more painful than enjoyable.