Eminem Pushes Real Limits With Slim Shady LP

Detroit rapper's debut has already drawn criticism with its tales of rape, murder and illicit drugs.

Eminem's lyrics are provocative, potentially offensive and some would

argue art -- modern day versions of Greek tragedies. To Eminem, at

least, these raps make a point about the tragic comedy that is life.

And if it causes controversy in the process, well, then so be it, he

said.

"There's a deeper meaning behind everything I say, making fun of all

the f---ed up sh-- in the world," said Eminem, whose rapping voice

wavers between a mocking whine and an exaggerated, off-kilter yelp.

"It's comical sh--, but people will see that it is really political.

I'm not a baby sitter or a role model. I never claimed to be any of

that stuff."

The major label debut by rapper Eminem, The Slim Shady LP,

kicks off with a jokey disclaimer about the tales of violent murder,

mayhem, rape and drug taking that unfold over the course of the album.

"This is a public service announcement brought to you in part by Slim

Shady," says the cheesy announcer at the outset. "The views and events

expressed here are totally fucked, and are not necessarily the views

of anyone, however the ... suggestions that appear on this album are

not to be taken lightly.

"Slim Shady is not responsible for your actions."

What follows is a one-hour trip through the often violent mind of the

24-year-old Detroit rapper (born Marshall Mathers), who is the latest

protégé of N.W.A founder and gangsta-rap icon Dr. Dre

(born Andre Young). Just a week after its release, the album's graphic

-- and, at times, horrific -- lyrics have resulted in a tersely worded

condemnation from the editor of Billboard magazine and a strong

reaction from several women's groups.

In songs such as the album's first single,

"My Name Is,"

(RealAudio excerpt), Eminem raps about dreaming that he slits his

father's throat. A duet with Dre on "Guilty Conscience" finds various

Eminem alter egos contemplating robbery, murder and the drugging/rape

of a 15-year-old girl.

Expecting that his graphic rhymes might cause some controversy, Eminem

took time prior to the album's release to describe the "Slim Shady

concept" of his main alter ego as the "dark, evil, creatively sick

part of me."

(RealAudio excerpt of interview)

The rapper, who said he'd never met his father and had a seriously

strained relationship with his mother, defended his often violent,

misogynistic lyrics by saying that if he actually did any of the

things he raps about he'd "be in jail right now."

Eminem said that, before the album's Feb. 24 release, he had excised

lyrics in "My Name Is" that described raping lesbians and confronting

an unwanted advance by a homosexual grade school teacher. Several of

that song's profanity-laced rhymes and graphic situations are

sanitized for the radio single and video version of the track.

"If something's on my mind, I'll say it," Eminem said, adding that he

changed the lyrics to "My Name Is" at the behest of an unidentified

gay activist. "To be honest, I don't have nothing against gay people ...

The world will get offended when they listen to my sh--. I'm glad,

because at the end of the day, I don't give a sh-- what I rapped about."

The lyrics to "My Name Is" and those of

"Guilty Conscience"

(RealAudio excerpt) drew mixed reactions from women's and anti-domestic

violence groups. In the latter, Dre plays the part of a good angel

trying to stop Eminem's character, "Grady," from committing the rape

and shotgun murder of his unfaithful wife.

Judith Meuli, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National

Organization for Women, said she preferred to fault the label that

promotes and distributes albums with such lyrics rather than the

artist.

"I think about it the same way as prostitution," the 30-year NOW

veteran said. "You shouldn't fault the woman [who prostitutes herself] ...

but the people buying it and those that denied her a proper education

and opportunities. The guy's just trying to make some controversy and

sell records."

Eminem's label, Interscope Records, had no response to this story,

according to a spokesperson for the rapper.

While cultural history has been rife with images of murder and

familial violence (the patricide in the Greek myth "Oedipus," the

murderous blues of the late Robert Johnson, etc.), an advocate for

domestically abused women and children decried the rough images in

Eminem's songs.

"I had a very visceral reaction [to the album]," said Kate Cloud, the

executive director of Boston's, Respond Inc. "When we have a popular

artist whose music is promoting the victimization and abuse of an

intimate partner, it speaks very much to what we're trying to work

against."

Cloud said she had not yet heard the album and was not aware of such

songs as " '97 Bonnie and Clyde" -- wherein a husband under a

restraining order dumps the body of his murdered wife at sea -- until

she received a call last week from Billboard Editor-In-Chief

Timothy White. The Billboard editor penned a repudiation of the

album's content in the current issue of the music industry weekly.

Already a 10-year veteran performer at a relatively young age, Eminem

had been toiling on the Detroit rap scene for more than five years

before hooking up with Dre. Now, he is following in the footsteps of

Dre's previous protégé, multimillion-selling gangsta-

rapper Snoop Dogg.

Despite his protests, Eminem revealed a glimpse of his hard-nosed

persona during a SonicNet Music News interview by promising to

"go choke them motherf---ers" in a cell phone call about a personal

business dispute.

The subject matter on Slim Shady LP ranges from the travails of

an awkward teen in the song, "Brain Damage," to Eminem's self-

description as a "sick, sick bastard" in "Cum on Everybody," to an

endorsement of "[doing] acid, crack, smack, coke and smokin' dope" in

"Just Don't Give a Fuck."

At the other extreme, Eminem described the melancholy rap ballad,

"Rock Bottom," as embodying the fear and panic he felt just a year ago

before his career took off. In the song, he frets about not being able

to heat his house or provide for his daughter, to whom the album is

dedicated.

It's "about all the scary sh-- that was going through my head ... when

nobody had faith in me," he said.