Backstory: Shocking, harrowing, offensive, complex, emotional, captivating. Those are just a few words to describe The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem’s third studio album released in the spring of 2000 and titled after his birth name. The album ruffled a lot of feathers and certainly stirred up a lot of controversy, but it was also named one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time by Rolling Stone, XXL, and Time magazines, and of course by many rap aficionados worldwide.
With Dr. Dre producing most of the tracks on the album and Eminem’s astonishing, no-holds barred lyrics, The Marshall Mathers LP sold nearly 1.8 million copies in the U.S. in its first week and became the fastest-selling studio album by any solo artist in American history (later broken by Adele’s 25 in 2015). Coming off of the commercial success of his second album The Slim Shady LP in 1999, Eminem spent two months and long studio hours working on The Marshall Mathers LP. When the album was finally completed, the Detroit native had an autobiographical and disturbing classic on his hands.
Except for the album’s first (and biggest) single The Real Slim Shady, the LP featured less of the comical shenanigans of Slim Shady, the vicious, violent alter ego Eminem introduced on the previous album, and more of a raw introspective account of his life. And no one proved to be safe from Eminem’s wrath either. From his mother, to his ex-wife Kim, to other family members, the rapper unapologetically and lyrically bashed them all — while of course taking harsh jabs at the prominent pop artists of that time: Britney Spears, N’Sync, and Christina Aguilera.
While the haunting tracks Stan and The Way I Am were hits on the charts, the bleak songs Kill You and Kim, on which Eminem intensely and chillingly raps about the deep, sadistic rage and disgust he has for his mother and ex-wife, received an immense amount of backlash for its violent subject matter and misogynist lyrics. Lynne Cheney, wife of former Vice President Dick Cheney, even called the rapper a “violent misogynist” at a Senate committee hearing on violence and entertainment in September 2000. Criminal, the last track on the album, also received its fair share of criticism. The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) condemned the song and the album because they felt it encouraged violence against gay men and lesbians.
Despite the controversial songs and backlash Eminem received from some for the album, the Marshall Mather’s LP was praised by critics and went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album in 2001. The complexity of the album along with Eminem’s unique, passionate delivery and raw lyrics are what makes The Marshall Mathers LP a brutally honest, abrasive journey into the head of one of the music industry’s most talented rappers, and arguably his best piece of work.
Chart status: By March 2011, The Marshall Mathers LP was certified Diamond with 10 millions copies sold in the U.S. By May of 2015 the album had sold over 11 millions copies in the U.S. and 32 million copies worldwide. The single The Real Slim Shady peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the UK singles charts. The Way I Am hit No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart and No. 58 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album’s third single, Stan, was a No. 1 hit in the UK and Australia.
Credits: Eminem (composer, producer), Dr. Dre (producer), Mel-Man (composer, producer), Jeff Bass (producer), Mark Bass (producer), 45 King (producer), Dido (vocals), D12, Xzibit, Snoop Dogg, Sticky Fingaz, Nate Dogg
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