Song 274: Eminem, “The Real Slim Shady” (2000)

Eminem The Marshall Mathers LP 1417x1417 Front Cover

Back when The Marshall Mathers LP came out, I was pretty opposed to the whole thing. There was no question of Eminem’s abilities, but I couldn’t get past the homophobia, and more importantly, I couldn’t get past his denial that it was a problem.

So why should I feel any differently now? It’s not like homophobia in hip-hop has gotten any less rampant, despite a cultural shift since 1999. Or maybe I’ve just come to accept that it’s part of hip-hop culture, whether Iike it or not. Maybe, as with the even more rampant misogyny, it’s just something I’ll have to accept as part of Eminem’s deal.

Of course, Eminem’s deal has never been easy to ascertain, other than the fact that he’s a brilliant smartass, a rapper as committed to lyrical structure and internal rhymes as Rakim. On top of it all, Marshall Mathers is also capable of some genuinely moving songwriting (as in “Stan,” for one example).

I not only resisted Eminem back in 1999, I resisted “The Real Slim Shady,” that monster of a hit that was impossible to avoid. The jock assholes in the dorm room across from me used to blast it when they pre-partied with their red Solo cups, and in my snobbery I decided it was a jock asshole anthem. Which it kind of was, but it was also everywhere. And back in the heyday of boy bands and Limp Bizkit, I should have recognized it for the breath of fresh air that it was.

And even though its references are ridiculously dated, it’s still an insanely clever song, which is helped by Eminem’s comic timing. My favorite part is when Mathers raps, “And Dr. Dre says…” which is a reference to Eminem’s previous big hit, “My Name Is,” in which Dre calls Eminem a basehead. I love the dumb laugh that follows “Dr. Dre’s dead, he’s locked in my basement!” Nothing’s out of place, even the stupid shit. But it’s the stupid shit that matters.

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