The Slim Shady LP
Of all the complaints and concerns that greeted the 1999 release of Eminem’s The Slim Shady LP, the most interesting response might’ve been an editorial written by Billboard magazine’s then-editor-in-chief, Timothy White. The expected gripes with Eminem’s music are all there: It’s violent; it’s unrepentant; it makes money by “exploiting the world’s misery.” But White also spends a lot of time laying out statistics about domestic violence, and interviews the executive director of one of the country’s oldest domestic-violence-related agencies. “What is the message?” she asks. “What is he mad at?” Funny you should ask, as Eminem lists the causes of his rage throughout The Slim Shady LP. There’s the minimum-wage job as a grill cook (“If I Had”) and the bully who terrorized him as a kid (“Brain Damage”). There’s the mother who didn’t provide for him and the teachers who didn’t care, either (“My Name Is”). There’s the humiliation of being so poor that you can’t afford diapers for your daughter (“Rock Bottom”). And there’s Eminmen himself, of course (“Guilty Conscience”). But Eminem’s rage is also driven by the hypocrisy of the culture as a whole. After all, the media has long profited off violence and the denigration of women—and yet, here were powerful scolds telling Eminem that he was the problem, ignoring their own complicity (“Role Model”). Asked about the editorial in an early interview, Eminem smirked and said, “I think it hit a soft spot for Timothy White.” Being funny was one thing (though Eminem could be really funny). The problem with Eminem was that he was smart and wrote catchy songs—and that he had nothing to lose. He’d even bite the hand that fed him, if he thought the moral justification was there for it (he even took jabs at mentor Dr. Dre on “Guilty Conscience”). “How the fuck can I be white?” he asks at one point on The Slim Shady LP, “I don’t even exist.” What’s that old saying? Hurt people hurt people. Slim Shady was the sound of someone climbing off Dr. Phil’s Couch for Troubled Teens and grabbing America by the throat.