I remember being at the end of primary school and then the beginning of secondary school when Eminem really hit his heights. So many of the boys in my year group liked his music and I, as a 12 year old, had a copy of The Eminem Show because I liked ‘Without Me’. I even kinda liked ‘The Real Slim Shady’, although clearly not enough to ask for the album for Christmas.
Good thing I didn’t.
Thinking of myself as a 11 year old, and people in my year group, listening to this album at that young an age is absolutely terrifying. How can you, at that age, successfully parse what is happening in tracks like ‘Kim’ where he raps about killing his wife because he thinks she has been unfaithful? The idea of satire is not even in the teaching syllabus until you are 15-16 years old and it is one of the toughest things on there for English language – so how on Earth does that work. I think, for the first time in my 31 years, I actually agree with some albums having an easily-ignored parental advisory sticker.
Hip-hop is not my genre, but the horrorcore style that Eminem employs on here is very much not my genre. Listening to the gateway tracks like ‘Stan’ and ‘The Real Slim Shady’ in the context of this album just made the latter stand out all the more. ‘Stan’ does fit in more, but it’s still a brilliantly well-written song that is helped by it being sung from the obvious point of view of a character and by being a warning about obsessive fandom. A track like ‘Kim’ is just torture porn as a song and, sadly, I know that there are other tracks by other artists that are worse than this.
Also, as a gay man, this is some of the most homophobic music I have ever heard. It boggles my mind that this, although controversial at the time, still got a free pass to major award nominations and end of year lists because there is this weird acceptance that because it is hip-hop they are allowed to have songs that justify things that are abhorrant. I know things have changed in 20 years for the better, but wow doesn’t the content of an album like this remind you of the reason to keep pushing forward.