Eminem: 5 Reasons 'The Eminem Show' Is A Classic Album
Eminem's massively successful fourth album, The Eminem Show, turns 15 on May 26.
Coming off the acclaimed back-to-back releases of The Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP in 1999 and 2000, respectively, Eminem was under substantial pressure to keep the hype train rolling. His previous albums carried trademark touches of couching personal reflections beneath a veneer of "f*** the world" bravado mixed with in-your-face shock-rap lyricism. With The Eminem Show, Em kept his perverse sense of humor but ratcheted his autobiographical introspection up to 11.
With 15 years in the rearview, Eminem's shock jabs and sexual innuendos seem a lot tamer than they did in 2002. Even in the face of his reputation at the time as the sonic boogeyman of white American suburbs, many contemporary critics managed to recognize his effort for what it was: the work of a calmer, more focused artist at the top of his game. Writing for Slant Magazine in 2002, reviewer Sal Cinquemani commented, "The album displays a — dare I say it? — more 'mature' Eminem."
To celebrate the album's 15-year milestone, we've gathered some facts about the record you may find surprising.
In the nascent years of peer-to-peer file sharing, major players of the bootlegging underground began stealing records, ripping them to MP3 and uploading them to file-sharing outlets online thanks to infiltrators working at various levels of major labels' manufacturing and supply chains. (More info on this age of piracy can be found in Stephen Witt's excellent book How Music Got Free). The Eminem Show was just one of many sought-after records that was stolen and made available for download online a full 25 days before the album's intended release, prompting Interscope to bump the release date to May 28. Many stores had the album in stock the previous weekend, and consequently began selling the record on May 26, 2002. The promotional posters that accompanied the new release read, "America Couldn't Wait."
Despite the conditions under which the album was made available for sale, the record sold 284,000 in its first 24 hours and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It became the first album in history to debut at No. 1 with only one sales day counting toward its first-week availability. The album's first full week on shelves saw sales figures of more than 1.3 million copies, and it eventually became the best-selling album of 2002 in the U.S. To date it has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, earning diamond certification from the RIAA.
Censorship and slip-ups
For commercial reasons, the 'clean' versions of the album were more sanitized, with seven additional swear words previously allowed to pass on the The Slim Shady & The Marshall Mathers LPs being targeted for removal via sound effects or backmasking. In several cases, entire sentences were eliminated, as they could not otherwise be effectively censored. Furthermore, in some early clean versions of the record, the entire ninth track, "Drips," was removed and replaced with four seconds of silence. On these heavily censored versions of the album, at least five instances of Eminem saying f***, m*********er and b**** were left audible, while several sections that did not contain swearing or obvious profanity were backmasked.
Self-production and '70s styling
No doubt adding to the deeply personal and more mature sound and feel of the album, Eminem took a more active role for The Eminem Show, self-producing roughly 90 percent of the album. Eminem's longtime musical collaborator Jeff Bass was on hand to help build the tracks for the album's main singles: Dr. Dre acted as the album's executive producer and also crafted three of the record's B-sides. Stylistically, Eminem said he sought to fuse typical hip-hop sounds with the sonic energy of '70s rock, mixing guitar-driven melodies with rap rhythms. "Sing For The Moment," for example, contains a notable sample of Aerosmith's "Dream On," as well as a reinterpretation of its classic guitar solo. So much of the sample was used as the hook for "Sing For The Moment" that the album liner notes list Steven Tyler as a contributing songwriter. Another rock sample that made the cut for the album is the bombastic kick-clap beat of "'Till I Collapse," which is an interpolation of the intro from Queen's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-inducted "We Will Rock You."
Awards and influence
The Eminem Show received five nominations at the 45th GRAMMY Awards, bringing home two wins for Best Rap Album and Best Short Form Music Video for "Without Me." The album was Eminem's third consecutive LP to win Best Rap Album, and his third win in the category in a four-year span. To date, he is the winningest artist in the Best Rap Album category, having won six times. He has been nominated for Album Of The Year for his solo work three times, including a nod for The Eminem Show. In his acceptance speech for Best Rap Album at the 45th GRAMMYs, Eminem broke from tradition and instead of thanking his family, friends and contributors, he read a list of the artists and MCs who inspired him to pursue a career in music.