The Eminem Show is the fourth studio album of American rapper Eminem, released in May 2002. The record was one of the most anticipated albums of 2002. It was originally scheduled to be released in June, but it started leaking online. As a result, Eminem anticipated the release date to late May. The record debuted on top of the Billboard chart and became the best selling record of the year in the United States. With this record, rap meets rock as the artist dives deeper into a genre that he had only briefly explored before.
Eminem, born Marshall Mathers, debuted in 1996. He became popular for his sharp lyrics in telling the tales through his alter-ego, Slim Shady. Slim Shady is a violent and sadistic character. Because of Slim Shady’s nature, the artist has a chance to take his lyrics very far indeed from political correctness. Through the alter-ego, Eminem had been able to address personal issues such as marital and drug issues explicitly. For example, in the track Guilty Conscience, he encourages a man to kill his wife and lover. As a result, a trend started which recurs in all of Eminem’s career: exposing deep family trouble through his sometimes violent lyrics.
Life is a show
The inspiration for the record lies all in the artist’s personal life:
Eventually, I might need some drama in my life to inspire me […] With The Marshall Mathers LP, everything that everybody was saying–I took that, and it was my ammo. And then when shit died down a little bit, I had other turmoil in my personal life, so that was what I was able to dump out on The Eminem Show
The Truman Show, the 1998 Peter Weir movie about a man whose life is the subject of a reality show, deeply influenced Eminem. In the track Cleaning Out My Closet, a verse says “It’s my life, I’d like to welcome y’all to the Eminem Show”. This got the artist thinking about his life being scrutinized by the media, and his very turbulent relationship with his wife Kim. As a result, Eminem decided to title the album The Eminem Show in an attempt to embrace the circus he felt he was living in.
Turning dissing into an art form
The first single Without Me marks Eminem’s return to the scenes with a bang. The catchy hip-hop track starts the album’s examination of the artist’s recent rise to notoriety. In Without Me Eminem disses several artists (Limp Bizkit’s Fred Dunst and musician Moby, to name a few). This echoes in the media adding hype to the album’s release. But he doesn’t stop there: the dissing goes beyond the music industry. Various tracks’ lyrics explore the rapper’s thoughts on George W. Bush’s presidency and the war on terror that followed the 9/11 attacks. Like Toy Soldiers is a great example of the criticism towards the atmosphere in the US at the time.
The artist is aware of the risks of speaking up on matters of politics, especially in an increasingly polarized society. Eminem offers his opinions clearly, with enough writing skills and adding enough sarcasm to ensure his strong statements fit the album. The Eminem Show‘s political undertone sets the way for a trend that will see other American artists, such as Green Day and Foo Fighters, speak up against the government.
Rap meets rock
Musically the album sounds of rock and rap are finally meeting. The Eminem Show is a rock record with rap tempo and lyrics. The artist cited 70’s rock icons such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix as influences. In Sing for the Moment, Eminem uses a sample of Aerosmith’s Dream On. Powerful guitar riffs can be found throughout the record. Lyrically speaking, the rapper steps away from the misogynistic and violent atmosphere. Those themes for which he had been most known for in the past. He moves towards writing about political issues and his experience with fame, though maintaining an extensive use of cursing.
The Eminem Show allowed the artist to embrace a wider public. The fans embraced his lyric writing skills and appreciated the rock influences. Eminem’s fanbase grew larger, making him one of the most influential artists of the 2000s. The Eminem Show, with its guitar riffs and sharp lyrics, marked a new landmark for rap music worldwide.