“Fast.” That’s how Eminem described the making of The Marshall Mathers LP 1 in 2013. He was on Big Tigger’s guest chair for another edition of Rap City, rap’s longest running hip hop TV show. Its jovial host, sitting forward with cue cards in his lap, asked Em for a single word on each of his albums – how he was feeling and how he may’ve laid it down. And he just says, “I almost didn’t feel in control of my life anymore, and all I wanted to do was rap [...] I still just want my records to be heard by enough people, to be respected by my peers. That’s all I want, know what I’m saying? I don’t want to go to this or that show, three shows in one day, this club appearance — it’s just a lot. At that time, I wasn’t ready for it, and I don’t think nobody was.”
Given the context, you’d think he’d have more on his mind. A few months before the Big Tigger conversation, The Marshall Mathers LP didn’t need a number. There was merely one: an only devil child that couldn’t keep its middle finger down. Speed, ferocity and abstract astonishment were likely to flavor a record that sold 1.76 million copies in its first week and became the biggest hip hop album of all time. Eminem’s commercial horrorcore classic was everywhere in the early noughties and beloved for different reasons by many people. Critics loved the intensity, the Looney Tunes shock of Slim Shady taking a chainsaw to middle America; kids liked the South Park jokes, sang along to ‘Drug Ballad’ and enjoyed their introduction to cloning at the 2000 MTV Awards. It was a dark album that managed to be sad and bad and sometimes hilarious. 22 years after its release, Marshall Mathers 1 is one of the last records that tugged at many parts of the cultural zeitgeist at once. Following it up took some balls.