Album: The Marshall Mathers LP
Reason Featured: #4 on The Village Voice‘s Pazz & Jop Poll for 2000, #1 Album for Rolling Stone’s Top Ten Albums of 2000, #7 Album for NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Stan, The Real Slim Shady, I’m Back
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (4/5), NME (9/10), Robert Christgau (A)
My Grade: 50%
I wish I could rate The Marshall Mathers LP higher but my conscience won’t allow it. Eminem’s verbal gymnastics, relentless catchiness and distinctive musicality here are all admirable. His talent was undeniable in 2000 and it’s undeniable now. But, to me, The Marshall Mathers LP has more in common with Mein Kampf than it does with My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Despite its brilliance in plenty of other areas, its ethical bankruptcy is a dealbreaker for me.
It’s not even that I find Eminem to be sociopathic in general. His LP, The Eminem Show, is one of my favorite rap records since it manages to be witty and provocative without being horrifying. The difference between The Marshall Mathers LP and, for all intents and purposes, hip-hop in general is the difference between Lars von Trier’s Antichrist and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The latter is filled with wit, self-awareness and honor-among-thieves while the former seems to only pry around for the worst parts of the human condition in an aesthetic act of sadomasochism. How anyone could listen to the vengeful nightmare “Kim” and think it satirical or less than mortifying is beyond me. The same goes for “Kill You,” with its Oedipal inclinations and murderous delusions.
I’m definitely in the minority here. The vast critical consensus weighed in favor of this release, perhaps because others are better at compartmentalizing the ethical features of art than I am. But, for me, this is a record whose homophobia, misogyny, violence, anger and mental illness outweighs any aesthetic value it possesses. It saddens me that a record which can be as clever (“The Real Slim Shady”), impressive and even poignant (“Stan”) as this one is darkened by such off-putting depravity.