I recall the first time I ever heard of Eminem. I was in my high school’s cafeteria and one of the kids described Eminem’s style as mathematical. At the time Cannibus was quite popular and the comparison was that Eminem’s lyrics were generally better. Despite all the hype, I did not buy the Slim Shady LP until much later. When the Marshall Mathers LP was released, I bought it figuring it might be worth a listen. I was floored by the things Eminem said in his songs. Not so much that they were over the top or bad, but just that he had the testicular fortitude to simply go there and not care.
His lyrics resonated with me on many levels. I think I was most impressed by his ability to rhyme some of the most random words and he ability to inject emotion into any song. Part of his character as a rapper is that he has two separate personalities, that of Marshall and that of Slim Shady. That definitely comes across in his albums.
Of course, Eminem got a great deal of flak for his lyrical content. Prior to hearing any of his songs I simply assumed that the reaction was primarily based on political correctness. Now, having bought all his albums, I think the reaction, particularly from feminists, was primarily due to his race and his home life. He came from the idealized feminist home: being raised by a middle-class white single mother. Yet, in all his songs Eminem paints a picture of a troubled childhood, one that involved neglect, mistreatment and a great deal of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of his mother. I can see how having a white male say that his life was not great, that he struggled, that he considered suicide often could greatly annoy feminists. That he turned that anger back at those who hurt him rather than just at himself is likely what really pissed them off. Had he made an album just about hurting himself they would not have cared at all.
While I have many favorite songs, the one that stands out the most for me is Sing For The Moment: