Solo Albums: The Slim Shady LP (1999), The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), The Eminem Show (2002)
Group Albums: Devil's Night (2001)
Biggest Hits: "My Name Is" (1999), "The Real Slim Shady" (2000), "Cleanin' Out My Closet" (2002), "'Till I Collapse" f/ Nate Dogg (2002), "Without Me" (2002), "Lose Yourself" (2002)
It wasn't until Eminem's second proper album that he'd note: "Y'all act like you've never seen a rapper before." He was talking to everyone listening, which at the time, felt like it was, in fact, everyone. This was in May 2000, on the lead single from The Marshall Mathers LP, "The Real Slim Shady," five months into the new millennium, one year and three months after the release of The Slim Shady LP. In the last year, Eminem had seemingly done what then felt impossible: Emerged as the first solo white rapper respected and revered by the rap community in the modern era of rap. This was around the same time Everlast and Kid Rock and Fred Durst were kicking around their not-quite-rap careers. This guy from Detroit, who rapped about doing every drug in every book, whose pop culture base of reference was stunningly topical and of-the-moment, this guy who Dr. Dre-Dr. Dre!-had endorsed and signed off on and rapped on his record! Nobody expected Eminem, and when he happened, it felt like a sonic blast across the entirety of the music spectrum, a time to recallibrate all the old methods of calibration. Eminem was a rapper who went to dark places, and to comic places, who had an anarchic persona that just didn't exist in rap at that moment: Nobody didn't give a fuck like Eminem didn't give a fuck. And moreover, this guy could rhyme like nobody we'd heard before either, words sticking to and exploding off of one another in staccato, in cadence, in ways our ears had to readjust to. To say he was compellingwould be a vast understatement. It really was like we'd never seen a rapper before.
But by the time The Marshall Mathers LP rolled around, he'd proven himself so much more than a rapper-something resembling more cultural figurehead than anything else. "Stan," with its Dido-infused chorus and story-rap about an obsessive fan. "Kim," the peak-psychosis of Eminem played out in one of the most stunning, disturbing rap tracks ever recorded. "The Way I Am," with its relentless, machine-gun fire flow. Where The Slim Shady LP got pretty solid (if not great) reviews, The Marshall Mathers LP got universally stellar reviews. Eminem simply took the ideas from his last album, and expanded upon them, grew them in ways we didn't think they could be grown, the difference between good sound and high fidelity. Between the two albums, Em more than proved his mettle rapping on Dr. Dre's big comeback record, 2000, in spots that blew away anybody else on them ("Forgot About Dre," for example), or even post-humous B.I.G. record Born Again (on "Dead Wrong"). The next move was only natural: 8 Mile, a feature-length film loosely based on the autobiographical details of Eminem's life. Of course the film would yield one of Eminem's most popular and crucial songs in "Lose Yourself," which would then go on to win an Academy Award. — Foster Kamer