Label: Web Entertainment
Producers: Mark and Jeff Bass (executive producers), Mr. Porter, Kuniva, DJ Rec
Features: Bizarre, Fuzz
Sales: N/A

The Slim Shady EP opens with a dramatic dialog that sounds like a scene taken straight out of a horror movie. Late one dark and stormy Detroit night, a deep, distorted, devilish voice calls Eminem's name, awakening him from his slumber. He tries to ignore it, but the voice just won't be silenced.

"Wake the fuck up, motherfucker," the demonic spirit commands as Eminem screams in anguish, "What do you want from me?" The voice laughs mirthlessly, asking "Remember me?" in a sarcastic tone. "I killed you," Eminem replies in disbelief as the psychodrama continues. Next the voice instructs Em to look in the mirror, apparently to confront the monster that lurks within him. Eminem's denials take on an air of desperation, as if he's clinging to his last shred of sanity while the voice taunts him, "You're nothing without me."

Marshall Mathers' pitch-perfect performance on this spine-tingling skit is just a little bit too convincing. Although the rest of the 1997 EP indulges in the sort of over-the-top comic violence we hear on numerous rap records, this introduction of the Slim Shady persona, delivered without the slightest hint of silliness, is a singular instance in hip-hop. The demonic discourse on Snoop Dogg's "Murder Was The Case" seems casual by comparison. Not even Scarface on the Geto Boys' classic "Mind Playing Tricks"achieves such verisimilitude of madness on wax.

 

Although the rest of the 1997 EP indulges in the sort of over-the-top comic violence we hear on numerous rap records, this introduction of the Slim Shady persona, delivered without the slightest hint of silliness, is a singular instance in hip-hop. The demonic discourse on Snoop Dogg's "Murder Was The Case" seems casual by comparison.

 

The skit casts a pall over the entire EP, so that by the time we encounter horrors like "Just The Two Of Us," in which a deranged father and his young daughter dispose of the mother's body and plan their future as a fugitives, there's no way to laugh it off. The EP's cover depicts Em smashing a mirror to pieces—a chilling, evocative image reminiscent of the album art for Black Flag's Damaged.

Eminem elaborates on his aberrant alter-ego on the EP's first song, "Low Down, Dirty": "Wearing visors, sunglasses and disguises/'Cause my split personality is having an identity crisis/I'm Dr. Hyde and Mr. Jekyll/Disrespectful/Hearing voices in my head while these whispers echo."

Hip-hop thrives on exaggeration, and while it may be an overstatement to say that Eminem suffered from multiple personalities, there was no shortage of real drama in his life at the time he recorded The Slim Shady EP. After a tumultuous childhood, young Marshall Mathers found an outlet for his feelings through hip-hop. But his 1996 release, The Infinite, a competent but unremarkable effort that was mostly produced by The Bass Brothers and released through their indie label Web Entertainment, failed to get airplay on local radio stations in Detroit. At the time, Mathers saw few other options to support his young daughter aside from working dead-end restauarant jobs. The apparent failure of his music career plunged him deeper into drugs and despair.

The Slim Shady EP, which features production by The Bass Brothers as well as D12 members Kuniva and Mr. Porter, must have felt like Eminem's last shot to achieve his dreams, and he held nothing back. Although he did give voice to life's pressures on certain tracks from The Infinite, it was only after he began to sound truly unhinged that his work caught the attention of the hip-hop underground, and eventually, Dr. Dre. The legendary producer was sufficiently impressed with the EP that his first release with Em was called The Slim Shady LP, preserving not just the title but three of the EP's illest cuts, "If I Had," "Just Don't Give A Fuck," and "97 Bonnie & Clyde," a reworking of the disturbingly twisted masterpiece "Just The Two Of Us."

So the demonic voice proved prophetic about at least one thing: before the emergence of Slim Shady, Eminem's rap career seemed to be going nowhere. Afterwards, he became America's worst nightmare—a white kid from the wrong side of the tracks who truly does not give a fuck about anything except using his mastery of hip-hop to spread his own unique strain of mental illness like audio anthrax spores. —Rob Kenner