The Simple Explanation: Eminem is re-re-re-rereleasing albums

Eminem is going to re-release his major label debut album The Slim Shady LP in vinyl and CD format this month. He re-released it earlier this year, on the record’s 20th anniversary, so this is more like a ‘re-rerelease’ but this time the CD will feature 30 tracks including a capellas, rarities and other extras. But why? Why do you release an album that has been on the market for twenty whole years already?

I know exactly why. Let me explain.

“Who is Eminem?” is the first question. The answer is famously that he is whatever you say he is. If he wasn’t, why would we say he was?

But let’s start with who he was.

In 1999 Eminem was a broke, stressed, young man from an impoverished area of his city. He was one of those people for whom nothing seems to work out. His wife hates him, his mother treats him awfully, his jobs are all crappy and he keeps getting fired from those… he was very angry because of this. Have you ever been so angry at so many things that you can’t focus your anger so you just get mad at the whole world? That was Eminem in 1999.

The trouble started because, in addition to all his life frustration, he also had this huge talent for making words rhyme in intricate and complex and innovative patterns, and then reciting them over beats to fashion amusing and entertaining songs. 

One collection of these songs was called The Slim Shady LP and when it came out it made so much money, it at least solved two of his problems — he was no longer poor and no longer undervalued because the album effectively launched his name into the top tiers of the professional rap’s elite. There were people who said he was the best. And it was not easy to argue with them.

Well, you could argue that he was, in fact, the worst because the Slim Shady LP was full of homophobic and misogynistic lyrics, even more so than the rest of popular rap of the time (life before Kendrick was not easy).

Now, let’s talk about who he currently is: A 47-year-old who has spent all his adult life being enormously rich, admired and adored, and should be the opposite of the enfant terrible who crafted the Slim Shady LP.

Now, the Slim Shady LP wasn’t only controversial for the homophobia and woman-hating. 

Eminem also got a lot of attention because he took cheap shots at celebrities. At the time, it seemed like he did it for the same reason I do it: Celebrity is funny. Fame makes you funny. And famous people have so much love that surely they can afford to take a couple of harmless digs at the more superficial aspects of their celebrity. As long as we are not mean about it.

After Slim Shady LP, Eminem released three more albums, each more mature, centred and by the time he put out what was supposed to be his retirement joint, The Eminem Show, we felt that he had finally found peace. He had resolved his anger and was rapping about finally reaching a place of peace. 

Unfortunately, Eminem is a jerk. He is a vain, nasty, mean, entitled jackass. He is a brat. He is cruel and conceited and cannot just sit down and let go.

He has intermittently put out other albums trying to replicate the tone of Slim Shady LP. Only this time it didn’t work now that he wasn’t the dispossessed have-not railing against the privilege of the haves, he was just a rich famous celeb insulting his fellow rich famous celebs so that we can pay attention to him.

As if he was trying to recapture lost glory.

Why though? He has never lost glory. Eminem fans love him for the technical proficiency of his work, not for the themes. When he raps about being a good rapper, as the best ones do, now that hip hop is growing out of its gay-bashing and anti-feminism phase, it would still be well received. He is really really really that good.

But he is one of those people who can’t look past the one thing he doesn’t have and see the millions of things he has. He has been trying to get back to being the sensation he was when he dropped Slim Shady. He has been trying to repeat the formula that made Slim Shady, and this is his latest desperate attempt; actually repeating the Slim Shady LP itself.

You should skip that and restream The Eminem Show instead.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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