Love him. Despise him. There's no in between with Eminem. Marshall Mather's Slim Shady persona polarizes people like no other artist. Some see him as a problem, a man who explicitly glorifies drug use, murder, and rape in his songs. Others see him as a preacher to a fed up generation looking for a purpose, a satire mocking American culture in general.
Whatever your take on Marshall Mathers, there's no denying the man's talent. Mathers is one of the most dysfunctional individuals in this world. The product of a broken home, he dropped out of high school at 17 and his troubles with his daughter's mother are well documented. But more than anything, this is what hooks us to Eminem, it's his lyrical ability that keeps us there.
Eminem is crazy. But his insanity cannot separate itself from his genius. Em is a once in a generation artist--a certified superstar. His intricate rhyme schemes, freestyles, and crazed banter opened the flood gates for white rappers. Personally, I hate it when people compare an up and coming white rapper to Eminem (seriously, you're going to draw comparisons to Asher Roth?!!!). Mathers can be compared to Roth in the same way he can be compared to Vanilla Ice or the Average Homeboy--they're just not in the same arena, or league, or sport for that matter. Em's one of the best of all time and it's songs like these that prove it.
Both come off of his mainstream debut, The Slim Shady LP, which represents a much more refined crazy than the cult classic, Infinite. "Role Model" has more quotables on it than probably any other song I've ever heard and Em's flow is simply unfair on it. Despite the humor, he manages to slip in a serious note about the ridiculousness of people viewing him as a role model (My middle finger won't go down, how do I wave/ And this is how I'm supposed to kids how to behave?). This is a theme that he will go back to over and over again. In "Renegades" with Jay where he turns the page on parents who'd rather blame him than bothering to raise their children. The extended metaphor of "Stan" is a further response to his critics, claiming that his lyrics are hyperbole and not to be taken so seriously.
"If I Had" presents a quite different picture. It's important to note that Eminem introduces the song as, "life according to Marshall Mathers," instead of life according to his alter ego, Slim Shady. This song, originally on his underground Slim Shady EP that got him signed by Dre, is where you really get the essence of who Eminem is as a man. The desperation of a poor rapper who needs to make it pervades the song and it's one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard. Despite it's heavy theme, Em's humor manages to creep into the song via the chorus.
You can't go past a top-five list without mentioning Em (he's my number two of all time). Fact.
Peace, Love, & Hip Hop,
"If I Had"