Detroit Creatives Reflect On The Legacy Of Eminem's 'The Slim Shady LP' 20 Years Later
Chuck Inglish, director Lawrence Lamont, & more share their memories of Em's debut.
Most of the world was introduced to Marshall Mathers a.k.a. Eminem with the release of The Slim Shady LP on February 23, 1999. From the moment the project's intro ended and Dr. Dre's production hit on "My Name Is," it became hard to deny the entire industry was in for a rude awakening.
The Slim Shady LP takes fans on an acrobatic mindfuck of a journey, where intricate lyrics, upper-echelon storytelling, and exceptional production are mixed together into a timeless product that has continued to impact the world today. In commemoration of its 20th anniversary, we spoke to Detroit creatives including artist Sam Austins, chef and restauranteur Eli Sussman, film director Lawrence Lamont, and producer Chuck Inglish about their thoughts on the album's impact, its 20th anniversary, and more.
What are your earliest memories The Slim Shady LP?
Sam Austins (Detroit Artist): "I remember having the fucking karaoke machine CD player with the cassettes and I burned the fuck out of a pirated copy off Limewire. My mom was so mad dog, but I ran that shit on repeat whenever my mom was away. He was talking crazy."
Eli Sussman (Chef/Owner of Samesa): "I remember Eminem being very controversial and that I really wanted to buy the CD. So many adults seem to be talking about him like he was the worst thing that had ever happened and as a teenager, that only heightens your interest. If my memories serves me correct, I think I got rejected at the Harmony House on Woodward for not being old enough to buy it. I was 13 or 14 so I think him being offensive and controversial only made me want the record more."
Lawrence Lamont (Film Director): "Crazy how its been 20 years! I was 10 years old when this album dropped and around that time some friends and I were big on 'South Park.' So anything remotely close to that ignorance was intriguing. 'My Name Is' is actually my favorite Eminem song to this day so that moved my musical imagination in a way that nothing has around then. That loop, his delivery, the video. But those skits, man. Those damn skits. Hilarious. I remember crying laughing as a 10 year old to those."
Chuck Inglish (Producer; The Cool Kids): "I was in 9th grade, I'll never forget it because prior to hearing the album I was skeptical about copping it. I had only heard 'My Name Is' and I didn't know if I was about to buy a rap album or some pop shit. I used to go over to Circuit City once a week to buy a new album after school. I remember seeing the cover and just being sold… I took a chance on it, I was so Wu-Tanged out at that time in my life I never thought I'd buy a white rapper's album. Fast forward to the next year I was standing in a dumb line outside the same Circuit City just to make sure I even got a copy of the MMLP."
Can you recall the first time you saw Eminem on TV? What did you think?
Sam Austins: "The first time I saw Em on TV was the music video for 'The Real Slim Shady' and that shit changed my life. I couldn’t believe dog was so crazy. I was only 3 years old when The Slim Shady LP dropped so I first peeped him when I was like 5 or 6. Seeing somebody wild out the way he did was everything for me as a kid."
Eli Sussman: "I honestly can't. Since we didn't have cable, I probably didn't see as much of him on TV as other kids but I remember going over to friends houses that had cable and binging hard on MTV. I still remember when he came out at the MTV VMAs with hundreds of Eminem clones so that must have had an impact on me since I can still vividly see that performance."
Lawrence Lamont: "I can't recall the first time I saw Eminem on TV but I vividly remember watching the 'Guilty Conscience' video and being blown away. How accurate the lyrics were with the performances in the video was magic to me. That was also around the time I started writing short stories and loving film so it blended so well with my young mind. Also, I remember seeing him perform at the MTV VMAs with all the Eminems. I know that's 'Real Slim Shady' and we're talking about The Slim Shady LP but that performance is glaring in the front of my head. I think that was the moment I realized, 'Oh shit, he's for real special AND he's from where I'm from.'"
Chuck Inglish: "I remember watching The Box and the first time I saw him was a snippet of new videos. I remember seeing Pink’s 'There U Go' video, it had played like three or four times that hour, I started running to the TV every time that song came on because I kept missing the name of it. Right as I missed the credits for the third time, another video came on a blonde white dude with a sketch comedy stylized video with a cameo from Dr. Dre in it. My first thought was, 'Holy Shit! Dr. Dre found a white rapper.'"
What's your favorite track from The Slim Shady LP?
Sam Austins: "‘My Name Is.' That song was like a defining moment for him as an artist, crossing over into mainstream pop culture. Even the story of that song and how it all happened so fast. I think he even had an eviction notice on his door back in Detroit the week this song exploded. It’s undeniable, legendary shit."
Eli Sussman: "I remember trying so hard to be able to be able to sing along to 'Cum on Everybody' and rap all the lyrics. He uses so much voice modulation where he's going back and forth between his sort of silly Slim Shady voice and his more aggressive mad Eminem voice. I remember trying to mimic that and the line, 'Broke out then I dipped quick back to the crib, put on lipstick / Crushed up the Tylenol then ate it with a dipstick' tripping me up. I had no idea a lot of what was going on his songs because I was 13 and super sheltered but he had different personas that he used and when you listen to music sometimes you can inhabit a different persona—pretend to be someone you are not—or someone you aspire to be. I loved how he could be so mad at everything and still make fun of himself and everything around him."
Lawrence Lamont: "Favorite track from The Slim Shady LP is 'My Name Is' with 'Guilty Conscience' coming in at a close second. I explained a little in that earlier question but I truly never heard anyone rap like him before in my life. And his content was wild. My mom was not trying to let me listen to him but I couldn't get enough because it was so unique."
Chuck Inglish: "It's a tie between 'Bad Meets Evil' and 'My Fault.' Maybe 'My Fault' sticks out to me the most because it was one of the most visual songs I had heard at that time and funny enough, I've definitely gone through a moment in life where i felt as if someone I know ate more shrooms than prescribed... shit was funny. 'Bad Meets Evil' was just bars... 'I breathe Ether in three Lethal amounts / Til I stab myself in the knee with a diseased needle.'"
How did The Slim Shady LP impact Detroit hip-hop as well as the culture in the city?
Sam Austins: "The album help put Detroit back in a very public light, especially in the music world. Eminem was Detroit’s first rap superstar. He was so authentic, gritty and raw. I feel like that was a huge representation of what the city was and what it was to become."
Eli Sussman: "I was and have been proud of being from Michigan and I think that his fame made people proud of Detroit and maybe associated themselves with Detroit when before they had not. People were excited to share in some of that Eminem/Detroit connection. But Eminem is not even close to the first musician to put Detroit on the map and my parents made sure I always knew about the greats that had come from Detroit.
We were always a Motown music family so thats what I always heard growing up. I grew up in Huntington Woods on Woodward and 10 mile which to someone in California seems like I grew up right by 8 Mile, but Michigan people know it's not really like that. I'm sure at some point or another I played it up, 'Oh yeah I grew up right near Detroit, near 8 Mile' but I am from the suburbs and went to private school through 8th grade so my childhood and experience of Detroit is nothing like Eminem's. But I was definitely proud when he got famous that he was from Detroit and sort of so was I."
Lawrence Lamont: "I think The Slim Shady LP impacted Detroit in a way for artists to step outside of the box and stray away from typical Detroit styled rap. So many Detroit artists wouldn't exist if Em didn't come in out the gate left."
Chuck Inglish: "I really believed it got people out of the comfort zone of rap being one sided sonically and visually, there was a lot of hybridizing going on at that time from Detroit. Rock and rap always melted together but now it was becoming mainstream with Kid Rock, Korn, Limp Biscuit. Even tho Em wasn’t blending the sounds, he cross-bred the fan bases. Black kids in the city started to take a chance with white artists/bands that had hip-hop influence now because Eminem proved to them this was real rap and not a Vanilla Ice reheat."
Eminem's style, from his hair and clothing to his bars, was and still is so distinct. Did you see a shift in the way folks dressed and rapped after that era?
Sam Austins: "I’m young as fuck—as a kid I thought everybody was dressing like custodians for fun back then."
Eli Sussman: "I personally never did the dyed hair buzz cut but you know, lots of people must have. I definitely was wearing baggy jeans, white low top Air Force Ones, XXL Timberland T-shirts, Ecko when I started high school. I am sure listening to Eminem as an entry point for me into a lot of other hip-hop played a part in how I dressed."
Lawrence Lamont: "Honestly, it's hard for me to remember because I was so damn young. But I do remember white kids dressing and acting like Eminem at schools I was at. Seriously. And the girls liked it. Dudes were taking girls left and right with the blonde hair. I wanted to be like Eminem too, so it's all good. I even wrote a couple raps myself because of him."
Chuck Inglish: "The blonde hair, White T and Nike sweats—Em was a look. Given that he showed up at the end of the Jiggy era it stood out. After 8 Mile, fam started tweaking with fashion. Actually right after Eminem show... I’ll never forget seeing an MTV news spot and dog had on a two tone floating back with a headband, one sleeve was cut off his T-shirt. He had one wristband and a batting glove with the fingers cut out... that’s when I knew he was one of the greatest rappers ever at that time. He was too cozy.
Off top, do you remember any lyrics from The Slim Shady LP?
Sam Austins: "'HI KIDS DO YOU LIKE VIOLENCE?' GOAT."
Eli Sussman: "I can rap more Eminem lyrics than I am proud of and the Up in Smoke tour DVD got seriously worn out in my basement during high school. I probably at one point could just close my eyes and tell you exactly what was going on on stage so I definitely knew a lot of The Slim Shady LP. When you asked me, I basically heard 'It's Ken Kaniff from Connecticut, can you accept?' in my head immediately and I think every kid in America knew the words to 'My Name Is.'"
Lawrence Lamont: "'Hi kids, do you like violence? Wanna see me stick nine-inch nails through each one of my eyelids?' Like what! I was locked in immediately. Who says this and why do I like it so much? Twenty years later, turns out I wasn't alone."
Chuck Inglish: "Being a kid from Detroit hearing Em say, 'Tired of WJLB saying where hip-hop lives' I felt that! But my favorite lyric used to be from 'Role Model.' 'This is a result of 1000 electric volts. And neck with bolts, nurse we’re losing him. Check the pulse.'"
Outside of The Slim Shady LP, how do you think Eminem has impacted hip-hop and Detroit in general?
Sam Austins: "Eminem is a pioneer in the city and for the culture period. He broke down walls. Lowkey, he helped breathe some life into the city early on that resonated on a global level. I don’t even think he gets enough credit for that. Em represents a different culture that some may not understand but it’s true authentic hip-hop shit... and he started right here in Detroit."
Eli Sussman: "He's one of the greatest lyricists ever. Whether you like the content of what he has to say or not is a different discussion, but his ability to construct and deliver complex lines is amazing because so few people can execute at that high level. He's controversial and has never been shy to say what's on his mind even when its been offensive. I often have disagreed with him and have disliked liked large amounts of his music but his power and influence as an artist for other musicians and in pop culture is undeniable."
Lawrence Lamont: "Eminem impacted Detroit in a major way especially after 8 Mile came out. To our city and people from our city on screen was huge. He made the industrial aspect of our city cooler than we thought it could be. Carhartts, Russel Industrial Center, etc. Also, battle rap spiked like crazy. All of my friends were doing it and it was fun to be around. I can rap every rap in 8 Mile word for word. Even the rappers B Rabbit was killing."
Chuck Inglish: "From the inception of D12, The Journey of Royce 5’9, to reaching out and putting Trick Trick in mainstream position. I believe he led folks in the city to be inspired that it was possible to be global superstar in rap from Detroit. We’d bred legendary iconic artists in every other genre, from the Motown sound, rock, jazz, techno we’ve been accustomed to our own sticking out. It wasn’t til Em, we saw that for Detroit. Up until that point the only rap representation we had was MC Breed and he was from Flint."
How has Eminem's music and/or career had an impact on your life?
Sam Austins: "He was the first rapper I really sat up with and listened to. My favorite rapper for years actually, during my growing years before I got into listening to alternative rock music and all that. I feel like he is one of the reasons why I’m so willing to take risks with the music. He paved a way for a lot of people in the music world."
Eli Sussman: "I've always looked forward to Eminem's new albums. Some albums I have not liked most of the tracks but even as I got older and stopped listening to him that much, there is something nostalgic about Em since I was a teenager at the height of his popularity. 'Till I Collapse' is still one of my favorite songs ever. 'Lose Yourself'—both of those songs can make the hairs on your neck stand up. 'Purple Pills' with D12. 'Forgot about Dre.' Eminem is still on there with that verse that I memorized... and that line, 'Hotter than a set of twin babies in a mercedes benz with the windows up when the temp goes up to the mid-80s.' 'Lucky You' with Joyner Lucas off Kamikaze is an incredible track."
Lawrence Lamont: "His career has had an impact on my life by seeing that you don't have to be normal to succeed. That art comes in many ways. Whenever I'm creating something I'm always trying to raise the bar. And Eminem raised the bar literally every single time."
Chuck Inglish: "His music most definitely, there was a time where I would study the CD insert of MMLP for years trying to understand how these rhymes came together and how I would structure mine. He made words and wordplay seem fun to me."
All in all, one can still see the impact that Eminem's music has on folks today. From the clothes to the hair to the lyrics, his impact was felt and seen all over the world. As we arrive at the 20th anniversary of The Slim Shady LP, we commemorate and salute Eminem for his contribution to music and the art he has created. His music has stood the test of time and will continue to do so for years to come.
Stream Eminem's The Slim Shady LP now.