Today marks the tenth anniversary of Eminem’s fouth studio album, the Eminem Show. In March of 2011, the project was certified diamond in the United States. A month later, the Marshall Mathers LP would achieve that same milestone.
It is the Eminem Show, however, that truly encapsulated Marshall Mathers’ state of mind during the peak of his fame. Having racked up over 1.3 million sales during its first full week, the album built off Em’s astonishing first-week numbers for The Marshall Mathers LP (1.7 million, in case you were wondering). This was Eminem at his apex. His semi-autobiographical film debut, 8 Mile, would come in November of that year and include arguably his biggest hit ever — “Lose Yourself.” The soundtrack to the film has been certified over four times platinum in the U.S.
Following all this success, however, Marshall’s career would take a well-documented downturn. Though his follow-up solo album, Encore, would fare well commercially, it was a far cry from his previous two efforts and proved to be a critical dud. Though no outside fan or critic could foresee all of Em’s personal tribulations which lay ahead, many subtle warnings were left sprinkled throughout The Eminem Show. In retrospect, Encore would serve as the dark augury of a man’s breakdown, but it is in Marshall’s fourth LP which showed the cracks.
This album showed Eminem in his barest state up to that point. It was not as dark as the Marshall Mathers LP nor as lighthearted as the Slim Shady LP; it was Marshall examining topics in-depth which he had simply brushed on prior. “Cleanin’ Out My Closet” not only deals with his fractured relationship with his mother but also touches on his feelings towards his absentee father: “I wonder if he even kissed me goodbye, no I don’t, on second thought, I just fuckin’ wished he would die.” This would also come back on “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” where Em raps: “All I know is I don’t want to follow in the footsteps of my dad, ‘cause I hate him so bad the worst fear that I had was growin’ up to be like his fuckin’ ass.”
Eminem’s relationship with his mother is the cornerstone of many of the issues explored in the Eminem Show, from a failed relationship of his own with Kim to struggles of fatherhood with Hailie. The anger he feels towards her leaves him with an ingrained distrust towards other women which he continues to try and rectify. Furthermore, his dedication to Hailie is made only stronger through his will to correct the abandonment he felt from his father: “I look at Hailie and I couldn’t picture leavin’ her side, even if I hated Kim, I’d grit my teeth and I’d try, to make it work with her at least for Hailie’s sake.”
On “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” we are given a glimpse into the frustration Em feels with life . Over a fierce flow, there are sprinkles of self-doubt and depression in one of the most revealing verses on the album:
Bury my face in comic books, cause I don’t want to look at nothin’, this world’s too much. I’ve swallowed all I could. If I could swallow a bottle of Tylenol I would, and end it for good, just say goodbye to Hollywood. I probably should, these problems are piling all at once, ‘cause everything that bothers me, I got it bottled up. I think I’m bottoming out, but I’m not about to give up, I gotta get up. Thank God, I got a little girl.
The thread of Marshall’s life has always been his daughter Hailie. He mentions on “Going Though Changes,” off Recovery, that the only face he feared seeing during his darkest stage of addiction was Hailie’s. With that, his anchor was given her own tribute on the Eminem Show, “Hailie’s Song.” The only rapped verse on the song (the others were sung) encapsulates everything perfectly:
“There’s a lot of shit I keep bottled that hurts deep inside of my soul and just know that I grow colder the older I grow. This boulder on my shoulder gets heavy and harder to hold, and this load is like the weight of the world and I think my neck is breaking. Should I just give up or try to live up to these expectations? Now look, I love my daughter more than life in itself, but I got a wife that’s determined to make my life livin’ hell. But I handle it well, given the circumstances I’m dealt. So many chances, man, it’s too bad, coulda had someone else. But the years that I’ve wasted are nothing to the tears that I’ve tasted. So here’s what I’m facing: 3 felonies, 6 years of probation. I’ve went to jail for this woman, I’ve been to bat for this woman, I’ve taken bats to peoples backs, bent over backwards for this woman. Man, I shoulda seen it comin’, what’d I stick my penis up in? Woulda ripped the pre-nup up if I’d seen what she was fuckin’. But fuck it, it’s over, there’s no more reason to cry no more, I got my baby, baby the only lady that I adore, Hailie. So sayonara, try tomorra, nice to know ya. My baby’s travelled back to the arms of her rightful owner. And suddenly it seems that my shoulder blades have just shifted. It’s like the greatest gift you can get. The weight has been lifted.”
Throughout all of Marshall’s eventual problems and near-death addiction, he eventually rose back to the top thanks, at least in part, to his daughter.
Below, you can watch Eminem accept the Grammy for the Best Rap Album: