Why ‘Marshall Mathers LP’ is Eminem’s Most Important Album

Eminem Marshal Mathers LP
(Photo Credit: KMazur/Getty Images)

Before the Marshall Mathers LP “Stan” was just a name and the Real Slim Shady hadn’t yet stood up. Eminem’s second studio album allowed for him to break into super-stardom. Nearly twenty-one years after it’s debut in 2000, the imagery, sounds, and themes of the Marshall Mathers LP still persist. 

Upon a recent re-listen of the Marshall Mathers LP the thing I found most interesting was it’s reactionary nature. The majority of the songs on this LP and many of the memorable lines are simply references to other things taking place in the world or Em’s personal life. Eminem’s greatest strength, perhaps, is his ability to articulate ideas in a thought-provoking and entertaining way. 

In the year 2000, before social media and the reactionary news cycle, Eminem lyrics were where audiences found common ground in their frustrations with the mainstream. Tuning into a rap record and listening to an artist express anger with their personal lives and pop culture was incredibly cathartic to an early 2000’s audience that didn’t have many outlets to vent through.  

Cultural Relevance & Staying Power

One of the most persistent images of any artist is Eminem performing “The Real Slim Shady” at the VMA’s in 2000. The imagery of hundreds of white men with bleach blonde hair, wearing baggy jeans and white t-shirts marching down the VMA aisles at the height of award show popularity has remained one of the most relevant live performances by any artist. 

(Did you know that Adam Devine of Workaholics and Modern Family fame was one of the “fake” slim shadys?)

Beyond that live performance, in ten years online “The Real Slim Shady” music video has racked up more than 500 million views. This song won a Grammy, hit #1 on the Billboard charts, and is on multiple “greatest songs of all-time” lists. Twenty one years later and this song is still played at parties and bars.

Despite all of that critical acclaim, “The Real Slim Shady” probably isn’t the most culturally relevant song on the Marshall Mathers LP. The third song on this album is a ballad about an obsessive fan named “Stan.” The extremely unique song features a haunting hook sample of British trip-hop artist Dido; this ballad-style rap song would go on to redefine the word “Stan.”

Merriam-Webster entered the word “stan” into their dictionary as both a noun and verb in 2017. The formal definition of stan is:

  • (noun) an extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan
  • (verb) to be an extremely devoted and enthusiastic fan of someone or something

Perhaps the greatest co-sign of the term “stan” came from Nas in the song Ether, when used to diss Jay-Z. Eminem is both complemented by name and referenced by Nas in Ether. 

The obsessive character played by Eminem in the song “Stan” has been adopted into “Stan Culture.” The very concept of Stan Culture is prompting college thesis papers, NPR stories, and has trickled into academia. 

There are few albums in the history of music that have two songs featured on it with the level of accomplishment that “Stan” and “The Real Slim Shady” have achieved. 

Rage Tracks 

Some critics would argue that rage tracks like Kim and Criminal have no place in modern hip-hop, to that I disagree. Tyler, the Creator and their group Odd Future grew to prominence making angry music with similar angry themes and graphic lyrics. Nuketown by Ski Mask the Slump God & Juice Wrld, Break Shit by Jasiah, Look at Me! by XXXTENTATION and most of 6ix9ine’s discography can be called rage rap. 

This plays back to the cathartic nature of aggressive and expressive music. It’s completely fair to say that Eminem’s rage tracks were off-putting and that he often crossed the line, however that’s kind of the point of making aggressive music.

Of the rage tracks, The Way I Am stands out as the best overall song. Surprisingly, this song had a large international appeal in Europe hitting the top ten on many countries’ charts, only peaking at 58 on the US Billboard charts. Kill You also borders on being a rage track, but it’s melodic beat and Em’s use of humor helps to lull the violent lyrics. 


Immediately after “Stan” on the Marshall Mathers LP is Paul Rosenberg who gives his comments on the “Paul (Skit).

Interscope marketing executive Steve Berman was also on this album, as was Dido, RBX, and Sticky Fingaz, who has a writing credit on Sicko Mode. 

D-12’s Bizarre has perhaps the most reprehensible verse on the album on Amityville. D12 is also featured in the cypher style track “Under the Influence.” Lastly, Bitch Please II features a star-studded lineup of Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and Nate Dogg along with Eminem. This is an update to Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Xzibit’s Bitch Please, which came out a year previous. Bitch Please II was produced by Dr. Dre & Mel-Man who provide an extreme upgrade of Bitch Please by smoothing out the beat in Dre’s patent style. 

Overall this LP is the height of Eminem’s influence and where his most full body of work exists. These songs will outlive Eminem and this time of his career will likely be studied to understand the year 2000. 

Ultimately it feels like this is the Marshall Mathers LP, because in it he’s discussing how Eminem feels to also be Marshall Mathers. Song topics are as personal as killing his own wife, he’s constantly addressing his persona rather than being fully in character. The Marshall Mathers LP is a self-social commentary of an artist that predates social media, in that effect it’s groundbreaking. Before memes all people had was South Park, Super Bowl Commercials, and artists like Eminem to use as frames of reference. That level of influence is a tall height to reach and the Marshall Mathers LP is what allowed Eminem to become Eminem. 

And you know all of this is true because he is whatever we say he is.

Listen to the album below.