‘It was only a matter of time for Slim’: Eminem to kill off Slim Shady alter ego on new album

‘It was only a matter of time for Slim’: Eminem to kill off Slim Shady alter ego on new album

One of the great alter egos in pop could be meeting a grisly end, as Eminem announces his first album since 2020: The Death of Slim Shady (Coup de Grâce).

Set for release on an unspecified date this summer, the album was announced with a trailer that frames the demise of the antic character, with a crime reporter saying to camera: “Through his complex and oft-criticised tongue-twisting rhymes, the anti-hero known as Slim Shady has had no shortage of enemies … rude lyrics and controversial antics may have ultimately led to his demise.”

50 Cent appears, describing Slim Shady – with mock fear – as a psychopath, and Eminem himself concludes: “I knew it was only a matter of time for Slim.” An image, possibly the album artwork, features a figure with a knife wound to the chest.

Eminem created the character in 1997 to help energise him after the failure of his debut album Infinite the previous year. Beginning with a horror-movie intro where Slim Shady takes over Eminem’s body, The Slim Shady EP made its way to mogul Jimmy Iovine and then Dr Dre, who began a partnership that resulted in Eminem’s mainstream breakthrough, The Slim Shady LP (1999).

Slim Shady was a foul-mouthed, horny, cartoonishly disgusting provocateur who was introduced to the wider world with the single My Name Is, and its opening couplet: “Hi, kids, do you like violence? / Wanna see me stick nine-inch nails through each one of my eyelids?”

Eminem used the character to rabble-rouse pop culture, with crass lines about stars including Christina Aguilera, and delivering “horrorcore” storytelling full of violence and gross-out humour. Singles including Without Me, The Real Slim Shady and Just Lose It featured the character and became major commercial hits.

With his nasal delivery, Slim Shady also became part of a multi-voice split personality, with Eminem also using his real name Marshall Mathers to express more sober material such as his classic story of fan obsession Stan, and “Eminem” a kind of bridge between the two. There was drama in the way the rapper seemed torn between the different sides of his personality, but by 2008 Eminem wrote in his memoir: “Slim, Em, and Marshall are always in the mix when I’m writing now. I’ve found a way to morph the styles so that it’s sort of all me.”

Eminem then leaned more towards the downbeat side of his craft for a number of years, particularly in the wake of drug addiction on albums such as Relapse (2009) and Recovery (2010).

But on recent LPs – Kamikaze (2018) and Music to Be Murdered By (2020), each of them surprise-released – he has played again with the more provocative side of his artistry. He caused controversy with the Music to Be Murdered By track Unaccommodating by – very Slim Shady-ishly – comparing himself to the terrorist who bombed an Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena in 2017, killing 22.

The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis said of Kamikaze: “Hip-hop’s former enfant terrible, a man who made a career out of saying things that even his most nihilistic peers would consider beyond the pale … reinvented himself as rap’s grumpy dad, baffled and horrified at what the genre had become.”

Petridis said that on that album and its successor, Eminem was “going through the motions” with his Slim Shady provocations, but acknowledged that Music to Be Murdered By “offers one virtuoso performance after another: delivery that’s both warp-speed and perfectly enunciated, constant shifts in tempo and emphasis”.

Including his greatest hits collection Curtain Call – which has spent 614 weeks on the chart and is still currently inside the Top 20 – the new album will very probably become Eminem’s 11th UK No 1 in a row. That would put him on an equal footing with Taylor Swift, U2, and David Bowie who also have 11 chart-toppers each (though Swift will surely add a 12th later today), while the Beatles remain top with 15.

Alongside the album announcement, Eminem appeared at an event announcing this year’s NFL draft picks, held in the rapper’s home city of Detroit.

Source: theguardian.com