“Won’t Back Down” (2010) by Eminem
“Won't Back Down" (2010) by Eminem
There were many spectacular albums from that period between 2000 and 2009: “Elephant”; “Is This It?”; “Kid A”; “Merriweather Post Pavilion”; “Funeral”; “College Dropout”, etc. But if I had to choose the greatest album, for me, that decade, I’d go with “The Marshall Mathers LP.”
Why? Because it came with Thunder and Lightning!
It had killer tracks (excuse the pun) with hooks a mile long; a rapping flow so rapid, it seemed like he was stabbing you with every annunciation; and was so confident, it announced to the world not only a new era in Hip Hop, but an expansion of the limits no one thought the genre was capable of.
Above this, one trait a great album should have, is that it be so unbelievably grand that it transmogrifies the social landscape and becomes cultural ubiquitous to the highest degree. For instance, after “Sgt. Pepper”, all these loud-coloured hippies turned up. After the Sex Pistols, all these Mohawk-ed punks turned up. After “Nevermind”, all these tartan-shirted losers turned up. Now, “Elephant” is a great record, and still is, but after it was released, I never saw kids on the street constantly wearing only red and black. On the other hand however, I can personally account for the fact that after “Marshall Mathers” was released, all these fucking whiteboyz turned up!
Being born and raised in South Auckland, I can tell you they definitely weren’t there beforehand. Before “Marshall Mathers”, I remember seeing a geeky Caucasian guy from my Primary School called Justin, at the Mangere Town Centre. He was stiff and had his shirt tucked in. When I talked to him, he replied timidly and only in two-syllabled words. After “Marshall Mathers”, the next time I saw him, he snuck a peak up from under his low hoodie and shouted, “Ar, bro, Ben, Wassup?! Just waitin’ for my mate, bro. We’re gonna get a pass, ey. Ah, well, gotta go – Si’up!” That was not the same Justin. Just who the hell was that? (Would the real Slim Shady please stand up?)
And that wasn’t gonna be the last time I’d see another whiteboy. They were fuckin’ everywhere! With Asian girlfriends with Honda CRX’s, at P Money gigs, being tokens in Polynesian gangs, at the Otara Fleamarkets – they were everywhere. It was so widespread, I realised this seismic cultural phenomenon could be attributed to two things: One, the racist culture against Hip Hop during the 1980’s and 1990’s (which I observed firsthand) was waning. And two, in and of itself, the mainstream media had finally integrated and accepted Hip Hop as a legitimate artistic avenue: Hip Hop would soon become the new Pop and Outkast would soon be the first Hip Hop act ever to win the coveted Album of the Year Grammy. This was a shift of seismic proportions.
Remember when there was that backlash against Hip Hop? When Aerosmith allowed Run DMC to do ‘Walk This Way’ with them, in 1986, not only were they attempting to revitalize their careers by then, they were courageous enough to tag onto something incredibly new, create something wholly untested and embrace something so new, it was certain to have some negative repercussion. And sure enough, the criticism came by the tonne. People despised the duet; People threw away Aerosmith records; People rang Radio Stations and threatened DJ’s to recall the track. It was a very bold move on behalf of Aerosmith, but was one of the many important events that paved the way for Hip Hop – As too when a skinny whiteboy from Detroit became the first pop culture event of that decade, became the front door for the general public of novices to Rap music, and released the bestselling Rap album of all time.
Yes, the album was dark. It was sick. It was dangerous, sexist, homophobic and vulgar. And it was the greatest because of it. At least for me, it was. It reflected all my post-adolescent anger I, and other manboys that age as well, had.
And after hiding behind the pseudonym of his previous album, “The Slim Shady LP”, an album which was hilarious and cartoonish, the real Marshal Mathers opened himself up as a far worst monster: twisted, disturbing and yet undoubtedly honest. He put it all out there, out in the open: the car crash of his marriage, the difficulty of celebrity, drugs, the banality of censorship … and matricide. I felt guilty listening to it, but couldn’t stop because I was blown away on every degree by its magnitude and because I’d heard nothing like it before.
That album will stand the test of time.
And though he’s weaved in and out of success, his second best album is 2010’s Recovery.