Yesterday (Feb. 23) was the 15 year anniversary of Eminem’s major label breakthrough, The Slim Shady LP, his second full-length project (after 1996’s Infinite), the first of many iconic collaborations with Dr. Dre and the introduction of Em’s infamous alter ego Slim Shady. The album—released on Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment imprint under the Interscope umbrella—would go on to sell over 4 million copies in the U.S. alone, spawn the huge singles “My Name Is” and “Guilty Conscience” and set Em on the path to becoming the highest-selling hip-hop artist of all time.
But things weren’t always rosy for Em back then. As a white rapper stepping into a predominantly African-American genre, he faced a backlash from a piece of the hip-hop community resistant to his brand of rap music. And for an artist immediately stepping into the mainstream spotlight, there was widespread shock, confusion and anger at what many felt were lyrics that were violent, homophobic and misogynistic, which caused some outlets to threaten to boycott the album.
That didn’t faze Eminem, of course; despite the backlash, Shady persevered, and his rapid-fire, heavily-sarcastic flow as well as the album’s powerful production shone through. 15 years later, Eminem’s debut is regarded as one of the greatest in history, and the rapper is still one of the leading lights of the genre, even gracing XXL’s current issue alongside Dre and Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine. With the anniversary marking a significant milestone in the career of Detroit’s finest, XXL emailed Em’s longtime manager Paul Rosenberg to get his thoughts on The Slim Shady LP, his memories of the project’s creation, and how the Rap God’s big break holds up a decade and a half later.
XXL: What was the difference between Em in the studio then versus how he is now?
Paul Rosenberg: He’s always been a studio rat. He goes hours at a clip without leaving the booth. When he’s determined and on a creative spark, there’s nothing else he’s focused on. That’s been the same since day one.
XXL: When you heard the finished product, what was your initial reaction?
Paul Rosenberg: I loved the album. I thought that Em was bringing a fresh perspective on the album and the character Slim Shady was like something most people had never heard before.
XXL: How difficult was the actual recording process? Did Em go in with an idea that he wanted to get across, or did it come out as the recording went along?
Paul Rosenberg: The album was kicked off by the first session he ever had with Dre, at Dre’s home studio in L.A. In that session he recorded “My Name Is” and a couple other records. It set the tone for the album.
XXL: What is your favorite memory of the time you guys were creating the album?
Paul Rosenberg: My favorite memory is hearing Em describe to me the concept of “Guilty Conscience” before he wrote it. I knew that it was going to be a great concept record—he based it on the Devil and Angel on the shoulders scene in Animal House.
XXL: How did Em handle the lyrical backlash? Was he upset by it, or did he let it roll off of him?
Paul Rosenberg: Em knows his lyrics get reactions, it’s part of his art. But when there was talk about some chains not carrying the albums, etc., we were like, “Woah…”
XXL: Were you expecting the type of commercial success the album received right away?
Paul Rosenberg: We had no idea how commercially successful the album would be. Nobody did.
XXL: 15 years later, how do you feel the album holds up?
Paul Rosenberg: There’s classic material on that album. It’s Eminem’s major label debut and the first songs that Dre produced. It’s a blast, go back and listen!