Eminem and Dr. Dre had their first session in the former N.W.A producer’s Los Angeles, California home studio. Paul Rosenberg, Eminem’s longtime manager, recently told XXL that this day was an important one for the success of the Detroit, Michigan rapper’s debut album, The Slim Shady LP, which was released 15 years ago, on February 23, 1999.
“In that session [Eminem] recorded ‘My Name Is’ and a couple other records,” Rosenberg says in the interview. “It set the tone for the album.”
The album features lyrics that were deemed controversial by many, though applauded by others. In 1999, for example, the Los Angeles Times wrote about the rapper’s lyrical content. “In Eminem’s bizarre stories, he battles his conscience in exploits such as robbing an old woman, drugging and sexually assaulting an underage girl and murdering his adulterous wife,” The LA Times wrote at the time. “He isn’t afraid to say anything; his lyrics are so clever that he makes murder sound as if it’s a funny act he may indulge in simply to pass the time.” The lyrical content was enough to put fear in Eminem’s camp at the time because Rosenberg says it could have prevented some of the album’s reach.
“Em knows his lyrics get reactions,” Rosenberg says. “It’s part of his art. But when there was talk about some chains not carrying the albums…We were like, ‘Woah.'”
In 1999, Eminem spoke with Rolling Stone about criticism surrounding his lyrics and their impact on young audiences. “My album isn’t for younger kids to hear,” Eminem said at the time. “It has an advisory sticker, and you must be eighteen to get it. That doesn’t mean younger kids won’t get it, but I’m not responsible for every kid out there. I’m not a role model, and I don’t claim to be.”
Paul Rosenberg Says “Nobody” Anticipated The Slim Shady LP’s Success
Along with these potential concerns regarding the album’s release, Rosenberg says that the label representatives and others were unsure as to how this project would be received.
“We had no idea how commercially successful the album would be,” Rosenberg says. “Nobody did.”
Despite not knowing if the project would end up being a success, Rosenberg says he looks back on it with appreciation. “I loved the album,” Rosenberg says. “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.”
In the 1999 Rolling Stone interview, Eminem said his life was altered once the album’s first single, “My Name Is” was released. “I couldn’t even get into a motherfucking club just being Eminem, before the video,” Eminem said at the time. “Last night they had people clearing tables for me. It’s fucking bananas. Scary shit, too, ’cause you can fall just as quick as you went to the top.”
The album’s release marked the major label start to what has become a commercially successful career for Eminem. Now, 15 years later, Rosenberg says that the Slim Shady emcee has not changed when it comes to his work in the studio.
“He’s always been a studio rat,” Rosenberg says. “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.”