After dropping The Marshall Mathers LP 2 in 2013, then embarking on a record setting stadium tour over the summer, Slim Shady is back again, this time alongside his Shady Records brothers on the label release Shady XV. Em’ appears on the bulk of the tracks, with familiar faces like D12, Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf filling in elsewhere. A two-disc release, Part 1 is new material from the label, while Disc 2 is a nostalgic compilation of earlier hit singles from the Shady/Interscope imprint.
Shady Records dropped The Re-Up, their most recent label compilation in 2006. Since then, things have changed: 50 Cent and the G-Unit crew have moved on elsewhere, while Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf have joined the team. And in comparing both albums, change is most certainly a good thing. G-Unit was as popular as ever in 2006, and since then the game has changed such that the more traditional take on “bars and rhymes” have found a consistent audience within the Rap game hierarchy. Rather than each song being broken down into X number of bars per verse, each artist comes correct with an arsenal of lyrics. Em’, specifically, is the leader and master savant. If MMLP2 was any indication of his changing rap style, Shady XV is a continuation. More often than not, his verses go on for minutes at a time as he throws down a graphic, rhyming stream of consciousness.
Thematically, and brilliantly, Em’ takes an introspective approach to the fame he’s cultivated since “My Name Is.” He spits about the stress being almost too much to handle, yet he is still able to find pleasure in eating the competition alive. It’s a vicious cycle that has to be wearing him thin. On “Guts Over Fear” he raps: “And I’m frozen, cause there’s no more emotion for me to pull from / Just a bunch of playful songs, that I make for fun / So, to the break of dawn, here I go recycling the same old song.” This notion is touched upon on “The Monster,” as well as several of his other more recent hits. Fans are likely more aware of this monotony he speaks of, but he still manages to keep the music fresh and unique. This is a remarkable feat considering his dominance of Hip Hop both commercially and critically over the years. Somehow, the Shady one (who once regaled you with dark tales of explaining to his daughter why her mother will no longer be around) has found a way to convey the pain of success in a genuine way. He even flashes back to his more controversial tendencies, declaring on the album’s title-track, “Goddammit, I AM a misogynist.” Only fitting, considering recent headlines involving he and Iggy Azalea among others.
Aside from Marshall, Shady XV also celebrates the artistry of the rest of the team. Yelawolf and Royce Da 5’9 stand out in particular for their versatility. Fans of both artists will be pleased to hear them deviate for this album. Yela shines on “Down,” while Royce holds his own alongside Em’ on “Psychopath Killer.” In keeping with the theme of nothing but straight bars, the Slaughterhouse track “Y’all Already Know” is particularly down home. Joell Ortiz, Crooked I, Joe Budden and Royce all go in over a DJ Premier beat swollen with nostalgia. The song, with a vintage, Premo sample-based beat, is a throwback of sorts to ‘90s era Hip Hop, and musically represents a break from the rest of the album. Premier obviously leaves his mark here, but Em’s production is nothing to sneeze at either. Shady XV reinforces the notion that he has gone from a student of the “Dr. Dre School” of production to a legitimate rapper/producer.
As previously mentioned, Disc 2 is a nice inclusion for fans that remember the music coming out of the Shady/Interscope camp 10 years ago. With the help of some fine tuning and mastering, the disc is a nice trip down memory lane, with cuts from 50 Cent, Obie Trice, and D12, as well as a few 8 Mile Soundtrack cuts. There is also a demo version of “Lose Yourself,” which is a hell of a lot of fun to listen to back-to-back with the original. The latter artists may not be Shady emcees anymore, but their inclusion on the album speaks to the respect that remains among all parties.
Some songs border on perfection. A few more are just solidly average. Yet, it all balances out, and the rhymes on full display make Shady XV a great compilation release. Fans of Eminem can keep themselves occupied with this one, while also getting a chance to hear what’s new from the Slaughterhouse gang, Yelawolf, and D12. The most important takeaway is the growth of the Shady Records conglomerate since The Re-Up. Times have changed and so has the Rap game, but Eminem and his unit have adapted accordingly and have managed to usher from the deep a compilation album that is a worthwhile addition to the Shady oeuvre.