In commemoration of 15 years of Slim Shady and Shady Records coursing through the world’s commercial rap pipelines, Eminem has rounded up his label’s current roster of artists and several acclaimed producers for the Shady XV compilation/greatest hits album. Of Marshall Mathers’ three rap personas (Slim Shady, Marshall and Eminem), Slim Shady definitely comes out to play the most. True to form, he’s sick, twisted, zany and diabolical, and his lyricism is spot on and insanely good. At times, Eminem sounds like he is rapping to save his life, cramming so many rhymes into his bars that it makes “Rap God” look average. This may be the fiercest he has ever been from a technical standpoint, and he very rarely makes a misstep or gets sloppy with his flow. To authenticate his verses, Em brings back some of his unique, recognizable leitmotifs: Hannibal Lector, Silence Of The Lambs, various other cartoon imageries, celebrity jokes, etc. When he’s not nourishing The Real Slim Shady, he’s rapping about getting sex from women, his empty love life, messed up relationships and the duality of fame among other topics.
Eminem’s last label compilation, 2006’s Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, had a vastly different cast of emcees. To the extent that artists Stat Quo, Obie Trice, Ca$his, Bobby Creekwater and 50 Cent flaunted loads of coarse gangster style, the new guys Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf and Bad Meets Evil show off consciousness and advanced lyricism with no less the strength, menace and mystique of the first class. The only act besides Eminem that has stuck around for Shady XV is D12. Slaughterhouse (Royce Da 5’9”, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden) are as smart as they are hard, Yelawolf is absolutely outstanding in “Down,” and Bad Meets Evil (Em and Royce) get dirty as hell in “Vegas.” A new D12 album may not surface in 2014, but the giddy “Bane” track here should hold fans over. Kobe, Sia and Skylar Grey add heart and prove Shady XV is more than a rappers’ party.
Em produces about half of the album, but Just Blaze, Boi-1da, The Maven Boys, DJ Premier, Mr. Porter and others work wonders too. There’s plenty of hard rock, some samples and Em’s classic piano-laced basic beats. These music productions are mostly consistent in sound from song to song, except for Premo’s boom bap beat on “Y’all Ready Know,” which sticks out in a very, very good way. Statik Selektah closes the album on a strong note with a heavy guitar riff then gentle piano and taps in “Detroit Vs. Everybody,” which houses an all-star line up of hungry, rising rhyme-spitters from the Motor City, Michigan.
The new, original material (first disc) off Shady XV and also the greatest hits off the second disc (which contains the original demo version of “Lose Yourself” by the way) are very good lyrically and musically. The compilation is a great show put on by some of the most skilled, conscientious emcee professionals in the game. This LP is a celebration of 15 years of great music, and while Eminem already has a classic, legendary body of work, let’s pray that Shady XV is not the end of his “15 minutes of fame.” The consolation, however, is that now Eminem will be able to pass the torch to some amazing artists if and when he decides to hang up the headphones and turn off the microphone.