Even if “Campaign Speech” was the latest in a stalling moment in Eminem‘s career, I sometimes forget that he’s still the highest selling rap artist of all time. Horrorcore and brain-busting internal rhyme schemes are the foundation for his rap throne that has kept him and his fan satisfied for the past 20 years; a reign that started with a commercial whimper.
Em’s debut album Infinite turned 20 just under a week ago (November 12, 1996), and to celebrate the occasion, both a revamped version of the title track (which you can hear above) and a 9-minute mini-doc about the making of the album appeared on YouTube yesterday. The doc is chock full of archival footage revolving around the making of the debut that was only printed onto 500 CDs back in ’96, but it also reveals that Em’s career almost ended right there.
Even after proving himself to the Bass Brothers and recording the album, Em felt like he hit a brick wall once Infinite flopped. “During that time, it seemed it was just crashing ’cause nobody was listening,” he remembered. Influences from Masta Ace, Esham, and Big Daddy Kane were much more prominent here than they were later in his career, and he acknowledges that “I still was trying to figure out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to sound like,” even going so far as to say he was “mimicking” people.
Naturally, something had to change. Eminem’s rap style became “more hostile” to match the rough patch his life was going through and he borrowed the name Slim from co-producer Kevin Wilder, which later led to Slim Shady and a certain EP that caught the ear of Dr. Dre and Aftermath Records.
For all the peaks and valleys Eminem’s career has weathered, his story most often begins with “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?” But it’s remarkable that his career almost didn’t make it that far. Regardless of how you feel about him, the rap landscape wouldn’t be the same and you should check out this mini-doc above to see why.