I still say that this is Eminem's masterpiece, his darkest album, and the soundtrack of his darkest hour. It also ploughs the sinister and disturbing recesses of Marshall Mathers' mind, spilling them all out with a lack of reservation which is stunning.
As is so often the case, Dr. Dre's production is impeccable, and what he can do with electronic sound is akin to what some artists can do with paint. Instantly recognisable 'My Name Is' often gets a panning by the artist himself, but it's his signature tune with good reason, being an expert masterclass in uncompromising lyrics, an assault of bad taste and shocking statements, one after the other: BANG, BANG, BANG!
And then Marshall gives us a sad and truly heartbreaking insight into his past in 'Brain Damage', all the while giving us clues as to why he ended up being one of the most aggressive, angry men in the history of music. 'If I Had' is also sober and thought-provoking, giving us more of an insight into the psyche of Marshall Mathers than most of his recent output. Drugs, frustration, anger, sorrow and boredom are all there, as well as poverty and a sense of humour, making this a classic of modern times, easily one of the best and most honest post-modern rap albums.
But key to this fantastic honesty and unflinching realism was the fact that this was recorded whilst Eminem was still relatively unknown, living a life of abject hardship with only a dream of something better to keep him warm - in fact that tone is all over this album.
Dark humour adorns 'Role Model', whilst heart-rending despair paints 'Rock Bottom' a murky grey, and in one of the finest moments of his career, Eminem gives us empathy and truly highlights the plight of the USA's underclass. Rap just doesn't come any better than this.
Eminem's trademark nonchalance and defiance are all over 'I Just Don't Give A F**k', whilst 'Still Don't Give A F**k' amuses with it's gobbiness, and 'Bad Meets Evil', featuring Royce Da 59 shows yet more dark humour and smart-assed rapping. The most disturbing song on the album is '97 Bonnie and Clyde', a grim fantasy of separation from his other half, of the permanent kind. It shows at least how willing Eminem is to voice the thoughts which most of us never would. People accuse Eminem of misogyny but never bother to dig beneath the surface - of course a man whose mother didn't raise him properly has issues with women, just as a women who has a bad father would have issues with men... makes sense, really. But above all that, Eminem's love for his daughter shines through.
This is an incredlbly important album, and around album three, the grit and realism of it looked further and further away. Eminem is capable of genius, in the form of this album, and I am certain that at some point in his career, if he wants to, he can return to it.