The title of World's Best Rapper is one that's always been up for debate, but Eminem made his best argument on May 23, 2000. That was when he released The Marshall Mathers LP, a sophomore album that features Slim Shady transition from national curiosity to global superstar.
Riddled with playful, demented rhymes and threaded by tight production from Dr. Dre, the 45 King and Em himself, The Marshall Mathers LP sold 1.7 million copies in its first week. More than just a commercial anomaly—the Recording Institute of America (RIAA) certified the album diamond after it sold 10 million copies by March 9, 2011—the project acts as a vivid snapshot of both Em's peak technical rhyme skills and his place in pop culture 20 years ago.
"The Real Slim Shady," which served as the first single for the album, finds Em attack the zeitgeist with tongue-in-cheek quips about boy groups, pop stars and double standards for rap culture. "The Way I Am" is Em venting about the annoyances of stardom and his reluctance to make a home in the world of celebrity overexposure. Meanwhile, the Dido-featured "Stan" is a story of fandom gone wrong that was so impactful that the song title ended up being added to the dictionary.
While the project was derided for homophobic lyrics, misogyny and bars about violence, the album lives as a testament to Em's all around songwriting prowess and remains one of his defining works.
In recognition of the 20th anniversary of Em's iconic second major label LP, XXL ranks all 18 songs on The Marshall Mathers LP. Check out the list below.