People need to face some hard facts: Slim Shady is no longer scary. There was a time when the guy claiming that if he failed at rap hed become a rapist in a Jason mask, aka Eminem, was absolutely terrifying and whose presence demanded attention. Now hes a household name. The Shady/Aftermath record label is constantly dishing out decent (if not popular) albums, he has his own clothing line, and kids use his songs in school projects. Face it, the guy mom and dad used to hate just isnt so bad anymore. Basically, the alias of Slim Shady is now more myth than legend.
Thats why its refreshing to break out his first album, Infinite, because its the side of Eminem that vanished as soon as Slim Shady showed up on your headphones. Released three years before Eminems first mainstream single, this was before success made him the angst ridden genius he is now. On this record, he doesnt sound angry, he sounds stressed. Not stressed because the Insane Clown Posse is calling him out or because of another lawsuit, but stressed because hes just trying to make it as a human being. This album is a hip-hop memoir of the hard life as a white minority in Detroit trying make ends meet.
The title track and album opener is by far one of the most chilling Eminem samples to date. With a simple piano riff and a standard snare beat, he gives his shout outs to the 3-1-3 and then gets down to business. In the first verse, he describes himself as a zany acting maniac in action, a brainiac in fact son whos rhyming skills got you climbing hills. This is why Eminem rose to fame; he has a natural ability as a linguist to connect words from a rhyme scheme that almost seems unfathomable in the first place. The chorus is just as lyrically advanced, where he vents, You heard of hell, well I was sent from it/I went to it serving a sentence for murderin’ instruments/Now I’m trying to repent from it, but when I hear the beat I’m tempted to make another attempt at it/I’m Infinite. The scariest part is you know he means it.
Infinite keeps up its pace of quick-witted and unique rhyming. The following track is a brief interlude (the voice belongs to the now deceased, MC Proof) hyping up Eminems song on the radio which then launches into the poppy tune, Its OK. While the song discusses the negative aspects of a hard knock life in Detroit, Eminem remains optimistic about everything (“Its a rough day, but everything is OK”), even involving his daughter Hailey, to which he stresses the need for success. Open Mic is merely a four-minute rant of lyrical genius spit out by a young kid with some grit on his mind — reminiscent of 8 Mile, but on a whole other level. It’s here he lets off real steam, dishing out references left and right, everything from magicians with microphone skills to the aforementioned Jason mask. And while he does chat about tossing people into Lake Michigan, in the end, it’s all about the proper way to operate the mic.
In hindsight, this record is a more genuine glimpse of the rapper that is Eminem. While Infinite was never officially released on CD, it did have a small pressing of cassettes and vinyl. Have no fear, considering you can find anything on the internet. Though if you do somehow find a way to grab this record, please do. Eminems lyrical chops, raw style beats, and mentality on this record cannot be matched by anything else he did in his career (Well, maybe The Marshall Mathers LP, but by then he was a different breed altogether.). At this point, there was no Slim Shady, there was no movie deal, there were no fingers thrown around by the media. There was only a kid trying to get noticed, and that kid was just Marshall Mathers.