A comprehensive examination of Eminem's Shady Records, spanning from 2000 to 2003.
"Shady Records, you better believe the hype is real"
- Eminem, We All Die One Day
Shady Records was originally founded in 1999, as a response to the breakout success of Eminem’s Slim Shady LP. At the time, the decision was centered around housing D12, as Dre’s Aftermath imprint did not appear to be interested in taking a chance on the group. In a Rap Basement interview, co-President Paul Rosenberg explained that the formation of Shady sprung about in a “two-birds, one stone” fashion. “He really wanted to put D12 out, and I really wanted to start a label,” explains Rosenberg. “Those two goals worked well together.”
As a result, Shady Records became a reality, the brainchild of Eminem and Paul Rosenberg. On May 23rd, 2000, Eminem released his classic sophomore album The Marshall Mathers LP as a joint venture on both Shady & Aftermath, a duo that would grow to become a longstanding hip-hop force. In that sense, MMLP was Shady’s maiden voyage, providing a massive look for newly minted signees D12. “I fucked my cousin in his asshole, slit my mother's throat,” raps the gleeful Bizarre, lover of bestiality, necrophilia, and pedophilia (sometimes a combination of the three, the rare and abhorrent act of pedonecrobeasto). “Guess who Slim Shady just signed to Interscope.”
Between the release of MMLP and D12’s Devil’s Night, a crucial step arose vis-a-vis Eminem’s musical development. The rapper took on a growing interest in production. Though he previously dabbled in the process on songs like “The Way I Am” and “Stan,” Devil’s Night found him tackling the bulk of the production responsibilities. Insofar as the nineteen track album is concerned, Eminem and Jeff Bass handled production on nine songs, with Dr. Dre and Mr. Porter handling four and two, respectively. While the exhibits were among some of his earliest efforts, you can see many of the hallmark “Shady” instrumental traits across Devil’s Night; essentially, Em specialized in haunting, carnivalesque bangers, often employing use of guitar and piano. For a more comprehensive look at D12’s Devil’s Night, both musically and lyrically, be sure to check this piece here.
REAL NAME NO GIMMICKS
Rosenberg explains that Em’s expanding interest in production ultimately led to a desire to expand his roster. As it happens, the next up was fellow Detroit rapper Obie Trice, who previously made waves on songs like “The Well Known Asshole.” “One day, Bizarre called me like, “Yo! Come spit for [Eminem],” reflects Obie, in an archived Baller Status interview. “I’ll never forget it. It was a hot summer day and Eminem had just dropped The Marshall Mathers LP and I shot out there from the hood, jumped in the Regal, shot up there to the studio and spit for him from the passenger side of his car and gave him a CD and he was like, “Aight, I’ll holla.”
Obie Trice ft. Eminem - "Rap Name"
“A couple weeks later, I got a call from my manager saying, “Shady might have dinner with you,” he continues. “I sat down, had dinner with the CEO and that night I hung out with Em. He took me to Kid Rock’s party and sh** and we chopped it up, know what I’m sayin’? And it’s been smiles and handshakes from then on.” Trice later made his Shady debut on a Devil’s Night skit, appropriately titled “Obie Trice.” From that point on, Em and Obie found themselves developing an unusual, yet surprisingly effective musical chemistry. The foundational elements were lain on the seminal single “Rap Name” (which birthed the iconic “Obie Trice, real name no gimmicks!”), while simultaneously displaying Obie Trice’s talents to the world at large, Em co-sign intact.
While Obie found himself playing the waiting game, providing verses on the occasional Shady affiliated track, Em found himself drawn to another emerging artist. 50 Cent was already a staple on the New York mixtape circuit, having ruthlessly upset the game in a truly Slim Shady-esque fashion. “I remember DJ Head, he had “Life’s On The Line” record,” reflects Em. “That was the first record I had heard from him. I was like, holy shit, this dude is fucking dangerous. On some emcee shit, he’s a lyrical threat. It was the way he was saying this shit, and he made you believe it.” After 50 found himself dropped by Columbia, Em and Paul found themselves clamoring to sign the newly-minted free agent, eventually bringing the proposition to Dr. Dre. “The same credibility factor Dre gave to me, we could use that with Fif,” admits Em, “It was more about making sure we didn’t fuck this up.”
Eminem talks discovering & signing 50 Cent
Of course, it would be remiss to neglect one of Shady Records’ brief yet essential MVPs, the Evil Genius himself, DJ Green Lantern. After signing a deal in 2002, Green Lantern released the rare Shady Records mixtape, and first chapter of the Invasion series. The tape, Shady Times: The Invasion, featured several contributions from D12 members, Obie Trice, 50 Cent, and Eminem himself; this tape brought the bulk of Em’s anti-Benzino crusade, including “The Sauce” and “Nail In The Coffin.” For the most part, 50 and Obie’s tracks were drops from before their Shady tenure, and thus, served more as attention-grabbers than anything. Still, it was important to see the roster beginning to form, especially given the sheer magnitude of Em’s yet-to-peak fame.
GUESS WHO'S BACK?
50 Cent made his official Shady Records debut on 8 Mile OST, when the album dropped in November of 2002. At the time, the project marked a massive showcase for Eminem’s artists, including both Obie and 50; to this day, “Love Me” stands as one of the quintessential Shady posse cuts. In fact, Em still values 50 Cent’s second verse on “Places To Go” among his favorite pieces of Curtis Jackson penmanship. Meanwhile, both Obie and 50 continued to work on their solo debuts, with Cheers and Get Rich Or Die Tryin, respectively. Though Obie was the first to sign, 50’s album landed an earlier release, dropping on February 6th, 2003. By that point, Eminem and Dre’s appearance in the “In Da Club” video had been long circulated, and the hype for Fif’s upcoming album had reached a feverish pitch. Within its first week, Get Rich sold 872,000 units, with an additional 822,000 being sold the following week; it’s not every day that an album goes platinum in a fortnight. By year’s end, the album had amassed a tally of thirteen-million worldwide. For a more elaborate and comprehensive insight into 50 Cent’s chemistry with Eminem, please refer to this piece; for 50 and Dre, check out this one.
Mere months after Get Rich landed, Green Lantern dropped off the second installment of the Invasion trilogy, the fan-favorite Conspiracy Theory. This time around, the Shady family approached the tape as a more consolidated force, given that this was a post 8 Mile OST & Get Rich landscape. Once again, the main theme seemed to center around the ruin of both Murda Inc and Benzino, with Obie, 50 Cent, and D12 lending their voices to the feud. Fans likely remember “Doe Rae Me (Hailie’s Revenge),” which found Obie leading the charge in a newfound display of Shady Records loyalty.
Despite lacking much of 50’s momentum, Obie Trice’s Cheers was next up, arriving in September of 2003. Admittedly, some fans were slightly wary of the project’s ultimate direction, given that Trice’s style was somewhat of an acquired taste. It didn’t help that lead single “Got Some Teeth” seemed to follow a bizarre formula, peddling the narrative that Interscope ultimately wanted to push a comedic single, in order to most successfully emulate the Eminem formula. Luckily, the final product went above and beyond expectation. Featuring Eminem in his most well-rounded production role to date, Obie found himself well-acquainted to Shady’s instrumentals, many of which deviated from his traditional characteristics and qualities.
Tracks like “Lady,” “Average Man,” “We All Die One Day,” and “Outro” firmly cemented Obie’s role in the Shady canon, blending a gritty Detroit sensibility with Em’s distinct aesthetic. Though they never went on to develop as successful a musical camaraderie as 50 Cent and Em, Obie and Slim certainly turned in no shortage of excellence. Should you be looking for a few underrated collaborations, check out “I’m Gone” and “Emulate,” with the latter embedded below.
Eminem & Obie Trice - “Emulate” A rare, unfinished, and dope loosie
It’s safe to say that Shady Records ended 2003 on a massive note; many hip-hop historians would likely call it the label’s definitive year. Yet sadly, Shady was destined for some troubled waters, which soon began to surface at the onset of 2004. Seeing as that era, the second chapter of the Shady saga, is a sprawling tale unto itself, be sure to stay tuned for Part Two of this feature, arriving shortly.