A comprehensive examination of Eminem's Shady Records, spanning from 2003 to present day.
If you missed Part One, which spans from 2000 to 2003, check that out here.
With stellar releases from 50 Cent and Obie Trice, 2003 was the height of Shady Records’ creative and commercial success. To make matters even more promising, Eminem and Dre made another joint venture, and signed the Atlanta rapper Stat Quo. Yet as with many highs, a comedown inevitably arrives - though not at first. The spillover from 50’s arrival continued, especially with G-Unit’s Beg For Mercy in the mix. Meanwhile, Shady’s label cousin, the mighty, Dr. Dre-led Aftermath, was busy nursing the budding career of The Game. Though an affiliate, Shady Records had little to do with Game’s artistic development, despite 50 Cent taking a vested interest in the Compton rapper. Little did anyone know that Game and 50 would eventually find themselves embroiled in a longstanding beef, sowing tiny seeds of discord within the typically well-oiled Shady/Aftermath machine.
Shady Records was facing another internal threat. Eminem fans are likely familiar with the lyric “Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushing em’ out.” Em’s addiction was in full bloom, with side-effects spilling deeper into the music. Seeing as both projects on Shady’s release calendar centered around Em, it’s no wonder that many fans view 2004 as the unofficial death of Shady. Alarm bells first started to sound when D12 World first dropped; Em’s cadence and flow seemed unfocused, with generally sharp lyrics feeling uncharacteristically dulled. Not only that, but an unfortunate batch of leaked Encore tracks (“Bully,” “Love You More,” “We As Americans”) surfaced prematurely, prompting a defeatist attitude from Em. As a result, the rapper took to the studio, drugs in his system, and slammed out many of Encore’s sillier tracks.
Eminem, Obie Trice, 50 Cent, & Stat Quo - "Spend Some Time"
In an interview with Vibe circa 2010, Em opened up about the hazy Encore recording process. “When I was making Encore, my addiction took on a life of its own. I remember going to L.A., recording with Dre and being in the studio high, taking too many pills, getting in this slap-happy mood and making songs like “Big Weenie” and “Rain Man” and “Ass Like That.” As he tells it, Dre was simply confused, opting to laugh, lest the tears start flowing. Despite the haphazard nature, both D12 World and Encore were immediate commercial successes, though critics quickly smelled the fast-leaking blood.
Yet the show must go on. Eminem trudged forward, quarterbacking 50 Cent’s The Massacre, a runaway commercial success, if below the lofty standard of its debut counterpart. Still, 50 Cent’s star was at an all-time high, though beefs with what felt like the entire Tri-State area kept him more notorious than beloved. Fif’s feuds, particularly one with Jadakiss, had a tangible effect on the Shady Records roster. DJ Green Lantern was ousted as the label’s DJ by Em himself, after a filmed (yet neutral) conversation with Jada made it onto the street DVD The Come Up, Vol. 5. Meanwhile, Stat Quo remained waiting in the wings, with talk of his debut album Statlanta continuing to tread water.
Despite the fact that Stat had yet to receive anything resembling a proper rollout, Em continued to take on new artists, including Atlanta rapper Bobby Creekwater. Statlanta hype waned as Em moved forward with Obie Trice’s Second Round’s On Me, a darker effort than its predecessor, reflected in both Obie’s lyricism and Em’s production. Soon after, Eminem added another new addition to the roster, an Orange County rapper named Cashis. By 2006, Shady Records was looking at a respectable roster of talent, housing more artists than ever before. It also brought challenges upon the roster. D12’s “glue” Proof was tragically killed, prompting Em and the remaining D12 members to fall into a tailspin; it’s likely that Em’s addiction continued to intensify in tandem. “What’s your excuse, you lose Proof so you use?” he later rapped, on “Deja Vu.” Still, the ship continued nevertheless. In December of that same year, the Label united to deliver Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, an officially released mixtape-turned album. For many, The Re-Up marked their informal introduction to Bobby Creek, Cashis, and even Stat Quo, who largely felt underutilized in the grander scheme. Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, The Re-Up stands as an underrated body of work, a true testament to Shady Record’s most ambitious era.
Eminem, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks & Cashis - "You Don't Know"
The fallout would soon be felt. 2008 brought upon the departures of Bobby Creekwater, Stat Quo, and most surprisingly, Obie Trice. Bobby left on his own terms after a call with Paul Rosenberg. “I felt like it was time to move on, so I made a phone call to Paul one Sunday morning, and had a talk,” explained Bobby, citing an amicable split. Stat’s departure was more rife with frustration, with the rapper citing a strained relationship with Eminem, which popped off over a creative difference.
Basically, Em was adamant about a potential single, and Stat preferred another. The situation thickened when Stat took issue with a hook that Eminem wrote for him. He went on to have a meeting with Dre, Em, and Paul Rosenberg. “And I made a joke,” Stat reflects, via HipHopDX, “which I ain’t even gon’ get into that. But I had made a joke in that meeting that made Em upset. And from that point on, me and his relationship was strained. It was totally different. At that point for real [it was like] he had just said fuck it, I’m done. Even though [after my apology] it was [seemingly] all forgiven, [and] he had said it was all good, [but] it was never all good at that point.” He later admitted to saying he'd keep the hook for a million dollars, which drove a further wedge between him and Em.
As for Obie, it would appear that tensions between him and Jimmy Iovine were at the root of his departure. “I was kind of reckless, not on time, certain things,” admits Obie. “He didn’t want to further the project with me so we tried to work it out but it just didn’t come to a head so I had to do what I had to do.” For the record, Trice remained on amicable terms with both Eminem and Dre, though Second Round’s On Me marked his last album on the label. After several unfulfilled promises, Cashis ultimately followed his labelmates’ trajectory, leaving behind a lone Shady EP, The County Hound, in his wake (though it’s worth noting that Cashis actually remained on the label as a songwriter until 2013).
Though Shady Records seminal roster was all but dismantled, Eminem’s return to sobriety brought a renewed interest in managing his label. 2010’s Recovery, largely remembered for a noted shift in artistic direction, found Eminem collaborating with lyrical supergroup Slaughterhouse, which featured Royce Da 5’9”, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and KXNG Crooked. On January 12th, Eminem announced his intentions to rebuild the label, officially revealing the additions of Slaughterhouse and Alabama rapper Yelawolf. At the time, Yela expressed excitement with the partnership, stating “now that I’ve become an apprentice to one of the greatest artists in the world, my potential reaches beyond anything I ever imagined. Let’s kill this shit.” The newfangled roster, dubbed Shady 2.0, would go on to cover XXL’s March issue.
While 2003 remained the Label’s peak, 2011 was certainly a fruitful year in its own right. The retooled Shady Records hit the ground running on a musical tip, joining forces for promotional single “2.0 Boys,” as well as a legendary group cypher at the BET Awards. Em and Royce once again coalesced for the long-awaited Bad Meets Evil EP, Yelawolf dropped Radioactive, and Slaughterhouse got to work on their major label debut. The following year, Slaughterhouse released Welcome To Our House to mixed reviews. Now, hindsight has revealed much backstory surrounding the making of Slaughterhouse’s album, which went on to spawn tension between Joe Budden and Eminem; should you be interested in that particular storyline, be sure to refer to this piece, and this piece. Still, insofar as fans received a completed Shady Records album from the group, the campaign was largely viewed as a success.
Eminem, Yelawolf & Slaughterhouse - "2.0 Boys"
2013 brought equal productivity from Shady 2.0, with Yelawolf’s Trunk Muzik Returns and Eminem’s own The Marshall Mathers LP 2 dropping. In the meantime, 50 Cent was readying his departure from Interscope, which also meant leaving his homie Em’s roster. Slaughterhouse was in the process of beginning the fabled, and doomed, Glass House project. Like history repeating itself, Em found himself readying yet another label compilation, ostensibly celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of Shady Records. The project, a spiritual successor to The Re-Up, was titled ShadyXV, and featured appearances from Em, Royce, Joe Budden, Yelawolf, D12, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked; it was released on November 24th, 2014. The plan continued, as 2015 brought another album from Yelawolf, his acclaimed Love Story.
Despite having yet another solid run, Shady soon found itself faced with another bout of adversity. For one, Slaughterhouse was rife with inner turmoil, with the group divided over the fate of the purgatorial Glass House. Yelawolf was battling his own demons, though he did ultimately come through with his third Shady studio album, Trial By Fire. Em was once again warring with his perpetual critics, whose disdain reached a feverish state upon receiving his Revival project in 2017. One of the aforementioned critics was a newly-minted “Media Joe,” who openly lambasted Revival during a segment on Everyday Struggle. The rift between Em and Joe would soon grow into a chasm, and Slaughterhouse came to an end shortly thereafter; on April 20th, KXNG Crooked was first to depart, with Royce calling it a “done deal” days later. In mid-August, Yelawolf announced his own departure, though making sure to keep things amicable. The 2.0 Boys era had come to an end, leaving Em in a position to rebuild the label yet again.
It didn’t take long for the dawn of a new era to arise. While the 2.0 movement was imploding, Eminem secured Westside Gunn and Conway’s established Griselda records to a distribution deal, for both solo and joint efforts. In October of 2017, Eminem signed Compton rapper Boogie to Shady Records, and the pair has been working on his label debut since (set to drop on January 25th). Now, with the makings of a new roster shaping up, and a reinvigorated Eminem at the helm, it’s entirely possible that Boogie, Westside Gunn, and Conway herald a third epoch in the Shady Records legacy.