American Psycho: Eminem’s Marshall Mathers LP at 20

Eminem performed live at Memorial Stadium in Seattle, Wash to celebrate the opening of Experience Music Project, an interactive music museum opening June 23, 2000. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect

“I am forever chasing The Marshall Mathers LP. That was the height of what I could do. I just don’t have the rage I did back then.”Eminem, 2017 Vulture interview

“It sounded like something Stephen King would write. It sounded like a horror movie.”Jimmy Iovine, VH1’s Ultimate Albums – Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP

Jan. 20, 2001. The Barker Hangar. Santa Monica, CA. 2.5 miles from the Interscope Records office. 

He emerges wearing denim overalls and wielding a chainsaw. Chemically blonde hair meets the top of a hockey mask. Behind him on stage, an ersatz brick bungalow modeled after an equally weathered home somewhere between 8 Mile and 7 Mile roads in Detroit. The chainsaw blade is inert, but a recording of violent revving plays as sparks shoot skyward from the stage. When the DJ cuts the chainsaw recording, he chucks the prop aside. Mischievous guitar chords, the aural equivalent of a caped cartoon villain tiptoeing behind an unsuspecting mark, sound in concert with thousands of screams. He pulls a microphone from his pocket and lifts the mask.

It’s Marshall Mathers. Slim Shady. Eminem. This is his first nationally televised full-length concert, a private performance of his 2000 Anger Management Tour set taped by In Demand, then the top pay-per-view distributor in the U.S. (You can still watch most of it here.) 

The subtext, which may or may not be obvious to the audience of predominantly white (and probably moneyed) teens, is this: the rock bottom life endured in and outside of that Detroit home spawned the man (Mathers) turned rapper (Eminem) with an alter ego (Shady) who stands before them as a hybrid of horror-movie homicidal maniacs. Swooning girls and guys in Ecko beanies scream ecstatically, not in abject terror. Graphic rhymes about rape, incestuous rape, domestic violence, and gruesome murder are welcome, desired. If the video editor later soundtracked footage of the crowd with hits from *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys — and cut out the seconds where a young woman mouths “suck my dick” — they could’ve gotten away with it.

American Psycho: Eminem’s <i data-lazy-src=

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