D12, 50 Cent, Bad Meets Evil, Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf: Welcome to the wonderful world of hip hop wordplay and epic grimy tunes, all under the umbrella of Shady Records.
In honour of the fifth annual Record Store Day on April 21st I am paying homage to my favourite record label, Shady Records, and the musical talent that it has spawned.
The record label itself is the hip hop child of Eminem (Yeh, Slim SHADY – see what they did there?) and his manager Paul Rosenberg, most famous for appearing on skits on Eminem’s albums playing the role of, well, his disgruntled manager. Eminem himself is signed to Dr Dre’s label, Aftermath Records, and although he is my favourite and most respected American hip hop artist by a mile, it’s the combination of all the ventures that have come out of his own record label that puts it at the top for me.
Set up in 1999 after the release of Eminem’s first album, The Slim Shady LP, Shady Records (which is under the parent label of Universal Music Group) has had 9 acts under its belt in total, including Obie Trice, but it’s really the current roster I want to concentrate on. After all, remember what your parents said, practice does make perfect and Mr Marshall Mathers and Mr Paul Rosenberg have used the last 13 years wisely in perfecting the ultimate line-up of lyrical wizardry.
The label started as a platform for D12, Eminem’s Detroit rapping crew, who had made a pact that whichever of them hit the big time first would come back and sign the others; the pact was obviously made in the early nineties when no one actually knew what an Eminem was and had no idea the path of success he would travel on.
D12’s first album release Devil’s Night included the tongue in cheek drug-based ditty, Purple Pills, and went straight to number one, soon followed by Shady Records’ second release, the soundtrack for Eminem’s film 8 Mile, with the now legendary pre-rap battle anthem, Lose Yourself, which became the first hip hop song ever to win an Academy Award for best original song – pretty fly for a white guy from the Detroit slums, ay?
Next up, the label provided a platform for Eminem’s discovery 50 Cent to teach us how to ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ through the album of the same name, which shot to number one and became the fastest selling debut in U.S. history in 2003 – remember, it was about the time when everyone was ‘...gonna party like it’s your birthday, gonna sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday’ and people were just generally not giving a f**k because it was your birthday.
There was a lot of kerfuffle in the coming years as the label really worked at finding its feet with artists being signed and dropped but fast forward to early 2011 where Eminem confirmed in XXL magazine that hip hop super group Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf were now signed to the label:
‘Slaughterhouse… [is] kinda phase two of Shady. The new generation of Shady Records… as we're trying to rebuild our label. But it's exciting for hip-hop [...] Everybody here, as an MC, is competitive. And I think, Yelawolf being in the family, the Shady family, it's gonna make him hear what these guys are doin' and wanna step his own shit up. When I hear these guys, I wanna step my shit up. And when they hear each other, I think it'll be a competitive atmosphere, like, makin' these records. And that's better for hip-hop.’
Slaughterhouse, for me, take the raw rapping spirit to a whole new plane using lyrics and limitless imagination over the freshest beats to convey a hip hop movement that you can feel when you listen to their music. Comprising of Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9’’, Crooked I and Joell Ortiz it’s perhaps not surprising that these hip hop musical moguls can create such a sound.
Then there’s Yelawolf - yes he is white and is a rapper but his style is not comparable to Eminem’s although it still commands the upmost respect in my humble opinion– this Alabama born skateboarding addict has a distinct style of edgy fast-paced rap mixed with traditional head-banging rock beats.
Royce da 5’9’’ is also a part of the duo Bad Meets Evil, along with Eminem himself (and appeared on Eminem’s first 2 albums in that capacity) and these two excite me as much as Slaughterhouse in terms of lyrical content and style, although it wasn’t always plain sailing - Royce and Eminem parted ways for many years following a major bust up between D12 and Royce.
Thankfully, although under tragic circumstances, Royce and Eminem buried their beef circa 2008 following the murder of their mutual friend and D12 member Proof, whom had previously tried to get the two guys back together.
Eminem said at the time: "Royce and I started hanging out again and inevitably that led us back into the studio. At first we were just seeing where it went without any real goal in mind, but the songs started to come together crazy, so here we are.”
In June last year Bad Meets Evil released their EP Hell: The Sequel much to the delight of me and other fanatics of the dark duo, and a few months after Yelawolf’s 2nd album Radioactive was released under Shady Records.
The future of D12 doesn’t look bright with Bizarre being the latest in members to depart the group just last month and although 50 Cent is not at the forefront of hip hop anymore he has his fifth album due for release this year.
However, I’m excited about the future of Yelawolf, whose next album is out this year, and I’m especially excited about the future of Bad Meets Evil and Slaughterhouse - the latter having their 2nd album, Welcome to: Our House, released this summer.
I want to quote so many lines from the last two groups I mentioned to illustrate just how powerful and in depth their rapping skills are but I honestly don’t know where to start so I’ll leave you with the Shady 2.0 cypher performed by Eminem, Slaughterhouse and Yelawolf for the 2011 BET Hip Hop awards.