Marshall Mathers vs. Slim Shady: A Look at Eminem’s Two Personas

For the earlier portion of Eminem’s iconic solo career, he often employed his alter-ego Slim Shady for many of his songs. His most vibrant presentation as an artist, Slim Shady was the side of Eminem that earned him the most mainstream acclaim, while also subjecting him to the most scrutiny from critics.

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Later in his career, though, and even present at times on early albums, Eminem’s most poised and mature version manifested as Marshall Mathers. Named for Em’s legal name, Marshall Mathers’ performances contained some of the MC’s most impressive and focused rapping from his entire catalog.

Below, we compare Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers, defining what made them different and which songs they shined the most on.

Slim Shady

The idea for Slim Shady first came when Eminem was in the Detroit band D12. Initially, the band wanted to include 12 different members. However, they ended up only having six, which led to most of them wanting to establish alter egos to meet their original quota.

“Basically the whole thing of D12 is everybody has an alter ego, so try to be the villain, a person completely different from who you are,” Bizarre of D12 said in a 2015 interview with DJ Vlad. “That’s when he took the name Slim Shady.”

Shady was most prominent in Eminem’s first few albums, such as Infinite (1996), The Slim Shady LP (1999), and The Eminem Show (2002). When taking on this character, Em would use incredibly raunchy, graphic, and sexually explicit language. This was best displayed on tracks like “The Real Slim Shady” and “Crack a Bottle (feat. Dr. Dre and 50 Cent),” where he either fiercely called out musicians that took influence from him or simply rhymed about his fast life of women and drugs.

Best Slim Shady songs

  • “The Real Slim Shady”
  • “Kim”
  • “Guilty Conscience”
  • My Name Is
  • “Crack a Bottle”

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Marshall Mathers

When it comes to Marshall Mathers, songs using this persona include Em’s most earnest motifs and most passionate writing. On albums like The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), The Eminem Show (2002), and Recovery (2010), Em would trade in Slim Shady’s controversial approach for Marshall Mathers’ thoroughness and sincerity.

This not only showed the versatility and range of Eminem as an artist, but it also helped fans learn more about his personal life and drama, which helped make him more relatable. This was best displayed on tracks like “Not Afraid” and “Mockingbird,” where Em either showed the importance of determination and solitary or touched on his tumultuous family life.

Best Marshall Mathers songs

  • “Not Afraid”
  • “When I’m Gone”
  • “Mockingbird”
  • “Stepping Stone”
  • “Hailie’s Song”

 Photo by Amy Sussman/WireImage

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