Musical personality disorder isn’t an unusual diagnosis among chart-toppers. David Bowie dressed up as Ziggy Stardust, Garth Brooks morphed into Chris Gaines, and Cher, arguably, has tried to become the Bride of Frankenstein. But none has created a three-way split persona as believably as rapper-of-the-moment Eminem, who’s put a 21st-century spin on his alter egos by giving them a website: SlimShadyWorld.com (www.slimshadyworld.com).
Eminem may be only slightly less confused than you are about his different identities, so here’s the skinny: Marshall Mathers is the real name of this 27-year-old poet-rapper, Slim Shady is the devil on Mathers’ shoulder channeling all of his inner-childhood anger, and Eminem is the hip-hop celebrity who serves as front-end emcee. Actually, Em doesn’t appear much on this website at all: It’s the bird-flipping, onion-ring-spitting Slim Shady who’s the star of SlimShadyWorld.com — a brilliant stroke, since Slim brings to mind the kind of angsty teen who would have a website. It wouldn’t be as well designed as SlimShadyWorld.com — but that’s just another hint that Em is much smarter than the people he plays.
World’s centerpiece is a weekly animated series called The Slim Shady Show, a spoof of the high school life of Marshall Mathers in which the young bully magnet turns into his own avenger, Slim Shady. Unfortunately, none of the episodes were ready at press time because Eminem, according to a source working on the site, was adding some new ideas. Translated into English, that means the shows are going to be either incredibly good or absurdly bad, but the plot still sounds like a smart, if raw, take on how awkward teens use rap personas as superhero power fantasies.
Further messing with the line between reality and fantasy, the tabloid-inspired News area of SlimShadyWorld.com will offer gossip about Eminem — but some will be real and some will be made up. How will you tell the difference? You won’t, which is in keeping with Em’s ”I am whatever you say I am” philosophy — though it’s hard to imagine the gun-toting headlines from this rapper’s life getting any weirder.
The games in SlimShadyWorld.com, on the other hand, attest to just how thin Em’s come-on can get: There’s a horse-derby-style trailer park race where you bet on the fastest mobile home, and a game where you simply run around hitting people. While the Net has a proud history of trailer-trash humor, from The Squat (www.thesquat.com) to Walter Miller (www.waltermillerhomepage.com), it’s surprising that a rapper who talks the talk can’t come up with anything better than this.
There is one potentially intriguing piece of SlimShadyWorld.com that won’t be ready for the premiere later this month: the Slim Chat. Eminem’s webmaster, Gene Jimenez of www.Hookt.com, says one possible plan is to create an avatar-based world where users will be able to build their own Shady-derived faces and communicate visually with other fans. In which case there really will be — as the song ”The Real Slim Shady” says — a million of us who cuss like him, dress like him, walk, talk, and act like him. Whoever ”him” is — and that’s just part of this artist’s trip.