Fifteen years ago this week, Eminem followed up his breakout record The Slim Shady LP with the then-hugely anticipated Marshall Mathers LP. At the time of its release, it was one of the fastest-selling studio albums by any solo artist in American history, knocked Britney Spears from the top of the charts, earned a Grammy for Best Rap Album—and courted plenty of controversy for Eminem’s shocking lyrics.
As EW noted at the time, “The Marshall Mathers LP is indefensible and critic-proof, hypocritical and heartbreaking, unlistenable and undeniable; it’s a disposable shock-rap session, and the first great pop record of the 21st century.”
One future musician who happened to be listening to the record at the time? Ed Sheeran. So when EW caught up with the singer-songwriter for an interview in our recent issue, he took time to share why the record mattered so much to him. He shares his thoughts about Eminem’s masterpiece below.
I find that when I buy albums and they’re just one thing—it’s nice to put on the background, there’s usually one great song on there—it just doesn’t keep my attention for the whole time. The Marshall Mathers LP is one of my favorite albums. There’s so many waves and dips and different sounds on it that it just makes it interesting, for me, anyway. And it’s the same if you listen to any Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, or Van Morrison record—it’s not all in one style. They’re all very different sort of things.
If Eminem had made that song “Kim” and made it so it wasn’t so shocking, no one would have liked it. But because he was so bare and so honest, it worked. If you’re going to be a songwriter, wear your heart on your sleeve and don’t worry.
I had the opportunity to meet him once when I went to SNL in 2013. He performed with Rick Rubin. I remember saying to Rick, “Will he know who I am?” And Rick said, “Unless you’re an underground rapper from Detroit, he won’t.” I really wanted to meet Jay Z. And I met him at the perfect point where he was aware of who I was so I could go into a conversation, rather than just being the dude that takes a picture. So I’m going to wait for that with Eminem.