The year 2000 was a legendary year for hip hop, not only because it was waving goodbye to the bloodshed and horror of the 1990s east coast vs west coast calamity, but because it was blessed with something incredible. The Marshall Mathers LP.
The Marshall Mathers LP was Eminem’s second album, and it was just as good as his The Slim Shady LP if not better and cemented his place in hip hop. The album was a smash, so much so that it sold 1.78 million copies in its first week in the US alone and won Eminem a Grammy for ‘Best Rap Album’. The album’s lead single, ‘The Real Slim Shady’, is one of the most legendary songs in hip hop, but not as legendary as the album’s third single, ‘Stan’.
‘Stan’ tells the story of a fan who is unhealthily obsessed with Eminem. The song details the contents of a piece of fan mail that ‘Stan’ wrote to Eminem before he took his own life. The fanmail details how he appreciated Eminem’s music and expressed how much he related to the negative things Eminem addressed in his music. The letter details how Stan saw himself in Eminem because they had so much in common. ‘Stan’ expressed he was confused as to why Eminem would not return his letters since their life stories were almost identical. For ‘Stan’ it was a matter of life or death that Eminem respond to him since he felt that was the only person in the world who could understand him and his struggles.
Eminem does respond to the letter but explains to ‘Stan’ that it’s unhealthy to put your idols on pedestals and that he should put himself on a pedestal. He continues to tell ‘Stan’ that getting to know Eminem is not as important as getting to know himself and fixing himself physically and mentally. He also expresses that taking his music literally is dangerous and that part of it is humour and urges ‘Stan’ to lighten up and get help. However, while writing the reply, Eminem realises that he saw a man named Stan had killed himself in a news report and realises he is writing a letter to a dead person.
The song ‘Stan’ is legendary. However, according to Eminem, the version we know is a toned-down version of the original song, and the original third verse hit harder but was accidentally erased by a stoned engineer.
Speaking to Genius, Eminem explained the mistake in detail and recalled, “So I’m in the booth waiting, and he backs the tape up all the way to the beginning of the verse and punches me in. I realize he’s in the wrong spot, and I can’t hear any of my vocals, so I start waving my arms and yelling in the mic to try to get his attention. He doesn’t notice, so I run into the control room through a cloud of smoke and yell, ‘Yo, I wanted to keep those vocals’ he just looked at me and said, ‘My bad man…you wanna hit this?’ ”
Eminem insisted that the deleted segment of the track was hard as he declared, “the original take that shit was WAY better…oh well!” Regardless of the deletion, ‘Stan’ did well but seemed to resonate with an overseas audience better as it went to number one in 12 countries, including Australia, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom but peaked at 51 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is an iconic song and has even been labelled the best hip hop song of all time by some outlets.
You can watch the extended video for ‘Stan’ below.