Before Eminem was the illustrious superstar rapper he is today, he was just a kid struggling to survive in the rough city of Detroit. In honor of the 20th anniversary of his debut studio album, Infinite, Slim Shady returns to where it all began with a fresh, remixed and remastered version of the title track.
In 1996 — one year after the period covered in the semi-biographical film “8 Mile” — he headed into a Detroit studio for the first time. The music from those sessions has been little heard by the wider public.
But now you can preview the track “Infinite,” newly reworked in a familiar Eminem style by the producers behind hits like “Lose Yourself” and “Without Me,”.
The full song will be released Friday, one of several remixes in the pipeline to mark the 20th anniversary of Eminem’s inaugural album, Infinite. Just 500 copies were pressed in 1996, desperately handed out in Detroit parking lots and record stores, and this new project marks the first official reissuing of that material by its owner, Web Entertainment.
Eminem, of course, went on to become one of the most acclaimed names in hip-hop history. But in the mid-‘90s, Marshall Mathers was just an unknown voice teeming with promise as he linked up with Mark and Jeff Bass — the Bass Brothers — who signed him to a long-term production deal.
That relationship stayed in place when Dr. Dre gave Em a big-label contract and introduced him to the world with 1999’s The Slim Shady LP. For the next decade, the Bass Brothers continued to co-produce the bulk of Eminem’s music, sharing awards that included a 2003 Oscar for “Lose Yourself.”
For the original Infinite album, the Basses had assigned the hands-on work to co-producers to Mike (Slim) Wilder and Denaun Porter, who would go on to make his name as part of Eminem’s D12 crew. For this 2016 face-lift, samples have been stripped out and replaced with live guitars, bass, keyboards and drums — the signature Bass Brothers sound that marked albums like “Slim Shady” and The Marshall Mathers LP.
“We thought: How would ‘Infinite’ sound if we approached it the way we went on to approach his later music?” says Jeff Bass. “Twenty years ago, it would have been a different record if I’d played the instruments. The real Eminem fans appreciate the (Bass Brothers) sound, and this is what it would have sounded like if we’d been producing the record.”
The vocals have been left untouched.
“Eminem was so far ahead of his time, even back then,” says Jeff Bass. “I listen to the lyrics on ‘Infinite,’ the songs he was coming up with, and he really was special. I think he knew that was some of his best work, especially where he was at in life. At that point, he had experienced only a lot of negative growing up. (Recording the album) was the one positive thing in life — this idea that his talent could convince people there was something more to him. I think it was the beginning of ‘I really could do this.”
Jeff Bass and his son Jake performed the instrumentation for the reworked “Infinite,” which was then mixed by Mark Bass with Wilder, the original’s co-producer.
“It’s kind of like a polished raw track, if that makes sense,” said Mark Bass. “It’s pretty much the same record, but better sounding, newer sounding, with the audio quality of (later) Eminem stuff.”
The album’s flop in 1996 spurred a reckoning for Eminem: After lying low for a few months, he emerged to tell the Bass team that he’d overhauled his creative concept, complete with a devilish alter ego: Slim Shady.
For Wilder, that had personal resonance: He’d long gone by “Slim.”
“Marshall comes into the studio one day,” Wilder recounts, “and he jokingly tells me, ‘Hey, I’m stealing your name!’ ”
But in the long run, no hard feelings.
“He was like nobody I’d ever heard before,” Wilder said. Recording the Infinite album “was nothing short of amazing for me, and I still feel that way about him. We’d had act after act coming into the studio. Then Marshall comes along and it was, ‘Wow.’ ”