Real Name: Marshall Bruce Mathers III
A.K.A.: The Real Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, Eminem
D.O.B.: October 17th, 1972 St. Joseph, Missouri
Eminem is an Academy Award and multiple Grammy Award-winning rapper. Having sold over seventy million albums worldwide, Eminem is one of the highest-selling musicians of the early 2000s, thus making him one of the highest-selling rap artists of all time. Eminem was discovered by rapper and producer Dr. Dre, who later signed Eminem to his record label, Aftermath Entertainment.
Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has praised Mathers for his “verbal energy” and for arousing popular interest in poetry and lyrics. Rapper Chuck D of the group Public Enemy and columnist L. Brent Bozell III have compared Eminem to Elvis Presley due to their perceptions of Eminem’s music being counter-cultural and anti-establishment. Eminem is infamous for the controversy surrounding many of his lyrics. With the success of his highly acclaimed album, The Marshall Mathers LP and its subsequent nomination for four Grammy awards including Album of the Year, critics such as GLAAD denounced his lyrics as homophobic and misogynist, while others claimed that it promoted violence. In 2002, he starred in the semi-autobiographical movie 8 Mile.
The Early Years
Eminem was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of Deborah (née Nelson) and Marshall Bruce Mathers II, and is reportedly of Scottish, German, and English descent. Shortly after his birth, his father walked out, leaving Debbie and Marshall alone. Until he was 12, he and his mother moved to and from between St. Joseph and Warren, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. As a teenager, he became interested in hip-hop, performing amateur raps at age 14 under the pseudonym “M&M” and joining the group Soul Intent around 1995, when his first recorded single was released. There, he would meet the rapper Proof, both of whom would eventually form the group D12. Within the community, he frequently participated in freestyle battles.
In 1995, he recorded his first official tape, Fuckin’ Backstabber/Soul Intent. In 1996, he released an independent underground album named Infinite. Eminem recalls: “Obviously, I was young and influenced by other artists, and I got a lot of feedback saying that I sounded like Nas and AZ. Infinite was me trying to figure out how I wanted my rap style to be, how I wanted to sound on the mic and present myself. It was a growing stage. I felt like Infinite was like a demo that just got pressed up.” Mathers followed Infinite with The Slim Shady EP, which saw his lyrics take a decidedly darker turn, in songs like “No One’s Iller” and “Murder Murder”, the latter of which he talks about having to commit crimes to feed his daughter. After this album he received much attention and mixed reviews in the hip-hop underground scene, due to his distinctive style. Mathers had done a notable amount of rapping with fellow Detroit MC Royce da 5’9” early in his career. They referred to themselves as Bad Meets Evil, with Eminem playing ‘The Evil’ and Royce playing ‘The Bad’.
After being signed to Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records, Eminem released The Slim Shady LP, which went on to be one of the most popular albums of 1999, going triple platinum by the end of the year. With the album’s popularity came controversy surrounding many of the album’s lyrics. In “‘97 Bonnie and Clyde”, he describes a trip with his infant daughter, disposing of the body of his wife. Another song, “Guilty Conscience”, ends with his encouraging a man to murder his wife and her lover. “Guilty Conscience” also marked the beginning of the powerful friendship and musical bond that Dr. Dre and Eminem would share. The two label-mates would later collaborate on a line of hit songs, including “Forgot About Dre” and “What’s the Difference” from Dr. Dre’s album 2001, “Bitch Please II” from the Marshall Mathers LP, “Say What You Say” from The Eminem Show and “Encore/Curtains Down” from Encore.
The Marshall Mathers LP was released in May 2000, and quickly sold two million copies. It was Eminem’s fastest selling album to date. The first single released from the album, “The Real Slim Shady”, was a success and created some buzz by insulting celebrities and making dubious claims about them; he implies, among other things, that Christina Aguilera performed oral sex on Fred Durst (of Limp Bizkit) and Carson Daly (of MTV’s Total Request Live). In his second single, “The Way I Am”, he reveals to his fans the pressures from his record company to top “My Name Is” and sell more records. Although Eminem had parodied shock rocker Marilyn Manson in the video “My Name Is”, the artists are now on good terms. They have performed a remix of the song “The Way I Am” together in concert. In the third single, “Stan” (which samples Dido’s “Thank You”), Eminem attempts to deal with his new-found fame, taking on the perspective of a deranged fan who kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend, mirroring “‘97 Bonnie & Clyde” on The Slim Shady LP.
The song “Stan” from the album was named as the third greatest rap song of all time in a list compiled by Q Magazine and came 10th in a similar survey conducted by Top40-Charts.com. The song has since become highly acclaimed and was ranked 290th in Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. He had also included it on his Curtain Call: The Hits compilation album. Eminem is known to be featured on a future album release by Elton John.
Eminem was arrested when, on June 3, 2000, during an altercation at a car audio store in Royal Oak, Michigan, with Douglas Dail, the ICP manager, he pulled out an unloaded gun and kept it pointed at the ground. The following day, in Warren, Michigan, he allegedly saw his then wife, Kim, kiss the bouncer John Guerrera in the parking lot of the Hot Rock Café and assaulted him with his gun. He was given two years probation for both the episodes. The skit The Kiss on The Eminem Show is based around the latter incident.
In the summer of 2001, Eminem was given probation on weapons charges that stemmed with an argument from an employee working for Insane Clown Posse, giving him a fine around $2,000 as well as several hours of community service. His band-mate Proof from D12 stated that Mathers “sobered up” in 2002. However, he did turn to Zolpidem sleeping pills for relief of sleeping troubles and eventually went to rehab to recover from the addiction.
Mathers’ third major album, The Eminem Show, was released in summer 2002 and proved to be another hit for the rapper reaching number one on the charts and selling well over 1 million copies in its first week of release. It featured the single “Without Me”, an apparent sequel to “The Real Slim Shady”, in which he makes derogatory comments about boy bands, Limp Bizkit, Moby, and Lynne Cheney, among others. The album reflected on the impact of his rise to fame, his relationship with his wife and daughter, and his status in the hip-hop community. He also addresses the charges he faced over assaulting a bouncer he saw kissing his wife in 2000. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide felt that while there was clear anger present on several tracks, this album was considerably less inflammatory than The Marshall Mathers LP. However, L. Brent Bozell III, who previously criticized The Marshall Mathers LP for perceived misogynistic lyrics in the album, noted The Eminem Show for its extensive use of obscene language, giving Eminem a nickname of “Eminef” for the bowdlerization of motherfucker, an obscenity prevalent in the album.
In 2003, “Weird Al” Yankovic was denied permission to make a video for “Couch Potato”, his parody of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. “Last year, Eminem forced me to halt production on the video for my ‘Lose Yourself’ parody because he somehow thought that it would be harmful to his image or career.” For the Poodle Hat Al TV special, Yankovic raised the question of artistic expression in a false interview with Eminem. As Yankovic has always done for his Al TV specials, he edited the footage of a previous Eminem interview and inserted himself asking questions to give the impression of hypocrisy on the matter of an artist’s right to free speech.
On December 8, 2003, the United States Secret Service admitted it was “looking into” allegations that Mathers had threatened the President of the United States after the unreleased song “We As Americans” leaked onto the Web. The lyrics in question: “Fuck money / I don’t rap for dead presidents / I’d rather see the president dead / It’s never been said, but I set precedents…”. The song in question, titled “We As Americans”, was being recorded possibly for Encore but wound up on a bonus CD accompanying the album instead.
The year 2004 saw the release of Mathers’ fourth major album, Encore. The album was another chart-topper for the rapper, driven by the single “Just Lose It”, notable for being disrespectful towards Michael Jackson. On October 12, 2004, a week after the release of “Just Lose It”, Eminem’s first single off Encore, Michael Jackson called into the Los Angeles-based Steve Harvey radio show to report his displeasure with the video, which parodies Jackson’s child molestation trial, plastic surgery, and an incident in which Jackson’s hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984. The lyrics to “Just Lose It” also refer to Jackson’s legal troubles, however he does state in his song “…and that’s not a stab at Michael/Thats just a metaphor/I’m just psycho…”. Many of Jackson’s supporters and friends spoke out about the video, including Stevie Wonder, who called the video “kicking a man while he’s down” and “bullshit” and Steve Harvey who declared, “Eminem has lost his ghetto pass. We want the pass back.”
Black Entertainment Television was the first channel to stop airing the video. MTV, however, announced it would continue airing the video, and “Just Lose It” became the #1 requested video on Total Request Live for the week ending October 22. The Source, through its CEO Raymond “Benzino” Scott, wanted not only the video to be pulled, but the song off the album, and a public apology to Jackson from Mathers.
Despite the comedic theme of the lead single, Encore also had its fair share of serious subject matter, including the anti-war track “Mosh”. On October 25, 2004, a week before the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, Eminem released the video for “Mosh” on the Internet. The song featured a very strong anti-Bush message, with lyrics such as “fuck Bush” and “this weapon of mass destruction that we call our president.” The video features Mathers gathering up an army of people (including rapper Lloyd Banks) presented as victims of the Bush administration and leading them to the White House. However, once the army breaks in, it is revealed that they are there to simply register to vote, and the video ends with the words “VOTE Tuesday November 2” on the screen. After Bush won the election, the video’s ending was changed to Eminem and the protesters invading while Bush was giving a speech.
In 2005, some industry insiders speculated that Mathers was considering ending his rapping career after six years and several multi-platinum albums. Speculation began in early 2005 about a double-disc album to be released late that year, rumoured to be titled The Funeral. The album manifested itself under the name Curtain Call: The Hits, and was released on December 6, 2005 under Aftermath Entertainment. In July 2005, the Detroit Free Press broke news of a potential final bow for Mathers as a solo performer, quoting members of his inside circle who said that he will begin to fully embrace the role of producer and label executive. On December 6, 2005, the day Curtain Call: The Hits was released, Mathers denied that he was retiring on Detroit-based WKQI’s “Mojo in the Mornin’” radio show, but implied that he would at least be taking a break as an artist, saying “I’m at a point in my life right now where I feel like I don’t know where my career is going… This is the reason that we called it ‘Curtain Call,’ because this could be the final thing. We don’t know.”
That year, Eminem was a subject of criticism in Bernard Goldberg’s book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, being ranked at #58. Goldberg cited a 2001 column by Bob Herbert of New York Times claiming, “In Eminem’s world, all women are whores and he is eager to rape and murder them.” The Eminem song “No One’s Iller” was also used by Goldberg as an example of misogyny in his music.
In summer 2005, Mathers embarked on his first U.S. concert run in three years, the Anger Management 3 Tour, featuring Lil’ Jon, 50 Cent and G-Unit, D12, Obie Trice, The Alchemist, and others. In August 2005, Mathers cancelled the European leg of the tour and subsequently announced that he had entered drug rehabilitation for treatment for a “dependency on sleep medication”.
On December 5, 2006, Eminem released an album compilation entitled Eminem Presents the Re-Up. It started out as a mixtape but Eminem found that the material was better than expected and released it as a full album. It was meant to help launch new Shady Records artists Stat Quo, Cashis, and Bobby Creekwater.
Eminem called into New York radio station Hot 97 during a 50 Cent interview and confirmed he is hard at work on his first studio album in three years. He said, “I’m always working — I’m always in the studio. It feels good right now, the energy of the label. For a while, I didn’t want to go back to the studio … I went through some personal things. I’m coming out of those personal things [and] it feels good.” And though he jokingly said he’d release the new CD “tomorrow”, there is no official release date, according to Interscope. Dr. Dre told the Los Angeles Times that he will now devote two months to work on Eminem’s new highly-anticipated album, saying “We’ll be trying to get his thing done and work on a few things on my own project”. On November 13, 2007, Live from New York City the 2005 Madison Square Garden concert that originally aired on the Showtime network in December 2005, was released on DVD. The concert was shown on a few occasions on MTV in Europe. It features D12, Obie Trice and Stat Quo.
It has been reported by TMZ.com that Eminem was reportedly hospitalized over the holidays after suffering from a serious heart condition and severe pneumonia. It was also reported that his weight has ballooned to 212 lbs. He has since been released and is doing well recovering at home. However, rapper Sha Money XL, who said he has “strong ties with the Shady family”, has told WENN that he just had influenza and that the reports about his bad health are false. Rapper Trick-Trick, has also said that, “Em just picked up some weight, that’s it. He’s nowhere (near) 250 pounds or anything like that”.
It was announced by NME that Eminem will be releasing an autobiography, The Way I Am, on October 16, 2008. However, Eminem’s publicist, Dennis Dennehy, said in a statement, “While there is a book in the works from Eminem in which he details certain aspects of his personal and professional life, the book is still in the process of being written and edited. There is no firm release date scheduled, although it is anticipated to arrive in the latter part of this year.”
In 2001, Mathers brought his rap group, D12, to the popular music scene. In 2001, D12 released their hit debut album Devil’s Night. The first single released off of the album was “Purple Pills”, an ode to recreational drug use. (In the UK this was preceded by “Shit on You”, included on the special edition version of the album.) The version of “Purple Pills” released for radio and music television was heavily rewritten to remove many of the song’s obscene lyrics, and renamed “Purple Hills”. While the first single was a hit, the album’s second single, “Fight Music”, was not as successful, in part due to its timing in relation to the 9/11 attacks. After their début, D12 took a three-year break from the studio, later regrouping to release their second album, D12 World, in 2004, which featured the popular hit single release “My Band”. The other members of D12 have also appeared as guests on all of Mathers’ albums since The Marshall Mathers LP.
In April 2006 D12 member Deshaun “Proof” was killed in club brawl involving U.S. military veteran Keith Bender Jr, who was killed by Proof. The eruption is suspected to have been due to an argument over a game of pool. Proof was then allegedly shot by the bouncer Mario Etheridge, Bender’s cousin. He was then taken by private vehicle to St. John Health’s Conner Creek Campus, an outpatient emergency treatment site, and was pronounced dead on arrival shortly thereafter.
During an interview, D12 member Bizarre said that Interscope doesn’t want D12’s third album to be released until after Eminem’s next album. He also said that Eminem isn’t featured on his new album Blue Cheese & Coney Island because “he’s busy doing his thing”.
Although he typically collaborates with his affiliates (Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, D12), Eminem has collaborated with many other artists including Busta Rhymes (I’ll Hurt You, Touch It Remix), Redman (Off The Wall), Kid Rock (Fuck Off), DMX (Go To Sleep), Missy Elliot (Busa Rhyme), Jay-Z (Renegade), Method Man (What the Beat), Notorious B.I.G. (Dead Wrong), Jadakiss (Welcome To D-Block), Fat Joe (Lean Back Remix), Sticky Fingaz (What If I Was White?), Xzibit (Don’t Approach Me, My Name), T.I. (Touchdown), and others. Eminem rapped a verse in a live performance of Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It” remix at the 2006 BET Music Awards on June 27, 2006. Eminem was featured on Akon’s single “Smack That” which appeared on Akon’s album Konvicted. He also appears in the video with a new tattoo of his late friend Proof and a green polo. 50 Cent confirmed that on the new G-Unit album, Lock and Load, there will be a track with Eminem. Lil Wayne stated that he has the craziest song for Eminem on his new album, Tha Carter III, but that he hasn’t “sent it over yet”.
Mathers is also an active rap producer. Besides being the executive producer of D12’s two albums, Devil’s Night and D12 World, he has also executive produced Obie Trice’s Cheers and Second Round’s on Me as well as 50 Cent’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and The Massacre. In addition, Mathers has produced and appeared on several songs by other famous rappers, such as Jadakiss’ “Welcome To D-Block”, Jay-Z’s “Renagade” and “Moment of Clarity” Lloyd Banks’ “Warrior Part 2”, and “Hands Up”, Tony Yayo’s “Drama Setter”, Trick Trick’s “Welcome 2 Detroit”, and Xzibit’s “My Name” and “Don’t Approach Me”. Most of The Eminem Show was produced by Mathers himself, with co-production from longtime collaborator Jeff Bass. He also split the production with Dr. Dre on Encore. In 2004, Mathers was the Executive Producer of 2Pac’s posthumous album Loyal to the Game with 2Pac’s mother Afeni Shakur. He produced the UK #1 single “Ghetto Gospel” which featured Elton John. On certain tracks on the album, 2Pac’s voice was slowed down and digitally altered to match the beat and make him say things like “2005” and “G-Unit”, angering many fans. He has also produced “The Cross” off Nas’s album God’s Son. On August 15, 2006, Obie Trice released Second Round’s on Me. Eminem produced 8 tracks on the album. He was also featured in the song “There They Go”. Eminem has produced some tracks on the new Trick Trick album, The Villain; he’s also featured in “Who Want It”.
As Mathers succeeded in multi-platinum record sales, Interscope granted him his own record label. He and his manager Paul Rosenberg created Shady Records in late 2000. He followed this by signing his own Detroit collective D12 and rapper Obie Trice to the label. In 2002, Mathers signed 50 Cent through a joint venture between Shady and Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label. In 2003, Mathers and Dr. Dre signed on Atlanta rapper Stat Quo to the Shady/Aftermath roster. DJ Green Lantern, the former DJ for Mathers, was signed to Shady Records until a dispute related to the 50 Cent and Jadakiss feud forced him to depart from the label; he is no longer associated with Mathers. The Alchemist is now officially Mathers’ tour DJ. In 2005, Mathers officially signed another Atlanta rapper known as Bobby Creekwater to his label along with west coast rapper Cashis.
Although he had a brief cameo in the 2001 film The Wash, Mathers made his official Hollywood acting début with the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile, released in November 2002. He has said the movie is not an account of his life, but a representation of growing up in Detroit. He recorded several new songs for the soundtrack, including “Lose Yourself”, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song; it was not performed at the ceremony, reportedly because ABC wanted him to perform an edited version. Mathers voiced a character in 50 Cent: Bulletproof, who is an aging corrupt police officer that speaks in Ebonics. He has also done some voice acting, both on Crank Yankers and a web cartoon called The Slim Shady Show, which has since been pulled off-line and is instead sold on DVD. Eminem will star in the upcoming film Have Gun — Will Travel in which he will play a bounty hunter called Paladin. He will also be involved in either the soundtrack or scoring. He has also started a movie production company called “Interscope/Shady/Aftermath Films” with Dr. Dre. The company has worked on 50 Cent’s début movie Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and will work on Eminem’s next movie Have Gun — Will Travel.
Eminem was also in the running for the part of David Rice in 2008’s film Jumper after Tom Sturridge was dropped just 2 weeks before filming. Concerns over not having a more prominent actor prompted the director, Doug Liman, to consider other actors for the role. Hayden Christensen was eventually chosen over Eminem.
In acceptance of his Grammy for Best Rap Album (for The Eminem Show) in 2003, he credited his rap influences, saying,
“I made me a little list of MCs that I wanted to name off that inspired me to, to bring me where I am today - cause honestly, I wouldn’t be here without them. So the list goes like this, and it’s not in this order, but the list is this: Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Dr. Dre, all of N.W.A., KRS-One, Treach from Naughty by Nature, Nas, 2Pac, Biggie, Jay-Z. Thank you, ‘cause I learned from all of you. Thank you.”
- 1992 Steppin’ onto the Scene (w. Bassmint)
- 1995 Fuckin’ Backstabber/Soul Intent (w. Soul Intent)
- 1996 Infinite
- 1997 The Slim Shady EP (demo)
- 1997 The Underground EP (w. D12)
- 1999 The Slim Shady LP (4x Platinum)
- 2000 The Marshall Mathers LP (Diamond)
- 2002 The Eminem Show (7x Platinum)
- 2004 Encore (5x Platinum)
- 2002 8 Mile Soundtrack (4x Platinum)
- 2005 Curtain Call: The Hits (2x Platinum)
- 2006 Eminem Presents the Re-Up (2x Platinum)
- 2001 Devil’s Night - (Platinum)
- 2004 D12 World - (2x Platinum)