Eminem is the stage name of Marshall Bruce Mathers III (born October 17, 1972), one of today's most controversial and popular hip hop musicians.
He is perhaps best known for being one of the few successful white rappers in the industry, not to mention one of the most critically acclaimed. He is also infamous for the controversy surrounding many of his lyrics, which are said by critics to be homophobic, misogynistic and excessively violent.
Early life and career
Mathers was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri and spent most of his childhood moving back and forth between Saint Joseph and suburban Detroit, Michigan.
Interested in rap from a young age, Mathers began performing as early as fourteen, later gaining some popularity with a group, Soul Intent. His wife Kim gave birth to his daughter, Hailie Jade, on 25 December, 1995. In the same year, he released his first independent album, named Infinite, following it up with The Slim Shady EP in 1997. He became famous in the hip-hop underground because of his distinctive, cartoonish style and the fact that he is white (a rarity in all rap, especially mainstream gangsta rap). Some people called him rap's "great white hope".
It is said that Dr. Dre found Eminem's demo on the garage floor of Jimmy Iovine, the Interscope label chief. Though this did not directly lead to a recording contract, once Eminem won second place vs. Otherwize at the 1997 Rap Olympics MC battle, Dr. Dre agreed to sign him.
Entering the mainstream
Once he joined Interscope, Eminem released The Slim Shady LP, which went on to be one of the most popular records of the year, going triple platinum. With the album's enormous popularity came controversy surrounding many of the album's lyrics. In "97 Bonnie and Clyde", Eminem describes a trip with his infant daughter, disposing of the bodies of his wife, her lover and his son. Another song, "Guilty Conscience" ends with Eminem and Dr. Dre encouraging a man to murder his wife and her lover.
The Marshall Mathers LP was released in May 2000, quickly selling 2 million copies. The album's first single, "The Real Slim Shady", created some buzz by trash-talking celebrities and spilling dubious gossip about them. In the song, Eminem claims, among other things, that Christina Aguilera gave "head" (Censored page) to Fred Durst (of Limp Bizkit) and Carson Daly (of MTV's Total Request Live). In the third single, "Stan" (which samples Dido's "Thank You"), Eminem attempts to deal with his new fame status, telling the story of a fan so obsessed with him that he winds up killing himself and his pregnant girlfriend, mirroring one of the songs on The Slim Shady LP.
With the enormous popularity of Eminem's second album, the controversy surrounding Eminem grew even larger, especially when The Marshall Mathers LP was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year. Though Mathers had always claimed that his lyrics were not meant to be taken seriously, and that he had nothing against homosexuals or women, the gay rights group GLAAD organized a boycott of the Grammys against Eminem. Mathers responded to this by singing "Stan" on-stage with gay singer Elton John, ending the performance by hugging John to show that he didn't have anything against homosexuals. Though shocking a lot of people, this gesture failed to appease all of his critics.
Since Eminem's rapid ascent to fame, tell-all biographies of varying quality have been published, including Shady Bizzness by his former bodyguard Byron Williams. Eminem himself has written a book called Angry Blonde (2001), where he reveals the emotions and intent behind the lyrics in the Marshall Mathers LP, and describes his passion and approach to rapping.
As one of six members of the rap group D12, Eminem appeared on the album Devil's Night, released in 2001. The album was certified multi-platinum. The album contained the single "Purple Hills". Another song, "Blow My Buzz", was on the soundtrack for the film The Wash (2001), in which Eminem had a cameo.
Eminem's third major album, The Eminem Show was released in summer 2002. It featured the single "Without Me", an apparent sequel to "The Real Slim Shady" in which he makes derogatory comments about boy bands, Moby, and Lynne Cheney, among others.
On November 19th, 2003 new controversy surrounded Eminem when a cassette tape was played during a press conference held by The Source magazine. The 1988 cassette featured a younger Mathers performing a freestyle rap in which he made disparaging remarks about black women, calling them "stupid" in comparison to white women. Mathers reportedly made the recording after breaking up with his black girlfriend.
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 Internet. 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.
Then, in 2004, Eminem made the video "My Band" with D12. The controversial song was the band's sarcastic response to the media's frequent portrayal of D12 as Eminem's band, giving little to no credit to its other members. The video contained various parodies, including that of the Janet Jackson 'incident', and of 50 Cent's "In Da Club" video.
On October 12, 2004, a week after the release of "Just Lose It," Eminem's first video and 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 accusations, his rhinoplasty, and an incident in which Jackson's hair caught on fire while he was filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984. The lyrics to "Just Lose It" also refer to Jackson's troubles. In the video, Eminem also parodied Pee Wee Herman, MC Hammer, and a Blonde-Ambition-touring Madonna. Harvey himself declared, "Eminem has lost his ghetto pass. We want the pass back." http://www.allhiphop.com/hiphopnews/?ID=3606
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 number-one requested video on Total Request Live for the week ending October 22.  http://www.mtv.com/onair/trl/top10/ The Source magazine, through its CEO Raymond "Benzino" Scott, wanted not only the video pulled, but the song off the album, and a public apology to Jackson from Eminem. http://www.sohh.com/thewire/read.php?contentID=6321
Others dismissed "Just Lose It" as a tame Weird Al Yankovic-style knockoff http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,15126,00.html . On Jackson's protest, Yankovic himself told the Chicago Sun-Times, "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. So the irony of this situation with Michael is not lost on me."
On October 26 2004 a week before the U.S. presidential election, 2004, Eminem released the video for his song titled "Mosh" on the Internet. The song features 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 Eminem gathering up an army of people 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 rioters invading while Bush was giving a speech. On October 31, Eminem performed the song on Saturday Night Live, but some thought that he appeared to be lip-synching it.
Other works and ventures
Eminem made his Hollywood acting debut with the semi-autobiographical 8 Mile, released in November 2002. He recorded several new songs for the soundtrack, including "Lose Yourself," which won Eminem an Academy Award for Best Song. He has also lent his voice to the Crank Yankers show and a web cartoon called "The Slim Shady Show", which has since been pulled offline and is instead sold on DVD.
Eminem signed a deal with Sirius satellite radio to program a hip-hop oriented station called Shade 45, which is set to debut on October 28 2004  http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/041019/latu076a_1.html . He also owns a clothing line called "Shady Ltd." and runs the music label Shady Records with signed artists including 50 Cent, D12 and Obie Trice.
Eminem as a producer
Eminem is also active as a producer of rap records. Besides D12's two albums, Devil's Night and D12 World, he also produced Obie Trice's Cheers as well as 50 Cent's Get Rich or Die Tryin'. Furthermore, his own records increasingly contain tracks produced by himself.
Eminem originally set his release date for his latest album, Encore, to be November 16 2004. However, the leakage of the album to the Internet forced him to put forward his release date to November 12 2004 (in a similar fashion to the release of his last studio album, The Eminem Show, in 2002). As the charts in the UK only start on Mondays, and that November 12 was a Friday, this meant he had only three days to compete for the #1 position that week. However, with the huge anticipation and pre-order sales for the album, this still allowed him to reach the top spot there, beating albums from top-selling artists like Britney Spears and Westlife. He also didn't have a full chart week for the debut of the album in the US, but he was still able to get to #1 and beat a greatest hits compilation by Shania Twain, which did have a full chart week. He also topped the Australian albums chart.
The Slim Shady LP:
- Just Don't Give A Fuck
- Role Model
- My Name Is...
- Guilty Conscience
The Marshall Mathers LP:
Devil's Night (with D12):
- Shit On You
- Purple Pills
- Fight Music
The Eminem Show:
- Without Me
- Cleaning Out My Closet
- White America
- Sing For The Moment
- Superman (on 8 Mile DVD only)
D12 World (with D12):
- My Band
- 40 Oz.
- How Come
- Git Up
- Just Lose It
- Like Toy Soldiers
Albums and EPs
- 1999 "My Name Is..." #36 US; #2 UK
- 1999 "Guilty Conscience" (feat. Dr. Dre) #5 UK
- 2000 "Forgot about Dre" (Dr. Dre feat. Eminem) #25 US; #7 UK
- 2000 "The Real Slim Shady" #4 US; #1 UK
- 2000 "The Way I Am" #8 UK
- 2000 "Stan" (feat. Dido) #1 UK
- 2002 "Without Me" #2 US; #1 UK
- 2002 "Cleanin' out My Closet" #4 US; #4 UK
- 2002 "Lose Yourself" #1 US; #1 UK
- 2003 "Sing for the Moment" #14 US; #6 UK
- 2003 "Superman" #15 US
- 2003 "Business" #6 UK
- 2004 "Just Lose It" #6 US; #1 UK
He also had a few major hit singles and albums as part of D12.
External links and further reading
Official Website http://www.eminem.com (Requires Macromedia Flash)
- Eminem News http://bandnews.org/band/Eminem
- IMDB - Eminem http://us.imdb.com/Name?Eminem
- Detroit Free Press Eminem collection http://www.freep.com/eminem/index.htm
- Michigan Corrections file on Marshall Bruce Mathers III http://www.state.mi.us/mdoc/asp/otis2profile.asp?mdocNumber=362656
- Eminem lyrics page on the OHHLA http://www.ohhla.com/YFA_eminem.html
- Eminem music videos on Yahoo's Launch.com http://launch.yahoo.com/artist/videos.asp?artistID=1037847
- White Noise: The Eminem Collection Eds. Hilton Als, Darryl A. Turner (2003) ISBN: 156025534X.
Last updated: 02-07-2005 03:29:25
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01