Who Is Eminem?
Rapper, actor and music producer Eminem is one of the best-selling musicians of the 21st century and one of the most influential rappers of all time.
Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in 1972 in Missouri, Eminem had a turbulent childhood. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and worked odd jobs until finally making it as a rapper upon the release of The Slim Shady LP in early 1999. The album went multi-platinum, garnering Eminem two Grammy Awards and four MTV Video Music Awards.
In 2000, Eminem released The Marshall Mathers LP, which was noted as the fastest-selling album in rap history. Two years later, he delivered the Academy Award-winning song "Lose Yourself," from the semi-autobiographical drama 8 Mile.
In 2010, he released the Grammy-winning album Recovery, a highly autobiographical attempt to come to terms with his struggles with addiction and experience with rehabilitation.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013) also garnered numerous accolades, and the rapper later followed with Revival (2017), Kamikaze (2018) and Music to Be Murdered By (2020).
Eminem's Mom and Dad
Eminem never knew his father, Marshall Mathers Jr., who abandoned the family when Eminem was still an infant and rebuffed all of his son's many attempts to contact him during his childhood.
As a result, Eminem was raised by his mother, Deborah Mathers. Eminem has been scathingly critical of the way his mother raised him. Through his song lyrics, he has publicly accused her of being addicted to prescription drugs as well as subjecting him to emotional and physical abuse.
Deborah has vehemently denied all such accusations, and in 1999 she filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against her son. They settled the case for $25,000.
In 2008, Deborah published My Son Marshall, My Son Eminem: Setting the Record Straight on My Life As Eminem's Mother, a memoir recounting her side of the story and their complicated relationship. In the book, she claims to have never exploited her son, and that her only concern was for her children.
Early Life and Education
American rapper, record producer and actor Eminem was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III on October 17, 1972, in St. Joseph, Missouri.
Eminem's mother never managed to hold down a job for more than several months at a time, so they moved frequently between Missouri and Detroit, Michigan, spending large chunks of time in public housing projects.
"I would change schools two, three times a year," Eminem later recalled. "That was probably the roughest part about it all."
This itinerant lifestyle left a large impact on his personality. He had no close friends, kept almost entirely to himself and was treated like an outcast at each new school. "Beat up in the bathroom, beat up in the hallways, shoved into lockers," he remembered.
Eminem attended Lincoln High School in Warren, Michigan, where he failed the ninth grade three times and eventually dropped out at the age of 17. Yet despite being a poor student, Eminem always had a deep affinity for language, devouring comic books and even studying the dictionary.
"I found that no matter how bad I was at school, like, and no matter how low my grades might have been at some times, I always was good at English ... I just felt like I wanna be able to have all of these words at my disposal, in my vocabulary at all times whenever I need to pull 'em out. You know, somewhere, they'll be stored, like, locked away."
Eminem's Ex-Wife and Daughter
Eminem was just 15 when he met 13-year-old Kim Ann Scott at a house party. Kim, who claimed that she didn't know her father and had been sexually abused by her stepfather, came to live with Eminem and his mother Deborah.
Eminem and Kim soon began dating, but their relationship was turbulent from the start. Deborah threw the couple out when Eminem dropped out of school. In 1995, the couple had a daughter named Hailie Jade Scott. The couple broke up and got back together many times, finally marrying just before Eminem left on his first major tour in 1999. They divorced in 2000.
Kim and Eminem continued to maintain a tumultuous off-and-on relationship until remarrying in 2006, then divorcing again several months later. Following their second divorce, the exes began a protracted, ugly and highly public custody dispute over their daughter Hailie.
Eminem has rapped about Hailie throughout his career, including on the 2004 song "Mockingbird" and throughout his 2017 album Revival. Hailie graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in psychology and has become an Instagram influencer.
Eminem's Career as a Rapper
As a teenage dropout, Eminem found a way to express his passion for language, as well as to release his youthful anger, through the emerging musical genre of hip-hop. He assumed the stage name M&M, a playful reference to his initials, which he later began writing phonetically as "Eminem."Eminem identified with the nihilistic rage of late-1980s and early-1990s rap music, and he was especially taken with N.W.A., the popular and highly controversial gangster rap crew from Los Angeles.
Although at the time rap music was almost exclusively produced by black people, Eminem, who has pale white skin and bright blue eyes, nevertheless entered into the Detroit rap scene as a frequent competitor in rap "battles"—competitions in which two rappers take turns insulting the other through improvised rap lyrics. Eminem proved highly skilled at such verbal sparring and, despite his race, quickly became one of the most respected figures in Detroit's underground rap scene.
He recalled, "I finally found something that yeah, this kid over here, you know, he may have more chicks, and he may, you know, have better clothes, or whatever, but he can't do this like me. You know what I mean? He can't write what I'm writing right now. And it started to feel like, you know, maybe Marshall's gettin' a little respect."
This period in Eminem's life—working odd jobs to make ends meet while participating in rap battles and desperately attempting to land a record contract—was later dramatized in Eminem's semi-autobiographical film from 2002, 8 Mile.
Eminem went on to become one of the most acclaimed rappers in the genre's brief history. As much as any other individual artist, he is responsible for rap's transformation into a mainstream music genre.
Eminem's Albums and Songs
Inspired by the birth of his daughter Hailie to make a living as a rapper, Eminem released his first independent rap album, Infinite, in 1996.
Though the album displayed flashes of his verbal prowess, biting wit and flair for storytelling, the low-budget record failed to turn a profit or attract more than local attention.
'The Slim Shady EP' (1997) & 'The Slim Shady LP' (1999)
In 1997 Eminem released The Slim Shady EP, which was discovered by Dr. Dre, the legendary rapper and former producer of Eminem's favorite rap group N.W.A.
After Eminem traveled to Los Angeles and became runner-up in the 1997 Rap Olympics MC Battle, Dre listened to the rapper's cassette in the basement of executive Jimmy Iovine's home. Dre was so impressed that he signed Eminem to his Interscope Records label. In 1999, after two years of working with Dre, Eminem released The Slim Shady LP.
The heavily hyped record became an instant success, going on to sell over three million copies. Eminem's first single, "My Name Is," mixed a childish humor and energy with rampant profanity and flashes of violence — a potent and fascinating combination that felt different from anything else in rap.
'The Marshall Mathers LP' (2000)
Eminem released his second studio album, The Marshall Mathers LP, in May 2000. The album showed off Eminem's poetic talents as well as his emotional and artistic range. His songs vary from manically funny ("The Real Slim Shady") to heartbreakingly poignant ("Stan") to explosively violent ("Kim") to disarmingly self-critical ("The Way I Am").
The Marshall Mathers LP sold over 19 million copies worldwide, won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album, received a nomination for Album of the Year and is widely considered among the greatest rap albums of all time.
Nevertheless, The Marshall Mathers LP also came under a firestorm of criticism for its excessive profanity, glorification of drugs and violence and its apparent homophobia and misogyny.
While Eminem attempted to mitigate such criticism by maintaining that his raps simply use the rough language he has been surrounded by since childhood, and later by performing a duet with Elton John at the 2001 Grammy Awards to demonstrate his openness to the gay community, Eminem nevertheless remains reviled in some quarters for his offensive lyrical content.
'Devil's Night' (2001)
In 2001, Eminem reconnected with several of his friends from the Detroit underground rap scene to form the group D12, recording an album called Devil's Night featuring the popular single "Purple Pills."
'The Eminem Show' (2002)
In 2002, Eminem released a new solo album, The Eminem Show, another popular and critically acclaimed album highlighted by the tracks "Without Me," "Cleaning Out my Closet" and "Sing for the Moment."
That same year, the artist was all over the airwaves with the 8 Mile track "Lose Yourself," which went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Eminem's next album, 2004's Encore, was less successful than his previous efforts. It still featured popular songs such as "Like Toy Soldiers" and "Mockingbird."
For the next several years, Eminem recorded very little music and was largely consumed by personal problems. Following his second divorce from Kim in 2006, Eminem slipped further into alcoholism and addiction to sleeping pills and prescription painkillers. In December 2007, he overdosed and nearly died. "If I would have got to the hospital two hours later, that would have been it," he said.
By early 2008, Eminem had managed to kick his addictions to drugs and alcohol and returned to recording music. He released his first album of new music in five years, Relapse, in 2009, featuring the singles "Crack a Bottle" and "Beautiful."
In 2010, Eminem released another album, Recovery, a highly autobiographical attempt to come to terms with his struggles with addiction and experience with rehabilitation. His most acclaimed album in years, Recovery struck a somewhat gentler and more inspirational tone than his previous music, with the popular song "Love the Way You Lie."
Eminem said, "I don't want to go overboard with it but I do feel like that if I can help people that have been through a similar situation, then, you know, why not?" The revealing album won Eminem a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
After 10 years and seven albums, the rapper who shocked, appalled and fascinated the music world with the unbridled rage of his youthful music is reinventing himself as a mature artist.
"I started learning how to not be so angry about things, learning how to count my f---ing blessings instead. By doing that, I've become a happier person, instead of all this self-loathing I was doing for a while," Eminem said. "The music, I wouldn't say it's gotten happier, but it's definitely more upbeat. I feel like myself again."
Eminem released his eighth album, MMLP2, on November 5, 2013. The announcement for the future Grammy-winning album, formally titled The Marshall Mathers LP 2, was made during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards.
On the awards show, Eminem leaked a snippet of the first single from the album, entitled "Berzerk." He went to reach of the top of charts with "The Monster," a track that also featured Rihanna and earned a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
'Shady XV' (2014)
In 2014, Eminem celebrated the 15th anniversary of his Shady Records label with a special two-CD set called ShadyXV. The collection features the label's most popular songs as well as some new material. The single "Guts Over Fear" quickly rose up the charts after its late October debut.
The album as a whole divided critics and failed to garner the accolades notched by his previous efforts. None of the songs reached the Top 10 on the Billboard 100, while each of his three previous albums resulted in at least one No. 1 hit.
While nearly four years passed between Eminem's eighth and ninth albums, fans only had to wait a few months before he dropped his next studio effort, Kamikaze, on August 31, 2018.
The surprise album kicked off with "Ringer," which featured the rapper diving right back into his disdain for President Donald Trump. In October 2017, Eminem had made headlines for a freestyle segment taped for the BET Hip Hop Awards, in which he ripped into Trump.
The single "Not Alike" attacked rapper Machine Gun Kelly, known as MGK, for lewd comments he had made several years before about Eminem's then-underage daughter, Hailie. After MGK replied with the track "Rap Devil," Eminem followed up with the single "Killshot," a barrage of insults about MGK's talents and lack of success, which shot to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The album helped Eminem rebound from Revival. However, beyond the album's successes, Eminem was criticized for homophobic insults on the tracks "Killshot" and "Fall."
'Music to Be Murdered By' (2020)
As with Kamikaze, Eminem dropped Music to Be Murdered By with no advance warning in January 2020. The 20-track album was accompanied by the release of a video for "Darkness," which recalled the deadly mass shooting at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas and urged viewers to vote to change gun laws.
The following month, the rapper made a surprise appearance at the Academy Awards to perform his winner from the 2003 ceremony, "Lose Yourself."
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