Eminem (stylized as EMINƎM) is, arguably, the best rapper alive. His unbridled and extremely uncensored lyrical content has sparked controversy and critical acclaim alike. From his struggle to overcome racial stereotypes within the world of hip-hop early in his storied career to his daily battles with balancing his personal life and fame, Eminem has shone through as one of the most prominent, prolific and respected musicians in hip-hop, and all musical genres. He has won numerous awards and accolades as a solo artist; including: an Academy Award, twelve American Music Awards, ten Billboard Music Awards, thirteen Grammy’s, a combined twenty-nine MTV Awards, eight People’s Choice Awards, nine Teen Choice Awards, five Source Hip-Hop Music Awards and five World Music Awards. Eminem has also been a member of the rap group D12 and is currently a member of the rap duo Bad Meets Evil alongside Royce Da 5’9”.
Born Marshall Bruce Mathers III on October 17, 1972 in Saint Joseph, Missouri, Eminem is the only child of Deborah R. Mathers-Briggs and Marshall Bruce Mathers II. After moving between numerous cities and towns in the state of Missouri, he finally settled down in Warren, Michigan at the age of twelve, and in Mathers’ teenage years, Detroit. Mathers’ developed an interest in storytelling at a young age, aspiring to become a comic book artist before discovering hip-hop. His uncle Ronald “Ronnie” Polkinhorn gave Mathers his first exposure to rap when he gave Mathers a copy of Ice-T’s single “Reckless” when he nine. By his teenage years, Mathers obtained a copy of the album Licensed to Ill. He became interested in rap music and began performing amateur raps at age of 14 using the pseudonym “M&M”. As “M&M”, Mathers joined a local Detroit hip-hop group called “Bassmint Porduciotns”. After changing their name to “Soul Intent” the rap group went on to release their first single, “Fuckin’ Backstabber” on the record label Mashin’ Duck Records. Mathers went through a well-documented struggle succeeding in the predominantly African American hip-hop industry. In spite of this, Mathers gained the respect of underground hip-hop audiences. Around this time, tragedy would strike Mathers’ life due the suicide of his uncle Ronnie. This is a subject that is dear to the MC, as Mathers has spoken upon frequently in the media and in his lyrics (Ronnie has been mentioned in the songs “Stan,” “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” and “My Dad’s Gone Crazy”) throughout his career. He even literally wears his sentitment for his uncle on his sleeve, with a tattoo reading “Ronnie R.I.P.” on his upper left arm.
In 1992, Eminem hooked up with the Bass Brothers, Jeff and Mark Bass. He recorded his debut album, Infinite, at their recording studio, the Bassmint. Infinite was released under the Bass Brothers indie label Web Entertainment. Eminem recalled, “Obviously, I was young and influenced by other artists, and I got a lot of feedback saying that I sounded like Nas andAZ. ‘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.” He also began collaborating with fellow Detroit rapper Royce Da 5’9” under the stage name Bad Meets Evil. Mathers went through personal struggles and drug and alcohol abuse, leading to a failed suicide attempt.
Eminem placed second in the 1997 Rap Olympics, which caused Interscope Records CEO to request a copy of his demo. This, along with this winning the title of Wake Up Show’s “Freestyle Performer of the Year” and Iovine playing the demo for legendary producer Dr. Dre, lead to Dre and Eminem working together on the MC’s major-label debut The Slim Shady LP. Eminem first released The Slim Shady EP, where the rapper introduced his alter ego “Slim Shady” persona. The release of The Slim Shady LP in 1999 was a major success, debuting at number 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and being certified Platinum by the RIAA just ten days after its release. The album won two Grammy awards: Best Rap Album, while “My Name Is” won Best Rap Solo Performance. The album has since been certified quadruple Platinum by the RIAA.
The follow-up to Eminem’s major-label debut, The Marshall Mathers LP, continued the upward trend of the MC’s success. Released in May of 2000, the album more than 1.7 copies in its first week alone. This broke fastest selling records held by Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle (fastest-selling hip-hop album) and Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time (fastest-selling solo album in US history). The Marshall Mathers LP featured hit singles such as: “The Real Slim Shady”, “The Way I Am” and “Stan”. “Stan” was voted as the third-greatest rap song of all time by Q magazine and ranked 290th in Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. The Marshall Mathers LP has been certified Diamond (10x Platinum) by the RIAA.
Eminem’s 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. The Eminem Show featured “Without Me”, “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”, “Sing for the Moment” and “Superman”. The Eminem Show has been certified 10× Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). 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. The album was the best selling album of 2002.
In 2004, Eminem released his fourth major album, Encore. The album featured songs like “Like Toy Soldiers”, “My 1st Single” and “Just Lose It”. Encore sold 1,582,000 copies in its first two weeks of release in the United States in November 2004, and was certified quadruple-platinum in mid-December. As of May 13, 2012, it had sold 5.28million copies in the US. Nine months after its release, worldwide sales of the album stood at 18 million copies. Even though it was an immediate success, Encore did not have the staying power of the rappers previous releases, as evident by the failure of the album to come close to Diamond certification. Many critics and hip-hop fans felt that Eminem was beginning to lose his touch, noting the subpar quality of the lyrics, which were more simplistic than his previous works. After Encore, there was industry wide speculation that Eminem would call it quits. In September 2007, Eminem called into New York radio station Hot 97 during an interview with 50 Cent and said he was “in “limbo” and “debating” about when and if he would release another album. 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.”
However, Eminem did return, with his May 2009 release Relapse. The album did not do nearly as well as his previous releases, failing to sell one million in its first week and only obtaining a double Platinum certification. Relapse was planned to be part of a two album release that year, the second release slated to be titled Refill. Fans and critics alike were disappointed in Relapse, noting a continuation of simplified lyrical content, as well as poor vocal deliveries. The vocal failures were highlighted by the MC’s all to frequent insistence on accenting his lyrics during the recording process. These issues have been addressed by Eminem numerous times on subsequent songs; including the track “Talkin’ To Myself” from his future sixth solo album where he states “…hem last two albums didn’t count/Encore I was on drugs, Relapse I was flushin’ ‘em out” and his Bad Meets Evil track “I’m On Everything” where he says “Flows dreaded like some f-cking tangled hair rasta……farian, Jamaican, relax, man I’ll send a f-cking axe at you if you insist on a f-cking accent”.
But Slim Shady fans needed not to be worried. He came back with a vengeance with his April 2010 release of Recovery. The album also failed to sell more than one million copies in its first week; though those in the know realize that this is more to do with the current state of the record industry, not many people actually buy records now-a-days. Even with less than one million in first week sales, Recovery still managed to debut number 1 on the Billboard chart. Eminem’s lyrical content was much more focused on Recovery, utilizing dizzying, rapid-fire delivery and masterful wordplay full of gems. His vocal delivery was also much more intense than previous efforts, and his content contained very personal themes.
Without a doubt Slim shady is back. He holds a much earned as one of the best, if not the best, rapper alive. And with his renewed energy and dedication to the game, we all hope that Eminem will continue bringing lyrical thunder for years to come.