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Eminem is easily the most enigmatic figure in popular music today.
Brazenly honest, deeply troubled, allegedly homophobic and misogynistic
yet undeniably gifted and entertaining, the Detroit-based rapper has
defied his detractors again and again, selling millions of records,
securing credibility as a white artist in a predominantly African
American genre, and achieving longevity in a notoriously fickle
industry. Hailed as a genius for an endless array of skills from writing
and rapping to acting and producing, Eminem has successfully stamped his
distinct impression on the world.
Born Marshall Mathers on October 17, 1972 in St. Joseph, Missouri,
Eminem moved to a Detroit housing project at the age of 12, when he
began his hip-hop journey. In the early С90s, Eminem battled other MCs
on open-mike nights. He impressed Paul Rosenberg, who eventually became
his manager. In 1995, Eminem released his first single with the group
Soul Intent. The recording process introduced Eminem to another young
rapper, Proof, who asked Eminem to join his six-member crew D12. The
group would serve as a surrogate family for Eminem, as each rapper
supported each other while working together – a situation that would
remain in place even after Eminem achieved massive success.
Eminem released a solo debut, Infinite, in 1996; however, it did little
to further his career. Meanwhile, Eminem`s personal life was embroiled
in turmoil. He and his girlfriend, Kim, separated. She denied Eminem
visitation of their daughter, Hailie Jade. His financial situation also
deteriorated, leaving him no choice but to move in with his mother,
Debbie. Their volatile relationship fueled Eminem`s writing; in fact, he
would accuse her in his songs of drug abuse and physical abuse, which
would later prompt a lawsuit brought by Debbie in retaliation.
Hitting rock bottom in 1997, Eminem made a radical move. He created an
alter ego, Slim Shady, and self-produced a demo called The Slim Shady
EP. A departure from his previous work, The Slim Shady EP would
eventually become his ticket to stardom. After placing second in a Rap
Olympics battle in Los Angeles, Interscope label president Jimmy Iovine
brought Eminem to the attention of Dr. Dre. Dre was impressed enough
with Eminem`s lyrical prowess that he agreed to produce his first album,
1999`s Slim Shady LP. While Eminem`s luck changed professionally, his
personal life seemed to be straightening out as well. He reconciled with
Kim, and the two married. The marriage, however, was troubled from the
With the infectious lead single ‘My Name Is,’ Eminem`s album created a
rap revolution. In spite of or perhaps because of his skin color, Eminem
became the most-talked about figure in the industry. The record went
triple platinum. As fans gobbled up his stinging, hilarious raps, laced
with violence, sexism and homophobia, critics were torn. They could not
deny the talent but found his message distasteful, particularly the song
“Kim,” which outlined his desire to murder his wife.
The summer of 2000 was tumultuous, to say the least. Eminem released his
follow-up, The Marshall Mathers LP. It sold close to two million copies
in its first week of release and was nominated for several Grammy
awards. In June 2000, Eminem was involved in fight at a club, where he
allegedly pistol-whipped a man for kissing Kim. In August, Eminem filed
for divorce. As the 2001 Grammy Awards approached, women`s
organizations, along with leaders in the gay and lesbian community,
demanded a boycott of Eminem`s music. In an effort to quell the
criticism, Eminem performed the emotionally-poignant “Stan” with Elton
John standing in for Dido.
Eminem was sentenced to two years probation in April, 2001, stemming
from the weapons charge. The same year he reconciled with Kim; however,
the reunion would only last a few months. This time, it was Kim who
filed for divorce in August.
In 2002, Eminem branched out into the world of acting, filming with
esteemed director Curtis Hanson. It would also be the year that the
controversy died down to a simmer. Eminem revealed a more mature,
slightly subdued side on The Eminem Show. The album had some of its
usual attacks on the likes of Limp Bizkit and Moby; however, the public
response to his work was a quiet, steady respect for the man who had
resisted expectations and evolved into a caring father and an impressive
actor. The reviews for his big-screen debut, 8 Mile, were overwhelmingly
positive. The soundtrack to the film dominated the charts, while “Lose
Yourself” became the underdog anthem of the year.
The Eminem Show won the Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2003, and “Lose
Yourself” won the Oscar for Best Song. In addition, Eminem signed
another controversial rapper, 50 Cent, to his label Slim Shady Records.
50 Cent`s record, Get Rich or Die Tryin`, debuted at number one on
Billboard`s album charts.
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