“The Real Slim Shady”: The Life of Eminem


Picture of Eminem. Photo courtesy of Flikr.com.

Anna Jani, Assistant-Editor-in-Chief

       His father left him behind. He was a loner, a victim of bullying, and a high school dropout. He worked multiple jobs to help him and his mother make ends meet in their poverty-ridden Detroit community. Such hardships starting from youth might discourage others. But, for Marshall Mathers III, who later became known as the best-selling rapper of all time, “Eminem,” his originality and drive for success resulted in leading the music scene as one of the highest-paid rappers and becoming one of the most influential artists of all time.

       Eminem was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III on October 17, 1972, to members Marshall Mathers Jr. and Debbie Nelson of the 1970s band, “Daddy Warbucks.” During Eminem’s infancy, his parents separated, his father taking off for California and abandoning Eminem and his mother. Biography reports on his early childhood, “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.’ ”

       As a child, frequently being the ‘new kid,’ Eminem never grew to have many close friends and was often the target of bullying. “Beat up in the bathroom, beat up in the hallways, shoved into lockers,” Eminem says of his school days. Never truly accepted by his peers, he was extremely introverted and kept mostly to himself.

       Eminem first discovered rap music as a tween, when his mother’s half-brother, whom he was close with, gifted him with Ice-T’s, Breakin’ album. By the time he was fourteen, Eminem had taken up rapping himself, going by the alias, “M&M” and sneaking into the neighboring high school during lunch hours to freestyle battle with friends who also took an interest in the hip hop scene. Eminem and these friends would participate in open mic contests at Detroit’s Hip-Hop Shop on Saturdays. Due to the fact that the rap industry in the 20th century was dominated by men of color, Eminem, a white rapper, had a rough start in making himself known as an artist. However, at this point, Eminem had already gained the indie and underground hip-hop listeners as part of his fanbase.

       When he was fifteen, Eminem met thirteen-year-old runaways Kimberly Ann and Dawn Scott. His mother agreed to let Kim and Dawn live with her and her son, and, shortly after, Kim and Eminem started dating. Their relationship was volatile to say the least, as Eminem and Kim were an explosive, on-again, off-again couple. In 1995, Kim gave birth to their first and only biological child together, a daughter named Hailie, and years later adopted two more daughters. After a twelve-year period of turbulence, Kim and Eminem married in 1999 and, by 2001, were divorced. They remarried in 2006 and were again divorced, just three months later.

       After spending three years in ninth grade due to poor grades and attendance, Eminem dropped out of high school at the age of seventeen and set his sights on obtaining a successful career as a rapper. Contrary to his performance in school, Eminem had and still carries a profound love for language. He had always greatly enjoyed comic books and had wanted to become a comic book artist before discovering rap music. He also took pleasure in 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,” says Eminem, “…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.”

       His performances in the 1997 Rap Olympics in Los Angeles demonstrated this passion for language, where he placed second in the freestyle category and caught the eye of Dr. Dre, not only a fellow rapper, but also the founder and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment, a record label of Universal Music Group. Encyclopedia Britannica states, “By that time Eminem had developed the persona of the inhibitionless Slim Shady, who gave voice to Eminem’s [alter ego] in often vulgar and violent lyrics.” 

       The site’s editors continue, “With Dr. Dre as his producer and mentor, Eminem released The Slim Shady LP early in 1999. Benefiting from the inventive channel-surfing music video for the hit song ‘My Name Is’ and the instant credibility of Dr. Dre’s involvement, the album sold several million copies, and Eminem won two Grammy Awards and four MTV Video Music Awards.”

       Eminem continued to succeed tremendously in the music industry, releasing his second album, The Marshall Mathers LP in 2000 and breaking the record for the fastest-selling rap album of all time in the United States, which was nominated in 2001 for the album-of-the-year Grammy Award. With this followed similarly-successful, well-selling albums later into the early 2000s and a critically and commercially-praised semi-autobiographical film in 2002 titled, 8 Mile, starring Eminem himself. “Lose Yourself,” a song of his featured in the movie, resulted in Eminem winning an Academy Award in 2003.

       While such accolades and achievements are usually known to only come about for a certain period of time, this does not seem to be the case for Eminem. Now, at almost fifty years old, Eminem continues to make a significant impact on and appeal to youth internationally through his music, releasing a new album titled, Music to Be Murdered By, as a surprise on January 17, 2020, featuring the late Juice WRLD in his single, “Godzilla,” along with fellow acclaimed artists Ed Sheeran and 50 Cent throughout the rest of the album. Forbes states, “Despite facing stiff competition from new artists half his age, Eminem emerged the best[-]selling male artist of the 2010s, according to Nielsen Music’s decade-end report. The 47-year-old rapper led the pack for male artists in terms of pure album and song sales…” 

       The New York Times reports that Music to Be Murdered By became an instant and exceptional commercial success, debuting at number one on the Billboard music charts. This makes the tenth consecutive Eminem album to debut at number one, the record of any artist ever.

       Kelly Utreras, a senior at Foran, greatly appreciates the music, career, and life of Eminem and says, “I think Eminem is an inspiring person who articulately speaks out to injustices that occur in the world. His past is one that many people don’t witness, but it is a great demonstration that your past does not define you. He did have a rough past, but he became a successful person…”

       She says, “Eminem has inspired me through his music, especially in the song, “The Way I Am,” because he shows that he will not conform to what the public wants.”

       While some critics call for Eminem to step down from his position as a controversial and uncensored rapper, there is no denying the trial and tribulation Eminem had to overcome in order to reach the massive influence he has had over society for more than twenty years through his gift of music and language, drawing listeners in with his aesthetically-rhythmic, direct lyrics and their appealing, adjacent beats. Eminem aims to connect with his fans and listeners on an emotional level, stating in, “The Real Slim Shady,” his 2000 hit, “I guess there’s a Slim Shady in all of us. F*** it, let’s all stand up.”