The Body and Soul of Eminem
Across the Borderline
by DAVE MARSH
While I watched Eminem’s 8 Mile, the film that replayed itself in parallel wasn’t an Elvis film or Purple Rain, which I’d been told to watch out for, but Body and Soul, Robert Rossen’s 1948 boxing movie in which John Garfield struggles to survive a world of fixed fights. It’s not the plot that struck me as similar-the bouts in 8 Mile are fixed only by the script–it’s the way Eminem looks and acts.
Most of Eminem’s acting-that is, all the numerous emotional contradictions his character discovers in himself–comes out of his Pinocchio eyes and his small lithe body. In an early, defining scene, he takes a lonely late night city bus ride. He sprawls his small lean body in its baggy sweats across the back seat, and stares out at the barren streets of metropolitan Detroit with an intensity that suggests determination not to beat the bleakness but simply to fight it, without really caring who wins.
Director Curtis Hansen places Eminem in a world so cold and dirty you can practically smell its squalor. The Detroit streets seem as devoid of people as they are full of derelict buildings. Ninety percent of the people we see are black, which must be a first for a film with a white star. The exceptions are Eminem’s (Rabbit’s) girlfriends, who are both white-of course, if they had been black, that would have had to be the subject of the film.
The true subject here is cultural miscegenation, a more important first. Elvis made 40 films without ever getting to race matters; Purple Rain took the position that Prince transcended race (both true and impossible). 8 Mile takes race as an inescapable social and musical constant.
The film music adds up to very little (the soundtrack sounds way better), largely because the MC battle that’s the film’s crucible gives each competitor only 45 seconds to perform. The best musical moment comes when Eminem and his best friend, Future (Mekhi Phifer), who is black, are outside working on Eminem’s junker. In his mother’s trailer, her deadbeat boyfriend plays Lynyrd Skynyrd. In their bemusement at this cracker clich’, they begin freestyling to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama” an hilarious commentary on how and why Eminem’s impoverished trailer trash life sucks. Even more than the final scene when Eminem wins over a black club by ‘fessing up to his honky roots, the scene drives home that the only thing that might trump race solidarity is class solidarity.
Eminem says the movie’s message is that “no matter whether you come from the North side or the South side [of 8 Mile Road], you can break outta that,” if “your mentality is right and your drive is right.” But he’s wrong. The film actually shows that in a world where everyone is trapped, including prep school kids, the only way out involves using your individual drive and vision to tell the painful truth-it’s not identity of any kind that can’t be faked but *emotional* authenticity.
So Eminem’s victory comes not when he moons his white ass at a lesser opponent but when he tells the whole truth about his trailer trash background. The decisive factor involves championing that experience as more authentic than his black opponent’s roots in prep school.
So at the end of the film when Eminem says he needs to work by himself for a while, he walks off not into a sunset but back to the bus stop, back to his factory job, which means, to caring for his family, to accepting responsibility, to struggling as hard he knows how to live in a more decent world. Is that what an artist would or should do?
1. Eminem’s lyrics help desensitize boys and men to the pain and suffering of girls and women.
Eminem’s fans argue that his raps about mistreating, raping, torturing, and murdering women are not meant to be taken literally. “Just because we listen to the music doesn’t mean we’re gonna go out and harass, rape and murder women. We know it’s just a song.” But thoughtful critics of Eminem do not make the argument that the danger of his lyrics (and the lyrics of other artists, including African American rap artists) lies in the possibility that some unstable young man will go out and imitate in real life what the artist is rapping about. While possible, this is highly unlikely.
Rather, one of the most damaging aspects of Eminem’s violent misogyny and homophobia is how normal and matter-of-fact this violence comes to seem. Rapping and joking about sex crimes have the effect of desensitizing people to the real pain and trauma suffered by victims and their loved ones. The process of desensitization to violence through repeated exposure in the media has been studied for decades. Among the effects: young men who have watched/listened to excessive amounts of fictionalized portrayals of men’s violence against women in mainstream media and pornography have been shown to be more callous toward victims, less likely to believe their accounts of victimization, more willing to believe they were “asking for it,” and less likely to intervene in instances of “real-life” violence.
Let us not forget that the culture in which Eminem has become a huge star is in the midst of an ongoing crisis of men’s violence against women. In the U.S., rates of rape, sexual assault, battering, teen relationship violence and stalking have been shockingly high for decades, far exceeding rates in comparable western societies. Sadly, millions of American girls and women have been assaulted by American boys and men. Thousands of gays each year are bashed and harassed by young men. For these victims, this is not an academic debate about the differences between literalist and satirical art. It hits closer to home.
2. Girls are encouraged to be attracted to boys and men who don’t respect women.
What began as a tentative dance has become a passionate embrace. After initially airing “misgivings” about featuring the woman-hating rapper, magazines with predominantly young female readership, like Cosmogirl and Teen People, now regularly feature “Em” on their covers, posed as a sex symbol, as an object of heterosexual female desire. This is not simply the latest example of the star-making machinery of mass media constructing the “bad boy” as dangerously desirable to women. This sends a powerful message to girls that goes something like this: he doesn’t really hate and disrespect you. In fact, he loves you. He’s just misunderstood. It’s the hip hop version of Beauty and the Beast. You know, underneath that gruff exterior, between the lines of those nasty lyrics, lies a tender heart that has been hurt, a good man who just needs more love and understanding.
This is a myth that battered women have been fed for centuries! That his violence is her responsibility, that if only she loved him more, his abuse would stop. This is one of the most damaging myths about batterers, and one of the most alarming features of Eminem’s popularity with girls. Remember, Eminem is the same “lovable” rapper who wrote a chillingly realistic song (“Kim”) about murdering his wife (whose real name is Kim), and putting her body in the trunk of his car, interspersed with loving references to their daughter Hallie (their real-life daughter is named Hallie). This is the same “cute” guy who angrily raps about catching diseases from “ho’s.” (“Drips”) This is the same “adorable” man who constantly unleashes torrents of verbal aggression against women, even though he is so sensitive to the potential wounding power of words that he famously refuses to use the “n-word.” Why is it not okay for a white rapper to diss “niggers,” but it is okay for a man to express contempt for “bitches” and “ho’s.
His credulous female fans counter: he doesn’t really hate women. How could he? He loves his daughter! For battered women’s advocates, this is one of the most frustrating aspects of Eminem’s popularity. His defenders ‘ including women ‘ will utter some of the most discredited myths about abusive men as if they have special insight! Newsflash to female Eminem fans: “He loves his daughter” is one of the most predictable excuses that batterers give in pleading for another chance. The fact is, most batterers are not one-dimensional ogres. Abusive men often love the very women they’re abusing. And let us not forget that when Eminem verbally abuses his wife/ex-wife through his lyrics, he is verbally abusing his daughter’s mother ‘ and by extension his daughter.
3. His popularity with girls sends a dangerous message to boys and men.
Boys and young men have long expressed frustration with the fact that girls and young women say they’re attracted to nice guys, but that the most popular girls often end up with the disdainful tough guys who treat them like dirt. We all know that heterosexual young guys are forever struggling to figure out what girls want. What are they supposed to conclude when 53% of the 8 Mile audience on opening weekend was female?
What are men to make of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd when she writes, uncritically, that a “gaggle” of her female Baby Boomer friends are “surreptitiously smitten” with a 30-year-old rapper whose lyrics literally drip with contempt for women? (If you’re in denial or simply refuse to believe that his lyrics are degrading to women, do your homework ‘ download his lyrics.) That girls want to be treated with dignity and respect? Or that the quickest route to popularity with them is to be verbally and emotionally cruel, that “bad boy” posturing is a winning strategy to impress na’ve (and self-loathing) girls? Surely most of Eminem’s female fans would not want to be sending that message to their male peers ‘ but they are.
Boys who have listened carefully to Eminem’s actual lyrics — not just the hit songs or the sanitized movie soundtrack — know that most self-respecting girls who are conscious about the depths of our culture’s sexism are repulsed by Eminem’s misogyny and depressed by his popularity. Sadly, many of these girls have been silent, fearing they’ll be branded as “uncool” because they “don’t get” the artist who is supposedly the voice of their generation.
There are women who like Eminem because (they say) he’s complex and not easily knowable; they would argue that it is reductionist to characterize his art as sexist. But the burden is on them to demonstrate how — in a culture where so many men sexually harass, rape, and batter women — it is possible to reconcile a concern for women’s physical, sexual, and emotional well-being with admiration for a male artist whose lyrics consistently portray women in a contemptuous and sexually degrading manner.
Girls and women, even those who have been coopted into Eminem-worship, want to be treated with respect. They certainly don’t want to be physically or sexually assaulted by men. They don’t want to be sexually degraded by dismissive and arrogant men. But they can’t have it both ways. They can’t proclaim their attraction to a man who’s gotten rich verbally trashing and metaphorically raping women and yet expect that young men will treat them with dignity.
4. The racial storyline around Eminem perpetuates the racist myth that “hip” white guys are those who most closely emulate the sexist beliefs and hypermasculine posturing of some Black males.
Eminem is popular with white audiences in large measure because the African American gangsta rap icon Dr. Dre and other hardcore Black rappers with “street credibility” have conferred on him the mantle of legitimacy. Dre is Eminem’s mentor and producer, signaling to Black audiences as well that unlike Vanilla Ice ‘ a useful object of derision from a decade ago — this white boy is for real. What’s missing from this story is that Dr. Dre himself is one of the most misogynous and homophobic figures in the history of rap music. He has produced and performed some of this era’s most degrading songs about women. (e.g. “Bitches Ain’t Shit”)
In other words, Eminem and Dre are modeling a perverse sort of interracial solidarity that comes at the expense of women. It’s an old and sordid story: sexism provides men a way to ally across race and class lines. African American people who are happy to see Eminem earning rap even greater legitimacy in white America might want to consider that this era’s white artist most identified as a bridge to Black culture has built that bridge on the denigration and undermining of Black women — and all women.
5. Eminem’s personal trajectory ‘ either the so-called “true” story, or the explicitly fictionalized version in 8 Mile ‘ perpetuates damaging mythology about abusive men.
Eminem’s fans like to ascribe to him the sympathetic and classic role of underprivileged underdog. But Marshall Mathers, if he ever was an underdog, has long since crossed over into the role of bully. Unlike most bullies this side of right-wing talk radio, however, he has a very large microphone (and now a screen presence).
You can gain important insight into one key aspect of the Eminem persona by studying both the behavior of men who batter and people’s responses to them. The man who is being lionized as one of this era’s emblematic artists shares many character traits with men who batter. One glaring similarity is the folklore that Mathers has actively constructed about his famously difficult childhood. Narcissistic batterers frequently paint themselves as the true victims. It’s them we’re supposed to feel sorry for ‘ not their victims (or the victims/targets of their lyrical aggression.).
It is well-known that many of Eminem’s fans, male and female, reference his abusive family life to explain and rationalize his rage. But it is not as well-known that batterer intervention counselors hear this excuse every single day from men who are in court-mandated programs for beating their girlfriends and wives. “I had a tough childhood. I have a right to be angry,” or “She was the real aggressor. She pushed my buttons and I just reacted.” The counselors’ typical answer: “It is not right or ok that you were abused as a child. You deserve our empathy and support. But you have no right to pass on your pain to other people.”
6. Eminem’s success has unleashed a torrent of mother-blaming.
One element of Eminem’s story of which all his fans are aware is that he and his mother don’t get along. Many people psychoanalyze him from a distance and argue that his problems with women stem from his stormy relationship with his mother. This may or may not be true, but it is an excuse that abusive men often make for their behavior. As Lundy Bancroft observes in his book Why Does He Do That: inside the minds of angry and controlling men, battered women themselves sometimes like this explanation, since it makes sense out of the man’s behavior and gives the woman someone safe to be angry at ‘ since getting angry at him always seems to blow up in her face.
It is hard to say what percentage of the Eminem faithful relate to his oft-articulated rage at his mother. But consider this anecdotal evidence. I attended an Eminem concert in southern California during the “Anger Management” tour a couple of years ago. At one point, Eminem ripped off a string of angry expletives about his mother, (something like “F-you, bitch!”) after which a sizable cross-section of the 18,000 person crowd joined in a violent chant repeating the verbal aggression against Ms. Mathers (and no doubt other mothers by extension.)
Why is this aspect of the Eminem phenomenon such a cause for concern? No one begrudges Eminem, or anyone else, the right to have issues ‘ including in some cases being very angry with their mothers. But it is not a great stretch to see that Eminem’s anger can easily be generalized to all women ‘ tens of millions of whom are mothers — and used as yet another rationale for some men’s deeply held misogyny.
Considering Eminem’s (and his mother’s) roots on the economic margins of “white trash” Detroit, class is also a critical factor here. Poor women ‘ especially poor women of color — are easy scapegoats for many societal problems. Eminem’s fans presumably know little about the context within which Debbie Mathers (who is white) tried to raise her kids. Might we have some compassion for her as we are asked to for him? Why was she constantly struggling financially? How did educational inequities and lack of employment opportunities affect her life, her family experiences, her education level, her dreams, her ability to be a good parent? As a woman, how did sexism shape her choices? What was her personal history, including her history with men? Was she ever abused? We know a lot of women with substance abuse problems develop them as a form of self-medication against the effects of trauma. What is the connection between Ms. Mathers’ alleged (by her son) substance abuse and any history of victimization she might have?
Further, if Eminem’s father deserted him and the family when Marshall was young, why is so much of Eminem’s verbal aggression aimed at his mother and at women? If you buy the argument that Eminem’s misogyny comes from his issues with his mother, then considering his father’s behavior, why doesn’t he have a huge problem with men? (Hint: the answer has to do with SEXISM.) It’s easy to blame struggling single mothers for their shortcomings; right-wing politicians have been doing this for decades. A more thoughtful approach would seek to understand their plight, and while such an understanding would provide no excuse for abusive behavior (if that is what Eminem actually experienced), it would give it much-needed context. Unfortunately, this context is notably absent from much political discourse ‘ and from 8 Mile.
7. Eminem has elevated to an art form the practice of verbally bullying and degrading people (especially women and gays) and then claiming “I was just kidding around.”
In fact, many of Eminem’s fans will claim that his Slim Shady persona ‘ or any of his nasty anti-woman lyrics ‘ are just an act. On a more sophisticated level, Eminem’s defenders ‘ including a number of prominent music critics — like to argue that his ironic wit and dark sense of humor are lost on many of his detractors, who supposedly “don’t get it.” This is what his predominantly young fans are constantly being told: that some people don’t like the likable”Em” because they don’t get him, the personae he’s created, his outrageously transgressive humor. In comparison, his fans are said to be much more hip, since they’re in on the joke.
One way that non-fans can respond to this is by saying “We get it, alright. We understand that lyrics are usually not meant to be taken literally. And we think we have a good sense of humor. We just don’t think it’s funny for men to be joking aggressively about murdering and raping women, and assaulting gays and lesbians. Just like we don’t think that it’s funny for white people to be making racist jokes at the expense of people of color. This sort of ‘hate humor’ is not just harmless fun ‘ no matter how clever the lyrics.
Millions of American girls and women are assaulted by men each year. According to the U.S. surgeon general, battering is the leading cause of injury to women. In recent years there has been growing recognition of the alarming prevalence of abuse in teen relationships; one recent national study found 20 % of teenage girls experience some form of physical or sexual abuse from men or boys. Gay-bashing is a serious problem all over the country. Music lyrics and other art forms can either in some way illuminate these problems, or they can cynically exploit them. Eminem is arguably a major force in the latter category. Sorry if we don’t find that funny.”
8. Eminem’s rebel image obscures the fact that sexism and men’s violence against women perpetuates established male power ‘ it is not rebellious.
Eminem has been skillfully marketed as a “rebel” to whom many young people ‘ especially white boys — can relate. But what exactly is he rebelling against? Powerful women who oppress weak and vulnerable men? Omnipotent gays and lesbians who make life a living hell for straight people? Eminem’s misogyny and homophobia, far from being “rebellious,” are actually extremely traditional and conservative. As a straight white man in hip hop culture, Marshall Mathers would actually be much more of a rebel if he rapped about supporting women’s equality and embracing gay and lesbian civil rights. Instead, he is only a rebel in a very narrow sense of that word. Since he offends a lot of parents, kids can “rebel” against their parents’ wishes by listening to him, buying his cd’s, etc. The irony is that by buying into Eminem’s clever “bad boy” act, they are just being obedient, predictable consumers. (“If you want to express your rebellious side, we have just the right product for you! The Marshall Mathers LP! Come get your Slim Shady!) It’s rebellion as a purchasable commodity.
But if you focus on the contents of his lyrics, the “rebellion” is empty. Context is everything. If you’re a “rebel,” it matters who you are and what you’re rebelling against. The KKK are rebels, too. They boast about it all the time. They fly the Confederate (rebel) flag. But most cultural commentators wouldn’t nod approvingly to the KKK as models of adolescent rebellion for American youth because the content of what they’re advocating is so repugnant. (And Eminem would be dropped from MTV playlists and lose his record contract immediately if he turned his lyrical aggression away from women and gays and started trashing people of color, or Jews, or Catholics, etc…) Isn’t it plausible that when “responsible” critics, journalists and other entertainers embrace Eminem as a “rebel,” it provides a glimpse into their own repressed anger at women, their own unacknowledged anxieties about homosexuality?
Isn’t it also plausible that after Eminem has posed for dozens of magazine layouts dutifully wearing the swoosh logo of the Nike corporation, he finds amusing how easily people buy the outlandish idea of him as a rebel?
found on www.jacksonkatz.com
What a bunch of bullshit! Yes I am a adult woman who happens to be a huge Eminem fan and those are exactly the kind of stereotypes I’m fighting against!
Those kind of comments are written by people who first show their ignorance of hip hop culture. Eminem is not the first rapper to use mysogynistic words in his lyrics.He’s not the first to use the word “faggot” in his songs, ”faggot ” being misinterpreted.The meaning of “faggot” in Eminem’s lyrics is
The content of Eminem’s lyrics are mysogynistic.For sure. But this doesn’t mean Marshall Mathers is a mysogynistic man.Those lyrics are NOT to be taken literaly, of course.I have experienced violence from men in my personal life, but I never felt bad while listening to Eminem’s lyrics, simply because I know they are not to be taken seriously.The attentive listener will know that he’s joking.
Eminem loves his daughter Hailie, but he also said he loved Kim.He clearly said they he was with her not because of Hailie, but because of the love he felt for her. “Kim” and “Bonnie and Clyde 97” are love songs.Eminem has been hurt by Kim who cheated on him, and he simply expressed it in his songs. Despite the problems he experienced with Debbie,his mom, Debbie said her son has never been violent towards Kim.
I have read some interviews of women who have met Eminem. They said that he was very polite and gentle towards them. He is also known by his neighborhood for being a nice and timid person. He is not what he is saying in his songs, Slim Shady is only a character.
Yes, Eminem expressed his rage towards his mom. He has sufffered from his mom’s behavior. Debbie used to suffer from Munchhausen’s syndrome.”Debbie used to treat her son badly and he justifiedly hates her for that!
“Cleaning Out My Closet ” is much more a therapy to teenagers who come from broken homes then an encouragement for young people to express their rage against their moms.
Some people need a psychiatrist, Eminem’s therapy is his music. He wants to share his dramas with his public.
8 Mile may be semi – fictional, but it teaches everybody a great lesson. It gives some hope to poor people, it shows them that anybody can make it.
Eminem is a rebel against the American’s policy for instance. There is nothing bad about it. He has destroyed the myth of the rich white American man.
If Dr Dre uses mysoginistic lyrics, which is a common thing in gangsta rap, female rappers also use degrading words for men in rap. There is nothing shocking about it. Those are just words…and music.
To all those people who keep stereotyping Eminem: please get a sense of humor!Or just don’t listen to him. And about the racial arguments: you’re totally wrong! Mr Jackson, your comments are a disaster for hip hop lovers. When will you learn to separate the truth from the entertainment?
By JANET MASLIN
Published: October 30, 2003
Writing seriously about pop idols requires a delicate balancing act, one that positions the author safely on the continuum between fogy and fan. The writer must sound intelligently admiring rather than merely star-struck. The peregrinations must range beyond mere thumb-sucking repetition of the obvious.
Yet the supernova’s heat had better come through, or else why read about him? So a book that compares Eminem’s Slim Shady persona to Shakespeare’s Puck must also find time to describe the star’s throwing up a meal of pizza and Bacardi and politely (really) autographing the breast of a female fan.
Anthony Bozza (touted as the author of not one but two Rolling Stone cover stories on Eminem, also hard at work on Tommy Lee’s autobiography) and Robert Coles (the revered Pulitzer Prize-winning child psychiatrist with almost 60 other books to his credit) would not seem likely to share an approach. But each has taken a musical figure of great pop-cultural impact and assembled a book-length rumination on how the star mirrors the society that celebrates him.
Dr. Coles has the easier task in “Bruce Springsteen’s America,” since it has not been hard for him to find Americans who respond to the meaning of Mr. Springsteen’s lyrics. In a book that recapitulates much of Dr. Coles’s past associations, he summons his 1954 memory of William Carlos Williams speaking about Frank Sinatra to voice this book’s operating principle:
“Look, whether we’re young, or we’re all grown up and just starting out, or we’re getting older and getting so old there’s not much time left, we’re human beings ‘ we’re looking for company, and we’re looking for understanding: someone who reminds us that we’re not alone, and someone who wonders out loud about things that happen in this life, the way we do when we’re walking or sitting or driving, and thinking things over.”
In a rambling volume that Dr. Coles describes as “not a study of fandom, but a gathering of narrative moments that I as a listening documentary worker and teacher have encountered in recent years,” he transcribes the thoughts of listeners who wonder, say, where those Glory Days went or why the Vietnam veteran in “Born in the U.S.A.” has any reason to sound so upbeat.
The readings of Springsteen songs tend to be as folksy and colloquial as the material itself. “I don’t think the Boss will ever get on the fancy `history of America’ courses I took ‘ no way!” one typical speaker says. “But he’s sure on my mind!”
Mr. Bozza’s “Whatever You Say I Am” inveighs against any conceivable crime against cool. Taking frequent swipes at “nearsighted fuddy-duddies” who were wowed by Eminem at the time of “8 Mile” (as Barbra Streisand remarked, “This kid Eminem is really interesting”), he loves to point out his own prescience in making an early, authorized visit to the trailer park home that would soon become the stuff of ‘ well, if not of legend, at least the stuff of this book. Mr. Bozza’s back-patting also extends to revealing how Rolling Stone scooped The Source, thanks to his own contributions, and to describing his brief dealings with Eminem’s famously difficult mom.
Although this collection of “snapshots and billboards” is more or less authorized by Eminem, it is no fan-friendly repository of inside information. “I had a hard life, blah blah blah,” Eminem reveals conversationally. But of course he says this, and a great deal more, far more wittily and scorchingly every time he goes into a recording studio. And Mr. Bozza has clearly made the Devil’s deal common to most celebrity biographers: he has much opportunity to talk about what it’s really like to be with Eminem at an after-party, but no motive to jeopardize that privilege by turning nasty.
But it’s time for a thoughtful look at what Eminem’s appeal really signifies, and Mr. Bozza, for all the self-promoting and padding that goes into this book, has done a creditable job. He considers the way that Eminem “fused the crazy white boy and angry young man stereotypes, playing both to their fullest with ironic, unmerciful insight into white dysfunctional family values, all the more real for the self-loathing present throughout.” He also notes that in 1999, a year that brought “The Blair Witch Project” and “American Beauty,” Eminem’s playful, angry irreverence was one more sign of the times.
Although “Whatever You Say I Am” sometimes bogs down in the minutiae of hip-hop rivalries and cites endless critical yammering about the star’s importance, it will still interest anyone seriously impressed with Eminem’s abilities and his prospects. Dismissing reflexive invocations of Bob Dylan and the Beatles as fellow musicians who helped shape the lives of their listeners, Mr. Bozza points instead to the more protean and mercurial David Bowie and post-Beatles-breakup John Lennon as forebears.
He also devotes much space to the racial questions raised by Eminem’s pre-eminence in the hip-hop universe, as he cites one critic’s deeply polarizing opinion that “today, race is performative.” It thus comes as no surprise to learn that of 16 African-American critics, academics and artists approached by Mr. Bozza for this book, only 4 would talk to him.
“Whatever You Say I Am” is a compelling but awkward hybrid between fan fodder and serious thought. It has been illustrated with dull, feebly captioned photographs that can be arranged chronologically by the appearance of new tattoos on Eminem’s biceps but otherwise reveal little of interest. The anti-glamour of these pictures may signal an aspiration to street credibility. But Mr. Bozza delivers a lot more of that simply by treating the Shadyfication of America as a phenomenon worthy of notice.
Betty Kresin, Eminem’s grandmother from the maternal side , got married at the age of 14. She got six children from 3 different marriages.
She first married Bob Nelson. She gave birth to her daughter Debbie in 1955.She accuses her first husband, Bob Nelson, of being verbally abusive. Both moved to Warren, Michigan, to be closer to Betty’s stepmother .
Despite the problems the couple esperienced, she gave Bob two more sons, Todd and Steven.
They divorced in the early 60’s and Betty came back to her hometown St Joseph, where she met Ron Gilpin, her second husband.
She had two more children with him. One of them is Betti Schmitt (Eminem’s aunt and Debbie’s half sister), who is still in touch and in good terms with Eminem. Ron Gilpin was an alcoholic who used to beat up his whole family. Violence was part of their daily life. Ron left his family in 1968.
Dramas surrounded Betty’s family. In 1991, Todd Nelson killed his brother-in-law, Mike Harris in self defense case. He was sentenced to jail for 8 years.
Betty ‘s sixth child from a third marriage, Ronnie Polkingharn , was Eminem’s uncle and closest friend. He committed suicide in 1991.
Eminem grew up for a while at his grandmom’s home. She talks about his harsh conditions of living in Detroit :
‘ It was a poor school and they wanted his shoes. He was one of the only white children going to this segregated school. And one time they took the shoes off his feet and he had to come home in a snowstorm with no shoes on. But the story people keep asking me – “he was unconscious and almost died and all these doctors…”, now I know nothing about this and I’m his grandmother. ‘
People should think twice before calling Marshall a racist.
Betty was angry with Marshall because he never attended to Ronnie’s funeral. In fact, Marshall went depressive and swallowed a bottle of Tylenol and survived to another suicide attempt. He was unable to go to Ronnie’s funeral, his pain was too immense.But Betty didn’t know what happened during this period.
“I was kind of bitter about him writing about my dead son, because the last five years of my deceased boy, Marshall had not even seen him. Marshall – Eminem – and my son Ronnie were very close. He idolised Ronnie and Ronnie loved him. He never even came to Ronnie’s funeral and he has never put the first flower on
Ronnie’s grave. He doesn’t do anything – he won’t go near the grave. The chain that Marshall wears around his neck, the dog-tag – that was Ronnie’s. I gave him the dog-tag, he makes duplicates, he sells them now, and that really broke my heart because this is something sacred to me that I gave the boy. If my son could speak to
you today from the grave he would say, “Marshall stop some of the garbage, make up with your family, life’s too short”.”
Marshall had a good relationship to his granny until he wanted to use Ronnie’s voice on a tape. He intented to do this as a tribute to his deceased uncle, but Betty thought he was disrespectful towards her son.
In 2002 , both reconciled.
Betty Kresin is currently writing a book on her grandson which shall be entitled ‘ The Tie That Binds ‘.
Betty says she’s proud of her grandson and that she stands on his side.
“Meanwhile, The Source’s Ray Benzino released a statement last night claiming he has damning evidence against rival Eminem that will seal his fate in Hip-Hop. Allegedly, Benzino has acquired an “original cassette recording of a Detroit basement tape which features a series of raps by Marshall Mathers that contain blatant racist and derogatory statements about Black women and Black people in general.”
The tape, said to be from around the 1995 era, will be a “nail in the coffin” for Eminem, says Benzino. Tabloid publicity stunt or not, details on the alleged tape will be revealed in the January issue of The Source magazine which hits newsstands in December.”
Daily Hip Hop News written by Carl Cherry
Benzino makes me laugh.Who will believe Mr Mathers is a racist?How could a man who has grown up in the black hood of Detroit,whose best friends are blacks be called a racist? This sounds like a big joke to me.
Eminem has experienced racism from Blacks at school ( we all know he was bullied)and also in 8 Mile…When he was 16, several Blacks pointed a gun on him, he came back home with only his socks and his pants on, he owes his life to a white guy who took him back home in his car.
Those events could have made a big racist of him, but Marshall Mathers always wanted to be part of the landscape, he fully integrated black culture. He never tried to be a Black wannabe, people who call him a wigga are really wrong. Marshall is conscious to be a white man doing black music. He is conscious that rap music has been created by Blacks, but he also knows that his roots are hip hop, since he grew up with Blacks and has been influenced by rap music since his early years.
Whatever the content of this Eminem tape recorded in 1995, you can be sure that Benzino and his cheap ass magazine the Source will misinterpret his words intentionally.
BY NANCY A. YOUSSEF
Detroit Free Press
After two days of playing hooky – and two arrest warrants – Eminem’s ex-wife was ordered to wear an electronic tether when she finally appeared Thursday in Macomb County (Mich.) Circuit Court to face charges she ignored a court date and she had drugs during a June traffic stop.
Kim Mathers’ attorney pleaded with Judge Edward Servitto to forgive her for failing to appear Tuesday, saying she was ill. The judge had little interest in her explanation and, instead, ordered that she be placed on the tether.
Mathers, 28, will be allowed to go to only court and counseling, the judge ordered. The court will receive a report about her movements.
Mathers appeared with her attorney, Michael Smith of Sterling Heights.
“Mr. Smith has convinced me to not put you in jail,” Servitto told Mathers.
“I understand,” she replied, her only comments during the five-minute hearing.
She was supposed to be arraigned Monday, but when she did not show up, the court gave her until noon Tuesday. When she again did not come to court, the judge issued a bench warrant charging her with failure to appear.
On Thursday, Servitto dismissed the bench warrant.
If convicted of possession of fewer than 25 grams of cocaine, Mathers could face a maximum 4-year prison term and a $25,000 fine.
Mathers is the ex-wife of Marshall Mathers, also known as superstar rapper Eminem.
Kim Mathers also faces misdemeanor charges in Warren of maintaining a drug house.
Police said they decided to issue a warrant this week, and were talking to Smith to arrange when Mathers could turn herself in.
Macomb County Assistant Prosecutor Dave Portuesi told the court that his office authorized that warrant and that Mathers will be arraigned on that charge by Friday.
But Warren officials said they are still working with her attorney to determine when she will turn herself in.
Maintaining a drug house carries a maximum 2-year sentence upon conviction.
When you see my Dad, tell him that I slit his throat in this dream I had.
Those are the words Eminem uses towards his father in his well known song from his debut album ‘My Name Is’ from the Slim Shady LP.
Marshall Bruce Mathers II stepped out of his son’s life when he was 6 months. His marriage with Debbie only lasted one year.
Young Marshall has suffered a lot from his Dad’s absence. Betty Kresin (Eminem’s grandmother) remembers her grandson drawing pictures and asking her to give them to his Dad. Young Marshall has suffered a lot from his Dad’s absence. Betty Kresin (Eminem’s grandmother) remembers her grandson drawing pictures and asking her to give them to his Dad.As a teenager, Marshall made many attempts to reach his Dad . He wrote many letters that were all returned to him.
Now that Eminem is famous, his Dad wants to get in touch with him and asks his son for forgiveness.
He explains how his son Michael (22), discovered his famous half brother Marshall on MTV. He was totally sure it was his ‘lost son’ thanks to an article from the Rolling Stone Magazine where he saw an old photo of Debbie hoding Marshall in her arms.
He wrote an open letter to his son which was published in the ‘Daily Mirror’ in 2002.
According to Marshall’s Dad, Debbie left their son to his great aunt Edna’s home. It is known that Marshall spent more than 3 years with her. Debbie reappeared in her son’s life just before his fifth birthday.
According to Eminem’s Dad, she dropped her son there without telling anything to her husband. Debbie told Edna that he was abusing her and she was supposed to keep the secret although she was in touch with Marshall’s grandmother from the paternal side (Rae).
Recently, a greeting card from Marshall addressed to grandma Rae was discovered. It begins with ‘dear grandma’.
Even if some facts related by Marshall Mathers Jr are true, why didn’t he try to contact his son before he was famous?
He wrote an open letter to his son which was published in the ‘Daily Mirror’ in 2002.
“Hello, son. You won’t remember me, though I held you in my arms when you when you were a baby. You think I dumped you and your mother and never came looking for you. You’re convinced I’m a drunk who never answered any of your letters .Well, I want you to read this and realize you’ve been fed lies all your life. Now you’ll hear the truth for the first time. ”
Marshall’s father, who is now a construction worker, reveals his son that he’s got two half siblings, Michael and Sarah. His intention is to tell his son that he cares: “The one ambition left in my life is to give you a hug and tell you I’ve always loved you,” and he says “I’d get on a plane right now, this second, and go anywhere in the world if you’d meet with me .Please get in touch.” No contest that Eminem’s father’s letter is touching, and he tries to explain the circumstances. He insists on the fact that he always tried to search him, and his children discovered one day there was a new rapper having the same name than him. Marshall Mathers II looked at the “Rolling Stone Magazine” his son Michael had just given to him, showing a photo of Debbie and little Marshall. Marshall Mathers Jr relates this event:
‘Michael, my other son, came to our house one day and asked me what his half-brother’s name was. He’d seen a video clip of Eminem on MTV.
I told him it was Marshall and he said I might like to sit down because he had something to tell me. At first I just thought it was a coincidence. Then about two months later Rolling Stone magazine did a big article on him.
My daughter Sarah brought the article to me and in it was a picture of Debbie holding Marshall as a baby. I thought, ‘Oh my God, so much for coincidence.’ I was just stunned. First of all I was really grateful he was alive ‘ that was the main thing.
‘I had no idea what had gone on. Then, to have all that recognition on top, I was flabbergasted. It’s still hard to believe.’
‘I don’t want to see a cent of Marshall’s money. He has become famous and I’ve found out where he is it doesn’t mean I’ve found a meal ticket. ‘
Marshall Mathers Jr’s letter may be touching, but we may doubt his sincerity. Maybe this letter is just a way to get attention from the media.He denies being interested in his famous son’s money.One thing is sure:he’s been manipulated by Debbie. He was supposed to take a job as a hotel manager in North Dakota.When he came back home to their home, he found an totally empty appartment.
But the fact that he reappears years later when his son is famous and successful is suspicious. He also expressed the wish to see Hailie.She is his only grandchild.
Marshall has never met his two siblings Michael and Sarah .
Eminem’s Dad says he suffers a lot from his ‘lost son’s absence’ .He is certain to meet him someday. But the final decision belongs to Eminem who is clever enough to elude those tricks from his family.
Sometimes I just feel like, quittin I still might
Why do I put up this fight, why do I still write
Sometimes it’s hard enough just dealin with real life
Sometimes I wanna jump on stage and just kill mics
And show these people what my level of skill’s like
But I’m still white, sometimes I just hate life
Somethin ain’t right, hit the brake lights
Case of the stage fright, drawin a blank like
Da-duh-duh-da-da, it ain’t my fault
Great big eye balls, my insides crawl
and I clam up I just slam shut
I just can’t do it, my whole manhood’s
just been stripped, I’ve just been ripped
So I must then get, hope the bus didn’t split
Man fuck this shit yo, I’m goin the fuck home
World on my shoulders as I run back to this 8 Mile Road
I’m a man, I’ma make a new plan
Time for me to just stand up, and travel new land
Time for me to just take matters into my own hands
Once I’m over these tracks man I’ma never look back
(8 Mile Road) And I’m gone, I know right where I’m goin
Sorry momma I’m grown, I must travel the alone
Ain’t gonna follow no footsteps, I’m makin my own
Only way that I know how to escape from this 8 Mile Road
I’m walkin these train tracks, tryin to regain back
the spirit I had ‘fore I go back to the same crap
To the same plant, in the same pants
Tryin to chase rap, gotta move ASAP
And get a new plan, momma’s got a new man
Poor little baby sister, she don’t understand
Sits in front of the TV, buries her nose in the pad
And just colors until the crayon gets dull in her hand
While she colors her big brother, her mother and dad
Ain’t no tellin what really goes on in her little head
Wish I could be the daddy that neither one of us had
But I keep runnin from somethin I never wanted so bad!
Sometimes I get upset, cause I ain’t blew up yet
It’s like I grew up, but I ain’t grow me two nuts yet
Don’t gotta rep my step, don’t got enough pep
The pressure’s too much man, I’m just tryin to do what’s best
And I try, sit alone and I cry
Yo I won’t tell no lie, not a moment goes by
That I don’t pray to the sky, please I’m beggin you God
Please don’t let me be piegon holed in no regular job
Yo I hope you can hear me homey wherever you are
Yo I’m tellin you dawg I’m bailin this trailer tomorrow
Tell my mother I love her, kiss baby sister goodbye
Say whenever you need me baby, I’m never too far
But yo I gotta get out there, the only way I know
And I’ma be back for you, the second that I blow
On everything I own, I’ll make it on my own
Off to work I go, back to this 8 Mile Road
You gotta live it to feel it, you didn’t you wouldn’t get it
Or see what the big deal is, why it was and it still is
To be walkin this borderline of Detroit city limits
It’s different, it’s a certain significance, a certificate
of authenticity, you’d never even see
But it’s everything to me, it’s my credibility
You never seen heard smelled or met a real MC
who’s incredible, up on the same pedestal as me
But yet I’m still unsigned, havin a rough time
Sit on the porch with all my friends and kick dumb rhymes
Go to work and serve MC’s in the lunchline
But when it comes crunch time, where do my punchlines go
Who must I show, to bust my flow
Where must I go, who must I know
Or am I just another crab in the bucket
Cause I ain’t havin no luck with this little Rabbit so fuck it
Maybe I need a new outlet, I’m startin to doubt shit
I’m feelin a little skeptical who I hang out with
I look like a bum, yo my clothes ain’t about shit
at Salvation Army tryin to salvage an outfit
And it’s cold, tryin to travel this road
Plus I feel like I’m old, stuck in this battlin mode
My defenses are so up, and one thing I don’t want
is pity from no one, the city is no fun
There is no sun, and it’s so dark
Sometimes I feel like I’m just bein pulled apart
from each one of my limbs, by each one of my friends
It’s enough to make me just wanna jump out of my skin
Sometimes I feel like a robot, sometimes I just know not
what I’m doin I just blow, my head is a stove top
I just explode, the kettle gets so hot
Sometimes my mouth just overloads the gas that I don’t got
But I’ve learned, it’s time for me to U-turn
Yo it only takes one time for me to get burned
Ain’t no fallin on next time I meet a new girl
I can no longer play stupid or be immature
I got every ingredient, all I need is the courage
Like I already got the beat, all I need is the words
Got the urge, suddenly it’s a surge
Suddenly a new burst of energy is occured
Time to show these free world leaders the three and a third
I am no longer scared now, I’m free as a bird
Then I turn and cross over the median curb
Hit the burbs and all you see is a blur from 8 Mile Road
The 8 Mile song is my favorite from all Eminem songs. It is a great hymn of hope.
The first part exposes Jimmy Smith’s struggle. Jimmy has to face a double fight: his struggle as a white M.C for recognition and his harsh conditions of living.
He feels divided between real life and the place where he wants to be.
His stagefright and the racism he experiences during his rap battles add a lot to the pressure he feels.
The second part describes his monotonous life as a worker at Detroit Stamping. He is also worried for his half sister who lives in unstable conditions with her alcoholic mom. He wants to protect her and wishes to play the role of their absent father, but he knows he has to fight for a better future first.
He’s got so much pressure put on his shoulders and it comes from so many directions (home, work,stage).
He addresses to God, he doesn’t want to go on living his monotonous life, he wants to escape from 8 Mile Road.
In the third part, Jimmy suddenly becomes conscious of his value. He is still unsigned and having a rough time, but now he feels the urge to act the right way. He knows ‘he got every ingredient, all he needs is the courage’. He is no longer scared of the ‘Free World leaders’. He can feel his freedom and is able to smell the taste of his future victory. He is ready to drop bombs on his mic.
This song shows a path of hope to many people who are going through harsh conditions of living. It shows us that it is possible to escape to our ‘8 Mile road’ if we don’t give up your dreams. We all got every ingredient. All we need is the courage to fight to the end and enough faith in our dreams.
THE EXAMINED LIFE
ON JAN. 23, 1963, Robert Lowell wrote to fellow poet Elizabeth Bishop with news of a periodical “about to be set floating during the lull of the newspaper strike here that has temporarily put the New York Times book section out of existence.” That publication, conceived of by a group of writers and critics that included Lowell, Elizabeth Hardwick, Robert Silvers, and Barbara Epstein, was The New York Review of Books. Silvers and Epstein, who remain its editors, are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the journal with the publication of the Nov. 6, 2003 issue.
The first issue included essays by Norman Mailer, W.H. Auden, Mary McCarthy, William Styron, and Gore Vidal. Before long, the Review vibrated with the excitement and energy of New York intellectual life, causing Lowell to half-boast, half-complain, in another letter to Bishop, that working on it was like living “in the fire and burnt-outness of some political or religious movement.” Lowell’s two letters appear in the Nov. 6 issue, along with essays by Margaret Atwood on Studs Terkel, Elizabeth Hardwick on Nathanael West, John Updike on El Greco, Joan Didion on apocalyptic Christian novels, Garry Wills on Thomas Jefferson, and Ronald Dworkin on our endangered civil liberties.
Although the Review often runs with its stable of distinguished veterans, the anniversary issue does contain some offbeat surprises. In one essay, Luc Sante, author of “Low Life” and one-time mailroom employee at the Review, fondly recalls life on the Lower East Side before the gentrification of “the entropic slum that was my home.” In another, the 35-year-old Scottish writer Andrew O’Hagan favorably compares the artist known as Eminem with the poet John Berryman.
‘ Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.
Nothing’s more impressing than Eminem’s rapid way to the top. In his song ‘Marshall Mathers’ from the Marshall Mathers Lp, he says: ‘Last year I was nobody, this year I’m selling records’.
When Marshall Mathers left school, he found a job at Gilbert’s Lodge where he worked with his high school friend Mike for a 5.50 dollars per hour salary. But his life wasn’t only limited to this activity: Marshall always had his great dream to become a rapper in mind and he was determined to ‘make it’.
Mike and Marshall used to record songs in Mike’s basement.. Mike’s nickname was ‘Manix’ and Marshall adopted the name M&M (from his initials) which later became Eminem.
Eminem recorded only one song for ‘Bassmint Productions’. It was ‘Crackers ‘N Cheese.
Marshall also made some attempts to rap outside Mike’s basement when he went to clubs, where his skin color was a real issue.
Even if it was difficult for him to be accepted , he managed to be accepted at the Hip Hop Shop of Detroit.
He remembers: ‘The Hip Hop Shop was the heart of Detroit and it was definitly a place to come to show your skills. But it was MC’s who were like, fuck the bullshit, we don’t care what color you are, just rap. If you can rap, you got a place with us. So basically that’s where I felt at home. The first time I rapped there I got a warm reception, then it became an addiction, every week just going there and freestyling. And I have never lost a ( freestyling) battle in Detroit so that was a big thing too’.
First, Eminem had to fight to be accepted by his audience, but in the end people were looking forward to him coming to rhyme.
Eminem battled an Mc named Kuniva (who is now a D12 member) to prove his credibility.
Marky Bass was impressed by Marshall’s first performance when he was 15 years old. He was freestyling.
He has always been good at rhyming and playing with syllables.
Marky Bass who became one of the producers of his debut album ‘The Slim Shady Lp’, explains that Marshall was brilliant from the beginning, but there was something missing that would bring him to the top.They created the concept of a shock rapper to attract people’s attention.This concept has proven to be successful.
‘We came out with the idea of shock rap. When we went to Interscope, we worked him as the Marylin Manson of rap.Marshall was about 24 at this time, things were going a little beserk in his life, we were getting tuned away by labels who din’t want a white rapper and some of the anger started coming out of him.’
His alter ego Slim Shady is an ill psychopath character who is there to shock people.
Of course, he’s been talented from the beginning, but he has improved his art that is becoming more mature with each new album. He also owes a great part of his success to Dr Dre who signed him to his label and from whom he also learnt a lot of techniques.
But the pupil has even become better than his teacher. Marshall is not average, he’s a phenomenal in rap music.
Who said that white men can’t rap?