Eminem’s comeback to the scene after 5 years of absence causes a massive explosion of chain reactions. Never has the press spilled as much ink on the artist as it does now. The mainstream public supports the artist more than ever.
But do you really know what made Eminem and what the recipe of his massive success is? Do you know the story and the culture behind the man?
Who would have thought that this little kid with an unstable life, bullied at Detroit Roseville Elementary, not taken seriously at Lincoln High by his school buddies and teachers would become one of the biggest stars the face of the earth ever carried?
This white kid influenced hip hop to a great extent, not because he was white, but because he was that kind of white kid lost in a black man’s world. Bouncing back from Missouri to Michigan with his mother, he eventually settled in Detroit, living on the black side of 8 Mile, because his mom couldn’t afford to live on the white side. He still carries the strong black accent from the Detroit hood and while the media would wrongly classify him as a part of â€œwhite Americaâ€, the white kid â€œwho could be one of their kidsâ€ was strongly immersed into black music and culture that influenced him to do what he did best: being a rapper.
First influenced by his uncle Ronnie’s passion for the art of rap, Marshall Mathers’ determination to make it in this field grew as the years were passing by.
His skin color, later thought to be an advantage used to be a big disadvantage at the time he was unknown from the public. Bullied at school, experiencing racism on a daily basis, Marshall Mathers had to struggle hard to become who he is now.
His friendship with a cool guy from Osborn High called Deshaun Holton ( Big Proof) formerly known as Maximum would increase his will to do something in rap music. Both friends would meet after school and enjoy rhyming for fun, juggling with syllables like acrobats in a circus.
At the time Eminem was still M&M and Proof went by the stage name Maximum, the two young men shared their common passion for compound rhymes. Overshadowed by Eminem’s overwhelming success, Deshaun Holton happened to be Marshall’s mentor, his guide, his everlasting friend in good and bad times. Proof was the man behind the D12 group along with his fellow friend and emcee Rufus Johnson, better known to the world as Bizarre.
Proof was an expert in freestyling and shared this passion with his friend.
His first experiment with Bassmint productions, an association of white rappers, in which he was trying to emerge wasn’t really successful. Although he already carried some good lyrical skills the emcee needed to be introduced and musically rooted into the black community- which eventually happened thanks to one of his friends, an emcee called Shortcut.
Detroit rapper Champtown who noticed the emcee’s rhyming ability, gave Eminem the chance to be featured in one of his videos named Do Da Dipity that also featured local talent Jermaine Harbin aka Uncle ILL.
Do Da Dipity wasn’t really a great debut, but rather an introduction to the black scene of Detroit.
Champtown is pictured in 8 Mile as the â€œWinkâ€ character. The story behind the scenes is that Marshall Mathers cut his ties with the local artist because he seemed too much interested in Kim.
Marshall Mathers’ rapping skills in the â€œpre Infiniteâ€ days were really impressing. Anybody who read the lyrics to the Biterphobia song would recognize his astute wordplay.
Discovered by the Bass Brothers who lead FBT productions, the young emcee was striving more and more towards his ultimate goal: be recognized for his talent.
Although the lyrically strong Infinite album that-obviously-lacked some technical means, was rejected by the mainstream public, you could envision some good, promising talent. It was like a demo tape that showed some strong hip hop influences like Nas, for instance. But Eminem had yet to define a more personal style. He also had to drop some of the positive light in which he exposed some of his themes, as it faced rejection from the public.
What did the public exactly want? It can be summarized in two words: shock value.
Influenced by Bizarre and the Outsidaz of New Jersey, Eminem gave birth to a scary alter ego, Slim Shady, who would open up the door to legions of admirers and allow him to stalk the face of the earth with no remorse.
The well constructed Slim Shady Ep would be followed by the Slim Shady LP. Another element, that can be considered as a weakness and a strength at the same time, surfaced in Eminem’s music: the personal dimension.
At the time he wrote his albums, Marshall Mathers was facing a lot of anger in his personal life with his manipulative baby’s mom Kim, who constantly used their common daughter Hailie as a weapon. Piss Eminem off and you’ll be sure to be featured in his songs. That’s how Kim became immortalized in his albums.
Eminem went so personal with his public that he shared his dysfunctional past, the name of his former workplace, friends, wife, daughterâ€¦anybody close enough to be part of his life would appear in his songs. Some of them would have to support the artist’s ire.
With his growing success, the release of his masterpiece, the Marshall Mathers LP, some justified fears invaded the artist’s mind. The fear of a mad stalker acting crazy, as it appears in the song Stan is always present, as a dark shadow. Because of his personal approach in his music, Eminem exposed himself to a bunch of mad stalkers who never seem to understand that his warnings are addressed to them personally.
The pressure of the music industry, his hectic life inspired him to write Saying Goodbye To Hollywood in the Eminem Showâ€¦some people just don’t realize what an artist’s life is likeâ€¦many people wish for a big fortune, but do they realize how you must feel when you cannot step outside without wearing a mask and being followed by 150 peopleâ€¦
The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show carried some genius songs like Drug Ballad that is so complex lyrically and instrumentally that very few people will understand its subtle structure. Some directed and justified anger towards the media and even his own label, made The Way I Am’s
The Eminem Show went very analytical and political. It punched the Bush administration right in the face. Square Dance carried some Southern rap influences and Till I Collapse was marked by a strong personal determination, encouraging people to carry on strength, no matter what.
While Encore still had some very good songs like Mosh and Like Toy Soldiers, it seemed to show a little bit of artistic fatigue.
Eminem’s pill addiction forced him to stop touring in 2005. A second divorce with Kim and Proof â€˜s death in April 2006, a few days later, increased Eminem’s addiction problems.
After five years of absence, we learn from the artist’s mouth that an overdose nearly killed him in December 2007. Pain and artistic creativity often work close togetherâ€¦walking through the dark tunnel of his own addiction, Eminem was inspired to release Relapse.
Although I am not so fond of Relapse, I still value the artist’s narrative skills and his very personal approach of this addiction history.
Addiction didn’t kill him and Marshall Mathers came out stronger out of all this. After all, I am glad he is still kicking and pretty much alive on stage. Shouldn’t we all be?
Copyright by Isabelle Esling
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