Born Marshall Mathers III on October 17, 1974, in Kansas City, MO; married Kim, 1999 (divorced, 2001); children: daughter, Hailie Jade, born December 25, 1995. Addresses: Interscope Records, 10900 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1230, Los Angeles, CA 90024.
If his message is misunderstood by parents of teenagers across America, that is not stopping Eminem from earning sweeping popularity. Though his lyrics can be gritty, racy, and carry violent overtones, fans of all races have responded to his honest anger. Eminem's Slim ShadyLP took home a Grammy Award on February 23, 2000 as the Best Rap Album of the year for 1999. His solo, "My Name Is," won the award of Best Rap Solo Performance. For a young man who grew up in a less than ideal setting in suburban Detroit, fame arrived after several years of hard work, and, as he said, "paying his dues." Touted by some as a passing fad, Eminem expanded his career in 2002 and received critical acclaim for his starring role in 8 Mile, an autobiographical feature film about his life as a budding rapper in East Detroit, Michigan.
Eminem reflects his own harsh life experiences in his music, experiences common to many teenagers. In a July 1999 article for the Washington Post, Alona Wartofsky summarized his appeal when she commented that "a large part of Eminem's meteoric rise can be explained by the appeal of being profoundly expletived [sic] up. Both Eminem and his alter ego, Slim Shady, represent the perennial loser, the class clown who's going nowhere fast. The guy who gets beat up in the bathroom, keeps flunking the same grade and can't even keep a $5.50-an-hour job. So he checks out--blows off school and gets wasted with whatever drug he can get his hands on. It's not just his white skin and bleached blond hair that set him apart from the hip-hop pack. Unlike most rappers, he's harshly self-deprecating." If other white kids were listening to rap before he came on the scene, they were listening even harder when Eminem appeared.
Marshall Mathers III was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 17, 1974, and spent his early childhood between there and Detroit, primarily in Macomb County, just northeast of the city. He was raised by a single mother, Debbie Mathers-Briggs. When he was 12, they settled on the east side of Detroit permanently, but life got no easier. Eminem never knew his father, although his mother contends that the two of them were married at the time of Eminem's birth. Aggravated by having to move and having difficulty making friends, Eminem retreated into television and comic books. He attended Lincoln Junior High School and Osbourne High School where he started listening to LL Cool J and the 2 Live Crew. He made friends, and went off against other rappers. He quickly gained a reputation of some notoriety at his skill for rhyming. Eminem did skip too much school, and failed the ninth grade. Eventually, he dropped out of school before getting a diploma. Working odd jobs, Eminem worked on his craft, his art of rapping. He told Rap Pages in 1999 that, "I tried to go back to school five years ago, but I couldn't do it. I just wanted to rap and be a star."
Eminem did continue his rapping. Working with different groups that included Basement Productions, the New Jacks, and Sole Intent, he finally went solo in 1997. His album, Infinite, was released through FBT Productions, a local Detroit company. The local hip-hop community did not take to him, but he ignored the criticism and tirelessly promoted himself through radio stations and freestyle competitions across the country. People started taking notice. He was honored with a mention in the Source's key column, "Unsigned Hype." By the end of the year he won the 1997 Wake Up Show Freestyle Performer of the Year from Los Angeles disc jockeys, Sway and Tech. Eminem took second place in Rap Sheet magazine's "Rap Olympics," an annual freestyle competition.
His Slim Shady EP in early 1998 not only made him an underground star, it also got the attention of the famed Dr. Dre, creator of The Chronic and N.W.A., and president of Aftermath Entertainment. Dr. Dre was so impressed that he signed Eminem to his label. When Slim Shady LP finally came out, it debuted as number three on the Billboardalbum chart. He also had been invited to appear on underground MC Shabam Sahdeeq's "Five Star Generals" single, Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause, and other rap releases in the interim. His songs depicted rape, violence, and drug use. They horrified some people, to be sure. Some of his lyrics were even directed at his own mother, as well as the mother of his daughter who was three at the time of the song's release. The song, "97 Bonnie and Clyde," has Eminem fantasizing about killing the mother of his child. Writing for USA Today, Edna Gunderson reviewed the album that was causing the uproar. "The first release on Dr. Dre's Aftermath label is a marvel of entertaining contradictions. The white rapper kicks himself mercilessly on one track, lashes out against the cruel world in the next, then vacillates between rage and apathy in razor-sharp tunes that visit a host of suburban miseries and comedies. He's unquestionably offensive, but the antidote for that venom can be found in the music's stinging humor and tight grooves."
Eminem defended himself and his lyrics to those who not only loathed his message, but also those who were still not prepared to welcome a white rap artist into a field that seemed to be the domain of blacks since its beginnings. Eminem told Source that, "I do feel like I'm coming from a standpoint where people don't realize there are a lot of poor white people. Rap music kept my mind off all the bulls-t I had to go through." He went on to say that, "I'm white in a music started by black people. I'm not ignorant to the culture and I'm not trying to take anything away from the culture. But no one has a choice where they grew up or what color they are. If you're a rich kid or a ghetto kid you have no control over your circumstances. The only control you have is to get out of your situation or stay in it." Maybe because of that, his music resonated with teens especially, all over America and the world, no matter what their race or economic status.
His music was certainly not popular with some people. In the spring of 1999, Billboard editor-in-chief, Timothy White accused Eminem and the music industry promoting him of "exploiting the world's misery," in an editorial. The harshest criticism came in the form of a lawsuit--from his own mother! On September 17, 1999, Mathers-Briggs filed a lawsuit in Macomb County, Michigan Circuit Court, charging that her son, the rapper, made "defamatory comments about her in interviews, including descriptions of her as `pill-popping' and `lawsuit-happy,' ... claiming emotional distress, humiliation, and damages that included the loss of her mobile home in the summer of 1999," according to Carla Hay, writing in Billboard. Although the outcome of the lawsuit was still pending, Paul Rosenberg, Eminem's attorney issued a statement saying, "Eminem's life is reflected in his music. Everything he said can be verified as true--the truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation. The lawsuit does not come as a surprise to Eminem--his mother has been threatening to sue him since the success of his single, `My Name Is.' It is merely the result of a lifelong strained relationship between him and his mother. Regardless, it is still painful to be sued by your mother, and therefore the lawsuit will only be responded to through legal channels."
Eminem's American tour that began in the spring of 1999 met with a lot of kudoes and cajoles. According to Jon Dolan in Spin in August of 1999, that tour did not go too well in most cities. Fans, disappointed by his mere 25-minute stage performance, booed him offstage. A date in San Francisco was "cut even shorter," Dolan noted, "after he leapt into the crowd to beat down a heckler." Actor Dustin Hoffman surprised a lot of concertgoers and the star himself during the Los Angeles performance when he appeared onstage, wrapped up like the mummy on the cover of Slim Shady LP. Yet Dolan also noted that, "... he delivered Motor City madness that would do Ted Nugent proud ... appropriately ... Slim was playing for his peeps--young, Midwestern hip-hop kids from urban dead zones and their first-ring suburbs."
As he prepared to release a new album, Marshall Mathers LP, in the spring of 2000, the controversy continued to rage. From his fall 1999 tour of Europe, tongues were still wagging with criticism. British writer, Peter Robinson, in Melody Maker, had said that, "By far the most distressing thing about the Slim Shady LP is how seductive it is--largely due to Dr Dre's production work, it captivates and thrills, and this is an unavoidably amazing body of work. There are tracks here 10 times better than `My Name Is,' hence the generous mark at the end of this review. But the spite, the sheer nastiness, is revolting. But is it funny?" In an interview for Melody Maker later, in November of 1999, Robinson posed the question to Eminem that, "Does the fact that you made a success of the album entirely negate the principle of being an anti-hero?" "Kind of," responded Eminem. Me rappin' about shootin' up with heroin and bein' broke and this and that, it's like a pun on the album. It's like, my family and people around me always told me that I would grow up to be nothing and my teachers in school and everyone said it. I dropped out of high school, I failed ninth grade three times, I couldn't keep a job, people said that I wouldn't amount to anything. And I portray myself as the biggest loser in the world ... Look at me now."
Whatever else Eminem might project, his affection and love for his daughter Hailie Jade, born on Christmas Day in 1995 when he was only 21 himself, is clear. She lives in Detroit, but sometimes accompanies him on tour. Eminem and his daughter's mother, Kim, spent most of their eight-year relationship breaking up and making up. He says that while his daughter has listened to the album with the song about him killing her mother, and loves it, she does not yet understand it. "When she gets old enough, I'm going to explain it to her," he says. "I'll let her know that Mommy and Daddy weren't getting along at the time. None of it was to be taken literally."
Dr. Dre commented to Rolling Stone that "If he remains the same person that walked into the studio with me that first day, he will be ... larger than Michael Jackson." For a person still in his mid-twenties, who was also named Best New Artist by MTV during their awards in September of 1999, it was a lot to live up to, and Eminem managed with ease, or so it seemed. Following two Grammys in 1999, and three in 2000, the rapper scored an additional two each in 2002 and 2003. Additionally he took three Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, including best albums artist, best album, and best rap album, for his 2003 album,Eminem Show. His video, Lose Yourself, won the MTV Video Music Award for best video from a film in 2003. A double CD, called Encore, was released the following year. Also in 2004, Eminem's Shady Records label finalized a three-way agreement that summer with the Sirius Satellite Radio and Interscope labels, with the three entities combined to create a hip-hop music and lifestyle channel. In 2003, with his trophy case brimming, Eminem secured much-needed, roomier accommodations when in July he purchased a 29-room mansion from former Kmart CEO Chuck Conaway.
by Jane Spear
Has worked with groups such as Basement Productions, the New Jacks, and Sole Intent before going solo with the release of Infinite in 1997; released Slim Shady, 1998; released The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000; released The Eminem Show, 2002; starred in 8 Mile, 2002; released Encore, 2004.
Grammy Awards: Best Rap Album of the Year for Slim Shady, 1999; Best Rap Solo Performance for "My Name Is," 1999; Best Rap Album for The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000; Best Rap Solo Performance for "The Real Slim Shady," 2000; Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (with Dr. Dre) for "Forget About Dre," 2000; Best Rap Album for The Eminem Show, 2002; Best Short Form Music Video, for Without Me, 2002; Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song, both for "Lose Yourself," 2003; best albums artist, best album, and best rap album, Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Awards, 2003, for Eminem Show..
- Selected discography
- Infinite , FBT Productions, 1997.
- The Slim Shady LP , Aftermath/Interscope, 1998.
- Just Don't Give a F*** , Aftermath/Interscope, 1998.
- The Marshall Mathers LP , Aftermath/Interscope, 2000.
- The Eminem Show Interscope, 2002.
- Encore , Aftermath, 2004.
November 22, 2005: Eminem won the American Music Award for favorite male rap/hip-hop artist. Source: 2005 American Music Awards, http://abc.go.com/primetime/ama05/index.html, November 27, 2005.
January 14, 2006: Eminem remarried his ex-wife, Kim Scott. Source: People, January 30, 2006, p. 68.
April 5, 2006: Eminem filed for a second divorce from his wife, Kim, after three months of remarriage. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, April 6, 2006.
- The Atlanta Constitution, (Georgia) Apr. 20, 1999; Aug. 1, 1999.
- Billboard, Oct. 2, 1999.
- Detroit News, July 8, 2003, p. 2.
- Entertainment Weekly, July 23, 2004, p. 21.
- The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26, 1999.
- Melody Maker, (London) May 1, 1999; Aug. 14, 1999; Nov. 10-16, 1999; Nov. 17-23, 1999.
- The New York Times, Aug. 22, 1999; Sept. 11, 1999; Nov. 14, 1999.
- Rolling Stone, Apr. 29, 1999; May 27, 1999; Dec. 16-23, 1999.
- Spin, Aug. 1999.
- Time, June 21, 1999; Oct. 4, 1999.
- USA Today, Dec. 28, 1999.
- The Washington Post, July 27, 1999.
- CNN.com, www.cnn.com (August 29, 2003).
- Grammy.com, http://grammys.com/awards/search/index.aspx (March 10, 2005),
- Launch, launch.yahoo.com/read/news.asp?contentID=214341 (August 14, 2003).
- Official Eminem website, http://www.eminem.com (Apr. 2000).
- EminemWorld, http://eminemworld.com (Apr. 2000).