Eminem, born Marshall Bruce Mathers, is a pre-eminent rap musician of the twentieth century. He was born into poverty and deprivation and raised by a drug addicted single mother. Although he lacked much formal education, he was interested in words and the poetry form of rhyming words. He succeeded in a black music genre despite his colour. In spite of many challenges, he has achieved stardom in the music and motion picture industry.
Marshall Bruce Mathers (Eminem) was born on October 17, 1972 in Saint Joseph, Missouri to Marshall Mathers Jr. (twenty-one years of age) and Deborah Nelson (seventeen years of age). His parents were both musicians playing in a band called Daddy Warbucks. The father left the family when Eminem was six months old. He and his mother bounced from place to place, school to school and eventually ended up in Detroit, Michigan living on the rough side of the “8 Mile” line which divided Detroit’s neighbourhoods. In Detroit, 8 Mile road was the border between the poor black and the white neighbourhoods. He lived on the poor black side of the line. (Eminem, Eminem – The Way I Am, 2009)
Eminem’s early life was characterized by poverty, neglect and mistreatment. As a child, Eminem was poor, often on welfare, sometimes without a home and couch surfing with family and friends. He often changed schools as many as two to three times a year. When he was in grades eight and nine, he was the victim of bullying and physical assault. He dropped out of school after failing grade nine three times. He reported that he never had many friends and never felt like he belonged to anyone. He had a deep love for words and language and he used to read 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 points, I was always good at English.” (Eminem Biography, n.d.)
Eminem’s introduction to Hip-Hop occurred at the age of eleven courtesy of his uncle Ronald Nelson. By the time Eminem was fourteen he knew he wanted be a rapper. He was called “trailer park trash” so often that he decided to court this image. (Eminem, Eminem – The Way I Am, 2009) In Detroit he frequently participated in rapping competitions held locally in his neighbourhood. He was often the only white man competing in this black art form. It appealed to him because he found his voice in this tough streetwise talk. He said that rapping was all about bragging and boasting and releasing his anger. His early songs were an attack on his parents, a painfully public way of settling his scores. (Eminem Biography, n.d.)
Eminem’s fascination with words and rhyming has made him one of the most important musicians in this genre of music. In an interview on 60 Minutes, he described the importance of breaking down words to make them rhyme. He carries around with him boxes of word ideas which he calls “stacking ammo”. These are short bursts of words that rhyme and are congregant with a single idea. He said that reading the dictionary helped him develop this process. (Eminem, Eminem 60 Minutes Full Interview, 2010)
In 1997, Eminem travelled to the Rap Olympics competition in Los Angeles. He won second place as well as the attention of the staff at Interscope Records, who sent a copy of his demonstration tape the company’s chief executive officer Jimmy Iovine. He took this tape to record producer Dr. Dre, founder of Aftermath Entertainment. Dr. Dre recalled, “In my entire career in the music industry, I have never found anything from a demo tape or a CD. When Jimmy played this tape, I said find him!” This man launched Eminem’s career. He is now the winner of thirteen Grammy Awards and a 2003 Academy Award for best original song “Lose Yourself”. His net worth is more than 170 million. (Eminem Net Worth, 2015) He has sold more than 42 million tracks and 49.1 million albums in the United States, and 100 million albums internationally. (Eminem, Eminem – The Way I Am, 2009)
Eminem has faced many challenges in his life as musician. The first challenge was protests from women’s groups and gay alliances about his offensive lyrics against them. The second was his addiction to drugs like Ambien, Hycoden and Valium which resulted in an overdose in December 2007. (Eminem, Eminem 60 Minutes Full Interview, 2010) He almost died of respiratory failure because all three of these drugs depress your breathing. In addition, he was also addicted to alcohol. His third challenge was being a white rapper in a field of music where the artist were almost always black. (Eminem, Eminem 60 Minutes Full Interview, 2010)
In spite of his destitute childhood and many challenges, Eminem is making a recovery. He has been sober for two and half years. He has just released a new album called Shady XV. He is teaching himself how to write and rap again. His charity, The Marshall Mathers Foundation, provides funds to organizations working with disadvantaged youth in Michigan. He continues to support his daughters and push them towards college because he never got to go. Eminem stated “I’m as happy as I can be, I guess…. Hip-Hop saved my life, man. It’s the only thing I’ve been decent at. I don’t know how to do anything else. I think they have a word for that – what do they call it? Idiot savant?” (Stone, 2013)
Eminem. (2009). Eminem – The Way I Am. Detroit : The Penguin Group.
Eminem. (2010, October 7). Eminem 60 Minutes Full Interview. (A. Cooper, Interviewer)
Eminem Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved from bio.: http://www.biography.com/people/eminem-9542093
Eminem Net Worth. (2015). Retrieved from Celebrity Networth: http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/richest-rappers/eminem-net-worth/
Stone, R. (2013, November 20). Eminem Reborn: Inside the New Issue of Rolling Stone. Retrieved from Rolling Stone: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/eminem-reborn-inside-the-new-issue-of-rolling-stone-20131120