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Have you any idea,Eminem once rapped, “the shit that I’ve gone through?

He wasn’t kidding.

Pills in the Kitchen

Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born on October 17, 1972. His mother was a 17-year-old named Debbie Nelson. He never met his father.

A stable home was a luxury Debbie could not afford. Instead Marshall and half-brother Nathan grew up in the trailer parks of Kansas City and Detroit. “We just kept moving back and forth,” Mathers would later recount, “my mother never had a job. We kept getting kicked out of every house we were in. I believe six months was the longest we ever lived in a house.”

Eminem single ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’ tells the rest of the story. “Put yourself in my position,” Marshall levels “Just try to envision, witnessin’ your momma poppin’ prescription pills in the kitchen, bitchin’ that someone’s always going through her purse and shit’s missin’, going through public housing systems, a victim of Münchausen’s Syndrome. Mother did drugs, hard liquor, cigarettes, and speed. That’s just the way she was.”

Mathers was bullied and beaten at school. (One savage battering at age 15 left him hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage.) In junior high school, he met Kim Scott. The pair quickly fell in love. Thus began a tempestuous 18-year relationship. All this, of course, was just the beginning.

Eminem poses for a publicty shot.
Eminem poses for a publicity shoot.

The Rise of Eminem

After discovering hip hop at age 9 Mathers began rapping at 14. Dropping out of school a year later, he began appearing regularly at local rap battles as EMINƎM. Detroit’s underground music scene did not embrace him. Audiences routinely booed him off stage. Eminem refused to be put off so easily, working his way up from the bottom to earn their respect through sheer force of will and raw talent.

After performing in several groups Eminem began releasing music as a solo act. His first album Infinite was a flop. Reinventing himself as Slim Shady for The Slim Shady LP, he broke through. His second record sold more than a million copies.

Follow-up The Marshall Mathers LP and lead single ‘The Real Slim Shady’ established Eminem as one of his decade’s greatest acts. Selling 1,760,049 copies in a single week, The Slim Shady LP became the fastest-selling rap album in history. (It doubled the previous record held by Snoop Dogg‘s 1993 debut Doggystyle.)

A Generational Hero

Eminem had no glossy public persona. Speaking to a generation of angry teens he developed a reputation for lampooning the pop star archetype. Moby, Christina Aguilera, The Insane Clown Posse, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, P. Diddy, Jennifer Lopez, Amy Winehouse, Lana Del Rey, Shawn Cee, Tyler The Creator, Lil Pump, Lil Xan, Lil Yachty, Vince Staples, 21 Savage, Migos, 6ix9ine, Young MA, Iggy Azalea, and Die Antwoord have all been subject to a tongue lashing from Eminem.

He was dark, violent, and paranoid. It was no put on. “If I’m not passionate about it,” he once shared of his work, “I can’t write it. I can’t fake it.” What fans received was just the tip of the iceberg.

'Not Afraid' rapper Eminem
The Real Slim Shady.

Tumble from the Top

Eminem’s climb to stardom was paralleled by a calamitous personal life.  Melodramas of soap opera proportion continued to unfold at the same time as his greatest musical successes. As Eminem was struggling to make a name for himself, his partner Kim gave birth to a baby daughter. A rift began to form between the couple as Mathers was forced to choose between rapping or working for minimum wage to provide for his family. Kim struggled to be a mother while earning her share of the income and supporting her partner’s career.

Eminem’s relationship with Kim deteriorated. With both accusing the other of cheating, the two split prior to the release of The Slim Shady LP in 1999. Marshall was personally devastated, lapsing into alcoholism he moved back in with his mother. Shortly after Kim attempted to take her own life. Eminem would later reunite with Kim but the split turned out to be one of several for the couple who have, at the time of writing, have been married and divorced twice.

Following the release of The Marshall Mathers, Eminem’s mother sued her son for defamation. Key to her claim was the allegation that the hit single ‘My Name Has’ had unfairly slandered her. In compensation, she sought $10 million from her son.  She would win the case but would ultimately pocket the more modest sum of $1,600.

Eminem’s Curtain Call

2002’s The Eminem Show, 2004’s Encore, and 2005’s Curtain Call: The Hits further cemented his blockbuster status. He would also star as himself in the autobiographical Hollywood blockbuster 8 Mile. After Curtain Call, Eminem announced to the world that he was putting his career on hold. He remained largely inactive for the next four years.

Fame and a $60 million fortune brought Eminem neither happiness nor peace of mind. At the height of success, Slim Shady captivated the world. But Shady had skeletons in the closet. As several personal controversies had been playing out before the public, Mathers had been succumbing to an addiction to prescription drugs.

‘Not Afraid’ Peak Chart Positions 

US/Billboard 100: #1 (25 weeks on chart)

Australia/ARIA: #4 (27 weeks on chart)

UK/Official Charts: #5 (28 weeks on chart)

 

  • Eminem 'Not Afraid'
    7
The Good

A positive message

Relaunched career

He didn't give up

The Bad

Still not an ideal role model

Drugs are bad

Invented the term 'Stan'

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Riley Fitzgerald

Creative Director

Riley Fitzgerald is Managing Editor and Creative Director of The Glitter & Gold.

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The Glitter and Gold is a digital magazine and online store located at 146 Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley Brisbane.
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