Eminem, born Marshall Bruce Mathers III, 17 October 1973, Kansas City,
Missouri, USA. This white rapper burst onto the US charts in 1999 with
a controversial take on the horrorcore genre. Mathers endured an
itinerant childhood, living with his mother in various states before
eventually ending up in Detroit at the age of 12. He took up rapping in
high school before dropping out in ninth grade, joining ad hoc groups
Basement Productions, the New Jacks, and D12. The newly named Eminem
released a raw debut album in 1997 through independent label FBT.
Infinite was poorly received, however, with Eminem earning unfavourable
comparisons to leading rappers such as Nas and AZ. His determination to
succeed was given a boost by a prominent feature in Source's Unsigned
Hype column, and he gained revenge on his former critics when he won
the Wake Up Show's Freestyle Performer Of The Year award, and finished
runner-up in Los Angeles' annual Rap Olympics. The following year's The
Slim Shady EP, named after his sinister alter-ego, featured some
vitriolic attacks on his detractors. The stand-out track, "Just Don't
Give A fuck", became a highly popular underground hit, and led to guest
appearances on MC Shabaam Sahddeq's "Five Star Generals" single and Kid
Rock's Devil Without A Cause set. As a result, Eminem was signed to
Aftermath Records by label boss Dr. Dre, who adopted the young rapper
as his protege and acted as co-producer on Eminem's full-length debut.
Dre's beats featured prominently on The Slim Shady LP, a provocative
feast of violent, twisted lyrics, with a moral outlook partially
redeemed by Eminem's claim to be only "voicing" the thoughts of the
Slim Shady character. Parody or no parody, lyrics to tracks such as "97
Bonnie & Clyde" (which contained lines about killing the mother of
his child) and frequent verbal outbursts about his mother were held by
many, outside even the usual Christian moral majority, to be deeply
irresponsible. The album was buoyed by the commercial success of the
singles "My Name Is" and "Guilty Conscience" (the former helped by a
striking, MTV-friendly video), and climbed to number 2 on the US album
chart in March 1999.
Eminem subsequently made high profile appearances on Rawkus Records'
Soundbombing Volume 2 compilation and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's Da
Real World. He was also in the news when his mother filed a lawsuit
claiming that comments made by the rapper during interviews and on The
Slim Shady LP had caused, amongst other things, emotional distress,
damage to her reputation and loss of self-esteem. None of which harmed
the sales of Eminem's follow-up album, The Marshall Mathers LP, which
debuted at number 1 on the US album chart in May 2000 and established
him as the most successful rapper since the mid-90s heyday of 2Pac and
Snoop Doggy Dogg. By the end of the year, however, his troubled
personal life and a serious assault charge had removed the gloss from
his phenomenal commercial success. Despite criticism from gay rights
groups, the rapper swept up three Grammy Awards the following February.
He also reunited with his D12 colleagues to record the transatlantic
chart-topping Devil's Night.
Eminem's new studio album, The Eminem Show, was premiered by single
"Without Me". The track, which debuted at UK number 1 in May 2002,
featured a sample from Malcolm McLaren's "Buffalo Girls" and was
supported by a controversial video which saw the rapper dressing up as
Osama Bin Laden. The album debuted at number 1 on both sides of the
Atlantic. Later in the year, Eminem made his mainstream acting debut in
8 Mile. The lead single from the soundtrack, "Lose Yourself", gave the
rapper his first US number 1 single in November.
Eminem's birth name is Marshall Bruce Mathers III. He is also known as Slim Shady, and Em.