Marshall Bruce Mathers III (born October 17, 1972), known professionally as Eminem (often stylized as EMINƎM), is an American rapper, songwriter, record producer, record executive, and actor.
Eminem is the best-selling artist of the 2000s in the United States. Throughout his career, he has had 10 number-one albums on the Billboard 200 and five number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. With 47.4 million albums sold in the US and 220 million records globally, he is among the world’s best-selling artists of all time. Additionally, he is the only artist to have eight albums consecutively debut at number one on the Billboard 200. Rolling Stone ranked him 83rd on its list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, calling him the “King of Hip Hop”.
After his debut album Infinite (1996) and then Slim Shady EP (1997), Eminem signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment and subsequently achieved mainstream popularity in 1999 with The Slim Shady LP, which earned him his first Grammy Award for Best Rap Album. His next two releases, 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP and 2002’s The Eminem Show, were worldwide successes, with each being certified diamond in U.S. sales, and both winning Best Rap Album Grammy Awards—making Eminem the first artist to win the award for three consecutive LPs. They were followed by Encore in 2004, another critical and commercial success. Eminem went on hiatus after touring in 2005, releasing Relapse in 2009 and Recovery in 2010. Both won Grammy Awards and Recovery was the best-selling album of 2010 worldwide, the second time he had the international best-selling album of the year (after The Eminem Show). Eminem’s eighth album, 2013’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, won two Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album; it expanded his record for the most wins in that category and his Grammy total to 15. In 2017, he released his ninth studio album, Revival.
In addition to his solo career, Eminem is an original member of the Midwest hip hop groups Soul Intent and D12. He is also known for his collaborations with fellow Detroit-based rapper Royce da 5’9″; the two are collectively known as Bad Meets Evil. Eminem has developed other ventures, including Shady Records, with manager Paul Rosenberg, which helped launch the careers of artists such as 50 Cent. Eminem has also established his own channel, Shade 45, on Sirius XM Radio. In November 2002, he starred in the hip hop film 8 Mile, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, for “Lose Yourself”, becoming the first rap artist to ever win the award. Eminem has made cameo appearances in the films The Wash (2001), Funny People (2009), The Interview (2014) and the television series Entourage (2010).
Life and career
1972–1991: Early life
Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born on October 17, 1972,in St. Joseph, Missouri, the only child of Marshall Bruce Mathers Jr. and Deborah Rae “Debbie” Nelson. His mother nearly died during her 73-hour labor with him.Eminem’s parents were in a band called Daddy Warbucks, playing in Ramada Inns along the Dakotas–Montana border before their separation. Bruce left the family, moving to California and having two other children: Michael and Sarah. Debbie later had son Nathan “Nate” Kane Samara. During his childhood, Eminem and Debbie shuttled between Michigan and Missouri, rarely staying in one house for more than a year or two and living primarily with family members. In Missouri, they lived in several places, including St. Joseph, Savannah, and Kansas City.
As a teenager, Eminem wrote letters to his father; according to Debbie, all came back marked “return to sender”. Friends and family remember Eminem as a happy child, but “a bit of a loner” who was often bullied. One bully, De’Angelo Bailey, severely injured Eminem’s head (mentioned in his song “Brain Damage”); Debbie filed a lawsuit against the school in 1982, which was dismissed the following year.Eminem spent much of his youth in a working-class, primarily black, Detroit neighborhood.He and Debbie were one of three white households on their block, and Eminem was beaten by black youths several times. As a child he was interested in storytelling, aspiring to be a comic-book artist before discovering hip hop.Eminem heard his first rap song (“Reckless”, featuring Ice-T) on the Breakin’ soundtrack, a gift from Debbie’s half-brother Ronnie Polkinghorn, who later became a musical mentor to him. When Polkinghorn committed suicide in 1991, Eminem stopped speaking for days and did not attend his funeral.
Eminem’s home life was seldom stable; he frequently fought with his mother, whom a social worker described as having a “very suspicious, almost paranoid personality”. When her son became famous, Debbie was unimpressed by suggestions that she was a less-than-ideal mother, contending that she sheltered him and was responsible for his success. In 1987, Debbie allowed runaway Kimberly Ann “Kim” Scott to stay at their home; several years later, Eminem began an on-and-off relationship with Scott. After spending three years in ninth grade due to truancy and poor grades, he dropped out of Lincoln High School at age 17. Although he was interested in English, he never explored literature (preferring comic books) and disliked math and social studies.Eminem worked at several jobs to help his mother pay the bills, later maintaining that she often threw him out of the house anyway. When she left to play bingo, he would blast the stereo and write songs.
At age 14, Eminem began rapping with high-school friend Mike Ruby; they adopted the names “Manix” and “M&M”, the latter of which evolved into “Eminem”.Eminem sneaked into neighboring Osborn High School with friend and fellow rapper Proof for lunchroom freestyle rap battles.On Saturdays, they attended open mic contests at the Hip-Hop Shop on West 7 Mile, considered “ground zero” for the Detroit rap scene.Struggling to succeed in a predominantly black industry, Eminem was appreciated by underground hip hop audiences When he wrote verses, he wanted most of the words to rhyme; he wrote long words or phrases on paper and, underneath, worked on rhymes for each syllable. Although the words often made little sense, the drill helped Eminem practice sounds and rhymes.
1992–1997: Early career
As Eminem’s reputation grew, he was recruited by several rap groups; the first was the New Jacks. After they disbanded he joined Soul Intent, who released a single on their 1995 self-titled EP featuring Proof.Eminem and Proof then teamed up with four other rappers to form The Dirty Dozen (D12), who released their first album Devil’s Night in 2001.Eminem had his first run-in with the law at age 20, when he was arrested for his involvement in a drive-by shooting with a paintball gun. The case was dismissed when the victim did not appear in court.
Eminem was soon signed to Jeff and Mark Bass’s FBT Productions, and recorded his debut album Infinite for their independent Web Entertainment label.The album was a commercial failure upon its release in 1996. One lyrical subject of Infinite was his struggle to raise his newborn daughter, Hailie Jade Scott Mathers, on little money. During this period, Eminem’s rhyming style, primarily inspired by rappers Nas, Esham and AZ, lacked the comically violent slant for which he later became known. Detroit disc jockeys largely ignored Infinite, and the feedback Eminem did receive (“Why don’t you go into rock and roll?”) led him to craft angrier, moodier tracks.At this time Eminem and Kim Scott lived in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and their house was robbed several times.Eminem cooked and washed dishes for minimum wage at Gilbert’s Lodge, a family-style restaurant at St. Clair Shores. His former boss described him as becoming a model employee, as he worked 60 hours a week for six months after Hailie’s birth.He was fired shortly before Christmas, and later said, “It was, like, five days before Christmas, which is Hailie’s birthday. I had, like, forty dollars to get her something.”After the release of Infinite, his personal problems and substance abuse culminated in a suicide attempt.By March 1997 he was fired from Gilbert’s Lodge for the last time, and lived in his mother’s mobile home with Kim and Hailie.
Eminem attracted more attention when he developed Slim Shady, a sadistic, violent alter ego. The character allowed him to express his anger with lyrics about drugs, rape, and murder. In the spring of 1997 he recorded his debut EP, the Slim Shady EP, which was released that winter by Web Entertainment.The EP, with frequent references to drug use, sexual acts, mental instability and violence, also explored the more-serious themes of dealing with poverty and marital and family difficulties and revealed his direct, self-deprecating response to criticism.Hip-hop magazine The Source featured Eminem in its “Unsigned Hype” column in March 1998.
Eminem (left) at the ARCO Arena for the Up in Smoke Tour, June 2000
After he was evicted from his home, Eminem went to Los Angeles to compete in the 1997 Rap Olympics, an annual, nationwide battle rap competition. He placed second, and Interscope Records staff in attendance sent a copy of the Slim Shady EP to company CEO Jimmy Iovine. Iovine played the tape for record producer Dr. Dre, founder of Aftermath Entertainment and founding member of hip-hop group N.W.A. 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, I said, ‘Find him. Now.'” Although his associates criticized him for hiring a white rapper, he was confident in his decision: “I don’t give a fuck if you’re purple; if you can kick it, I’m working with you.”Eminem had idolized Dre since listening to N.W.A. as a teenager, and was nervous about working with him on an album: “I didn’t want to be starstruck or kiss his ass too much … I’m just a little white boy from Detroit. I had never seen stars, let alone Dr. Dre.”He became more comfortable working with Dre after a series of productive recording sessions.
Eminem released The Slim Shady LP in February 1999. Although it was one of the year’s most popular albums (certified triple platinum by the end of the year),he was accused of imitating the style and subject matter of underground rapper Cage. The album’s popularity was accompanied by controversy over its lyrics; in “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” Eminem describes a trip with his infant daughter when he disposes of his wife’s body, and in “Guilty Conscience” which encourages a man to murder his wife and her lover. “Guilty Conscience” marked the beginning of a friendship and musical bond between Dr. Dre and Eminem. The label-mates later collaborated on a number of hit songs (“Forgot About Dre” and “What’s the Difference” from Dr. Dre’s album 2001, “Bitch Please II” from The Marshall Mathers LP, “Say What You Say” from The Eminem Show, “Encore/Curtains Down” from Encore, and “Old Time’s Sake” and “Crack a Bottle” from Relapse), and Dre made at least one guest appearance on each of Eminem’s Aftermath albums.The Slim Shady LP has been certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.