There are only a handful of musicians or artists that are as iconic in the rap genre as Eminem, who is also considered as one of the best-selling rappers of all time because of his amazing feat of selling 220 million albums worldwide. Despite being a white American personality, Eminem was able to break racial barriers in the world of hip-hop, which was originally meant to be exclusive to African-Americans. Because of his lustrous career, Eminem inspired many people to start writing and performing hip-hop, thus making the rapper one of the most influential artists in the history of music. To know more about the rapper’s humble beginnings and rise to stardom, here is an artist profile of Eminem.
Eminem’s Discovery of Rap
Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known today as Eminem, was born October 17, 1972, in St. Joseph, Missouri. The rapper is the only child of Deborah Rae “Debbie” Nelson and Marshall Bruce Mather Jr. Eminem’s father left him and her mother when he was young and moved to California.
Eminem first discovered rap when he was given the soundtrack album for “Breakin’,” a 1984 breakdancing musical film, by his uncle and Debbie’s half-brother Ronnie Polkingham. Within the soundtrack is a rap track titled “Reckless,” which features Ice-T, and Eminem became fascinated with rap after hearing the said song. The rapper initially wanted to become a comic book artist because of his interest in storytelling, but because of Polkingham’s influence and mentorship in music, he eventually aspired to become a hip-hop artist.
When he was 14, Eminem started rapping with high-school friend Mike Ruby, and they adopted the stage names “Manix” and “M&M” as a duo. They would often attend open mic contests at the Hip-Hop Shop, an establishment located in West 7 Mile, which is supposed to be “ground zero” for the rap scene in Detroit.
Early Years of Eminem’s Career
In 1988, Eminem adopted the stage name “MC Double M” and created a rap group called New Jacks. The group would then join Bassmint Production, which later changed names to Soul Intent in 1992. New Jack would later release a self-titled EP in 1995 that featured Eminem’s childhood friend Proof. After New Jacks split up, Eminem and Proof would form another rap group called The Dirty Dozen or D12 in 1996. Although the group has been performing for several years, it was only in 2001 when they released their first album called “Devil’s Night.”
In the same year when The Dirty Dozen was formed, Eminem signed a deal with FBT Productions to release his solo debut album, “Infinite.” The rapper’s debut album became a massive flop, with many DJs ignoring the album and not letting it play on radio stations because of how poorly the songs were written and recorded. When he realized that his debut album would not attract people to listen to his music, he began experimenting with different styles that would make him a better artist. Inspired by AZ and Nas, he would eventually adopt the violent musical style that features a lot of curse words, violence, and dark humor in its lyrics.
Creation of Slim Shady
Wanting to take the comically violent musical style to greater heights, Eminem would create a persona named “Slim Shady” to represent his music’s angst and violence. Just one year after the release of “Infinite,” particularly in 1997, Eminem released his debut EP titled “Slim Shady EP.” Dr. Dre, a famous rapper who is also the founder of Aftermath Entertainment, soon discovered the EP and wanted to contact Eminem immediately.
Dr. Dre would then help produce Eminem’s second album, “The Slim Shady LP,” in February 1999. The album became an instant hit, mainly due to the fact that Eminem’s style was considered unique and refreshing back then when most rappers don’t focus anymore on writing deep lyrics. In addition, the lyrics of the songs within the album became controversial because of its ultraviolence, which was condemned by the media but praised by critics and young adult listeners. By the end of 1999, the album would be certified triple platinum.
The Marshall Mathers LP and Eminem Show
In May 2000, Eminem released his third album, “The Marshall Mather LP,” which is supposed to have darker lyrics that focus more on Eminem’s personal life and struggles rather than his Slim Shady persona. In March 2011, the new album was certified Diamond, as it successfully sold more than 21 million copies around the world.
Two years after the release of the third album, Eminem would follow it up with “The Eminem Show.” Eminem’s new album became successful once again, as he was able to sell more than 1.3 million copies of the album worldwide in just one week after its release. At the end of 2002, “The Eminem Show” sold 27 million copies worldwide, thus becoming the best-selling record in that year.
In 2004, Eminem released his fifth album, “Encore.” While it was still a massive success for the rapper, the album’s skyrocketing sales was mainly attributed to the controversial lyrics he wrote in some of the songs, particularly in the track “Just Lose It,” which had lyrics that mock Michael Jackson, who was on trial that year for child sexual abuse.
To support the release of the album, Eminem embarked on his first US concert tour in three years when he joined the Anger Management 3 Tour in 2005. Even though the tour was a success, Eminem canceled the European leg of his tour. According to the rapper, he has to cancel the European tour because he has to enter drug rehabilitation. Eminem would then go on a hiatus for three years, from 2006 to 2009.
During the hiatus, many speculated that Eminem would retire from writing and recording music, as some of his close friends believe that he would just become a producer. Furthermore, the hiatus was also believed to have been caused by the murder of Eminem’s childhood friend Proof in April 2006. Because of Proof’s death, Eminem fell into depression and began relying on drugs to cope.
Comeback and Relapse
In the middle of his hiatus, particularly in September 2007, Eminem was called by WQHT, a radio station in New York, during an interview with his close friend 50 Cent. In the phone call, Eminem was contemplating making another album, but he stated that we couldn’t go back to the studio because he was currently dealing with personal struggles. By September 2008, he would appear on his SiriusXM channel, Shade 45, and stated that he is currently writing songs and producing his own tracks. Several months later, his record label Interscope confirmed that Eminem’s new album would be released in 2009.
True to the label’s word, Eminem’s sixth album titled “Relapse” was released in May 2009. Although the record was not as commercially successful as his previous albums, Eminem’s “Relapse” still allowed him to make a proper comeback and have the spotlight in the hip-hop industry. In November of the same year, Eminem announced that a re-release version of his album, which he called “Relapse: Refill,” will be released in December to give his fans seven more tracks that were excluded in the original release.
Eminem’s next album, “Recovery,” was released in June 2010 and was more successful in terms of sales compared to “Relapse.” The newest album was originally supposed to be called “Relapse 2,” but Eminem later renamed the album as he felt that it was not a proper follow-up to the previous album because of its difference in sound and overall theme.
In the same year, Eminem also collaborated once again with Royce da 5’9” to reunite as Bad Meets Evil, a duo that they formed in 1998. Their first EP after many years, titled “Hell: The Sequel,” was released on June 14, 2011.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and Compilation Album
On May 24, 2012, Eminem officially announced that he was working on writing and producing his eighth album. In November 2013, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” was released by Shady Records (Eminem’s record label), Aftermath Entertainment, and Interscope records. The new album was a huge hit, and it became much more successful than “Relapse” and “Recovery.” The album was also critically acclaimed, and at the 57th Grammy Awards in 2015, he was Best Rap Album for “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for the song “The Monster,” which featured Rihanna.
In 2014, Eminem started using the hashtag “#SHADYXV” for his tweets on Twitter and posts on other social media platforms. Eventually, Eminem revealed that the hashtag is supposed to be the name of the compilation album that he is going to release under the Shady Records label. The album was then released in November 2014 and featured one CD of Eminem’s greatest hits and one CD of new tracks by groups and artists where Eminem is involved, such as D12, Bad Meets Evil, Yelawolf, and Slaughterhouse.
In October 2017, Eminem began posting teasers about his upcoming album “Revival,” and these teasers feature images of a fictional medicine of the same name. In November of the same year, Eminem released the first single for the album titled “Walk on Water” that features Beyoncé on vocals. On December 15, 2017, the album was released under Aftermath Entertainment, Shady Records, and Interscope Records. Despite being a commercial success, “Revival” was heavily panned by critics, who consider it to be the worst album in Eminem’s discography.
As a response to the critics that called “Revival” a sellout album that doesn’t truly showcase Eminem’s rapping skills, the artist released the surprise album “Kamikaze” on August 31, 2018. The album was received better by critics, but it is still considered subpar compared to Eminem’s previous albums.
Music to Be Murdered By
Two years after the release of “Kamikaze,” Eminem released another surprise album titled “Music to Be Murdered By.” After the album became a hit in the United States, Eminem became the first musical artist to have ten consecutive albums to debut at number one in the US Billboard charts. Much like the two previous albums released by the rapper, “Music to be Murdered By” had mixed reviews, with some critics praising Eminem’s improved lyrics compared to the previous album, while some are criticizing the formulaic structure of most of the album’s tracks.
In December 2020, Eminem then released a deluxe version of the album titled “Music to Be Murdered By – Side B” and features 16 new songs. Despite being a re-release, the album was still a commercial success for the hip-hop artist.
Eminem remains an influential artist in music today, even though critics are mixed when it comes to their reception of his newer albums. Every song that Eminem releases becomes instant hits, and it would, in turn, shape how other rappers would write and record new songs.