Eminem: Unbridled controversy. Unparalleled talent. Unmatched superstardom. As the single best-selling artist of the 2000s, a 15-time Grammy winner, and the first artist to have ten consecutive Number One debut albums on the Billboard 200, Eminem’s accolades speak for themselves. His world-renowned status solidified hip-hop as the most commercially successful music on the planet.
A rags-to-riches story, Eminem (b. Marshall Mathers) rapped his way out of a childhood marked by abuse and instability via MC battles in Detroit’s Hip-Hop Shop, to Los Angeles’ 1997 Rap Olympics, and straight onto Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment label. There, Eminem’s major label debut, The Slim Shady LP, catapulted him into the mainstream. On that record and his follow-up magnum opus, The Marshall Mathers LP, he crafted an inimitable rap technique ripe with inventive wordplay and infectious hooks. His nasal-yet-guttural tone spits out rhyme-saturated lyrics at blistering speeds. Eminem’s alter egos enable his provocative storytelling to alternate between the often-comedic depravity of Slim Shady (“My Name Is,” “Kim”) and the introspective vulnerability of Marshall Mathers (“Marshall Mathers”). In 2002, Eminem’s success continued with the release of The Eminem Show and the quasi-autobiographical film 8 Mile, which spawned his acting career and the hype anthem, “Lose Yourself.”
Eminem has become more explicitly political as his career has progressed, delving deeper into his personal struggles and pushing his rap style toward “Rap God” virtuosic perfection. With one hand, he holds up a mirror to American society to expose its darkest corners: domestic violence (“Stan,” “Love the Way You Lie”), white privilege (“White America”), anxieties about homosexuality (Ken Kaniff skits), failed parenthood (“My Mom”), and corrupt politicians (“Mosh”) – no one is left unscathed. With his other hand, he throws up a middle finger. Art that stands the test of time often makes people uncomfortable and questions the status quo, and no one shakes people to their core quite like Eminem.
“My Name Is,” “Guilty Conscience,” The Slim Shady LP (1999) • “Stan,” “The Real Slim Shady,” “Marshall Mathers,” The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) • “White America,” The Eminem Show (2002) • “Lose Yourself,” 8 Mile soundtrack (2002) • “Mosh,” Encore (2004) • “My Mom,” Relapse (2009) • “Love the Way You Lie,” Recovery (2010) • “Godzilla,” Music to Be Murdered By (2020)
N.W.A., Nas, Tupac
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