Charles Barkley once said, “You know it's going to hell when the best rapper out there is white, and the best golfer is black.” The rapper he was referring to was Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known as Eminem.
Maybe things are going to hell, maybe they’re not. One thing that is not up for debate is Eminem’s place as one of the greatest rappers of all-time.
Eminem has earned praised from critics and colleagues. Those that have publicly applauded the rapper include Jay-Z, Wiz Khalifa, and Dr. Dre.
With a total sales figure of more than 240 million albums, Eminem is one of music’s all-time bestselling artists.
He is the bestselling artist of the first decade of the 21st century and often referred to as the most streamed artist in the history of the internet.
The rapper has charted ten number one albums, captured 15 Grammy Awards, and been extolled by countless industry publications.
In 2003, Eminem won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Lose Yourself” from the movie 8 Mile.
Eminem is known for his honesty, humor, enunciation, syncopation, and use of melody. His rhymes are complex and creative. Unusual in his genre, Eminem frequently builds songs around lyrics, not beats.
An extremely hard worker and perfectionist, Eminem has earned a legion of fans within and outside of the hip hop genre.
Furthermore, Eminem inspired generations of performers and changed the perceived notion of what a rapper should look like.
He’s always controversial, but his controversies don’t distract from his music. Somehow, his behavior makes him real and more likable.
Mathers was welcomed into this world (Missouri to be exact) on October 17, 1972. His mother, Debbie Nelson, experienced a difficult childbirth and nearly died.
Mathers’ parents divorced when he was very young. After their split, his father moved to California.
Mathers wrote to his father, but all his correspondences were unceremoniously returned.
Growing up, Mathers had to deal with instability. His single mother frequently moved and was difficult to get along with.
Mathers was bullied too. One incident forced his mother to file a lawsuit, but the case was eventually thrown out of court.
Mathers dropped out of high school when he was 17. He had spent three years in the ninth grade.
Origins of Eminem's Name
Mathers began rapping as a teenager and formed a group with a friend.
His partner went by the name “Manix” and Mathers adopted the nom de plume, M&M. That epithet later evolved into Eminem.
Mathers’ most famous alter ego is “Slim Shady.” The persona first appeared in his Slim Shady EP.
When Eminem raps as Slim, his lyrics are usually darker and more violent.
Growing up in Detroit, Eminem broke into the city’s vibrant rap scene by competing in freestyle rap battles and open-mic contests.
Being white, Eminem stood out in a genre dominating by African Americans. Still, his rapping prowess earned him respect.
It also earned him a place in the rap group Soul Intent. Soul Intent released three albums between 1990 and 1995.
In 1996, Eminem released his first solo album, Infinite. The work was a complete failure and local critics told Eminem to leave the business.
Other setbacks at the time were his struggles to provide for his daughter, getting fired from his day job, and spiraling into drug addiction. Eminem was so distraught during this period of his life, that he attempted suicide.
In 1997, Eminem went back to the studio and recorded as his alter ego, Slim Shady. The result was the Slim Shady EP.
After being evicted from his home, Eminem relocated to Los Angeles and placed second in the Rap Olympics. A record company staffer gave a copy of the Slim Shady EP to legendary producer Jimmy Iovine.
In turn, Iovine gave it to Dr. Dre.
Dr. Dre was blown away by what heard and demanded to record with the upstart.
This began a successful partnership as Dr. Dre became Eminem’s frequent collaborator and executive producer.
Eminem and his mother Debbie Mathers
Diamonds and Grammys
In the following years, Eminem released a string of insanely successful albums. The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) sold more than 1.75 million copies during its first week.
It has since sold more than 35 million copies worldwide and 12.5 million copies in the United States.
His next release, The Eminem Show, sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and 11 million copies in the U.S.
Ten million in sales is the threshold to earn the RIAA’s diamond certification. Thus, Eminem enjoyed back-to-back diamond certified studio albums. He’s the only rapper with two diamond certificates.
Eminem didn’t stop there. In 2004, he released Encore. The opus moved more than 23 million copies worldwide with the United States accounting for 5.3 million of them.
The Slim Shady LP, The Marshall Mathers LP, and The Eminem Show all won Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album. Eminem would go on to collect the same award for Relapse, Recovery, and The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show were also nominated for Album of the Year.
Eminem released “Stan” in November of 2000. The song is found on The Marshall Mathers LP.
“Stan,” which contains a sample of Dido’s “Thank You,” is considered one of his best songs. It was nominated for multiple awards, featured in countless “best of” lists, and is part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.
The song’s title is now slang for an extreme, overzealous fan. You can find it in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Eminem experienced a five-year fallow period between albums Encore and Relapse. During this time this was much speculation that he was going to retire from recording. These reports proved to be false.
Relapse was introduced to the world in May of 2009. Reviews were mixed, but the oeuvre sold 7.5 million copies worldwide.
In June of 2010, Eminem released Recovery. This offering doubled the sales figure of Relapse. It was the bestselling album of the year and the bestselling digital album of all-time.
In 2013, the artist issued The Marshall Mathers LP 2. The album helped Eminem put four singles in the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. The last artist to do that were The Beatles.
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 was better reviewed then his previous two works and placed high on many year-ending “best of” lists. It was the second bestselling album of 2013.
Eminem was arrested when he was 20 for his role in a drive-by shooting involving a paintball gun.
The case was dismissed when the victim failed to appear in court.
He has also been arrested for an altercation in which he brandished an unloaded gun as well as assault, and weapons possessions.
Eminem has been sued by his mother, his ex-wife, a bully from his school days, and several artists who claimed he plagiarized their music.
In 2003, the Secret Service investigated Eminem for lyrics that threatened the President of the United States of America. The investigation yielded nothing.
The Slim Shady LP (1999)
The Marshall Mathers LP (2000)
The Eminem Show (2002)
The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013)
“Ass Like That”
“Cleanin' Out My Closet”
“Crack a Bottle”
“Just Lose It”
“Love the Way You Lie”
“My Name Is”
“The Real Slim Shady”
“The Way I Am”
“We Made You”
- Before divorcing, Eminem’s parents were in a band called “Daddy Warbucks.”
- Eminem was the first white artist to appear on the cover of Source. He graced the magazine’s cover in July of 2000.
- Eminem’s debut album, Infinite, and his bestselling album Encore, were released on the same day, eight years apart.
- Eminem earned the honorific “King of Hip Hop” from Rolling Stone magazine.
- Eminem was the first artist to win the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album for three consecutive LPs.
- In 2001, Eminem performed with Elton John at the Grammy Awards ceremony. The event was protested by members of GLADD.
- Eminem is an original member of D12.
- Eminem and Royce da 5'9” are better known as Bad Meets Evil.
- Eminem has his own Sirius XM Radio station. It’s called Shade 45.
- Eminem was #58 in Bernard Goldberg’s book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America.
- The first rap song Eminem heard was “Reckless” by Chris “The Glove” Taylor & David Storrs. The song contains a rap by Ice T and is found on the soundtrack to the movie Breakin’.
NBA legend Charles Barkley once asked what was wrong with the world. “The best golfer is black and the best rapper is white.” The golfer he was referring to was Tiger Woods. The rapper he was referring to was Eminem.
Eminem is arguably the greatest rapper of all-time. At the very least, he’s in the conversation. He’s the bestselling artist in the United States in the 2000s. As a solo artist, a member of D12, and one half of Bad Meets Evil, he’s responsible for ten number one albums. In a recording career that began in 1996, Eminem has sold nearly 100 million albums and more than 120 million singles. On his mantle sits 13 Grammy Awards and an Academy Award (for his song “Lose Yourself” from the film 8 Mile).
Infinite (1996) The Slim Shady LP (1999) The Marshall Mathers LP (2000) Devil's Night* (2001) The Eminem Show (2002) D12 World* (2004) Encore (2004) Relapse (2009) Recovery (2010) Hell: The Sequel# (2011) The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013) *With D12 #With Bad Meets Evil
Eminem is so popular he could rap the phone book and it would sell a million copies. Rolling Stone named him the 83rd greatest artist of all-time (that list includes all genres and all eras). In 2008, Vibe magazine named him the “best rapper alive.”
Eminem sets himself apart from other rappers with his smooth flow and his ability to rhyme just about anything. He connects to his audiences through two divergent concepts: humor and rage. When his lyrics aren’t showing off Eminem’s wit then they’re revealing his anger. His genius however, comes from an ability to exhibit rage in a way that’s relatable and not alienating.
Due to Eminem’s profane-laden lyrics, he has been accused of being homophobic and misogynistic. In his songs, he has ridiculed numerous celebrities including Christina Aguilera, Marilyn Manson, Dick Cheney, and Moby.
Musically, Eminem often mixes elements of hip hop with rock and roll. For example, Eminem’s “Sing for the Moment” borrows most of Aerosmith’s “Dream On” and “Berzerk” samples Billy Squier's "The Stroke."
Eminem’s real name is Marshall Mathers III. He was born Oct. 17, 1972. His mother was 17 at the time. Mathers grew up without a father in Detroit, Michigan where he was often the target of bullying. Before discovering rap music, Mathers wanted to be a comic book artist.
Mathers’ big break came in 1997 when he placed second in an event called the “Rap Olympics.” That finish led to Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine playing a copy of Eminem’s Slim Shady EP to Dr. Dre. After listening to the compact disc, Dre turned to Iovine and exclaimed: “Find him. Now.”