Eminem is a man of many names, from his alter ego Slim Shady to his given name of Marshall Mathers III. And the multi-million-selling rapper seems to have acquired a reputation with even more identities than his many names. While to some he is an obscenity-spewing threat to American values, as well as a misogynistic and homophobic hate monger, to others he is the canniest entertainment quantity to emerge in recent years. But to many of his fans, Eminem is simply one of them: a disenfranchised and sometimes angry youth, albeit one whose talents have taken him from growing up on welfare in Detroit to the top of the music charts. For as he says on his latest album, "White America, I could be one of your kids."
However, there is one thing about Eminem that is abundantly clear: with the 2002 release of The Eminem Show and his film debut in 8 Mile (loosely based on his life), Eminem has arrived as a superstar and a fact of modern life. And for all the controversy that he has generated, one still can't help but admire Eminem for his outright honesty. "You put your [stuff] out there for the world to see and to judge, and whoever agrees with you agrees with you," he says. "Even my most die-hard fans don't agree with everything I say. These are my views, this is how I see it."
Eminem's perspective comes from growing up in a situation that might have sent others hurtling down the road to perdition. Bouncing back and forth between poor neighborhoods in Detroit and Kansas City as a youth, raised only by his mother, he dropped out of school at 15 to toil at minimum wage jobs. Yet Eminem never lost sight of his musical goals, competing in rap contests and independently releasing his music, sparking a stir in the hip-hop underground.
But since being taken under the wing of hip-hop icon Dr. Dre, who signed Eminen to his Aftermath/Interscope label, the white rapper hit the music scene like a lightning bolt with his 1999 major label debut, The Slim Shady LP. Following with The Marshall Mathers LP and now The Eminem Show, he has won millions of fans and a shelf of Grammy Awards.
And now, with his starring role in 8 Mile, Eminem has hit the sliver screen with a story that mirrors his own life of struggle and triumph. "I don't play me in the movie," he explains. "There are similarities because I sat down with Scott Silver, the script writer, and told him instances from my life that were used in the movie, some exactly the way they happened, some a little bit different. I play a guy named Jimmy who grows up in Detroit and tries to make it as a rapper."
And if one wants to learn the truth about who Eminem is, the artist says to look no further than his songs. "If you listen to them and don't take the words out of context, they'll tell you why I'm saying this or that. Just listen to the songs. They will tell you everything."