Today marks the 40th Birthday of Marshall Mathers, Slim Shady, Eminem. The man behind the various alter egos has reached the epic personal milestone, and what a life he has to look back on…
I was initially introduced to Eminem through the walls as my older brother played the Slim Shady LP everyday for what felt like a lifetime. I’d listen to songs such as Brain Damage with widened eyes, in awe!! As a seven year old, it didn’t occur to me that white people could rap! I really didn’t understand. Little did I know that this random man would become one of the biggest names in Hip-hop history!
He introduced millions of people that would never have listened to Hip-hop before him. A huge proportion of white, Middle America wouldn’t have dreamt of purchasing a Nas or DMX record, but supported Eminem in their droves. It opened up the door for other rappers, in that the demographic was widened, opening the minds and ears of a new generation. It is entirely possible that other white artists such as Justin Timberlake, Robin Thicke and Christina Aguilera felt more comfortable in a predominantly black genre once he had paved the way before them.
In terms of hip-hop as a poetic outlet, Eminem has an impressive mastery of rhyme scheme. With a tweaking of intonation and switching of pronunciation, he somehow manages to rhyme almost anything. He elongates the vowels with an incredible attention to detail and perfection. This is the kind of minute, relentless dedication that has seen him outsell bona fide hip-hop heavyweights such as Biggie, Tupac, even Jay –Z. Right or wrong, respected or resented, the figures suggest he’s doing something right.
Eminem has always showcased an arresting ability to paint evocative pictures, with the story telling prowess of a country artist. Sound effects, dialogue, acting, all combine to create a distinctive narrative experience. His songs are an amalgamation of the arts, with a significant nod to cinema; when listening to Guilty Conscience it’s impossible not to visualize the scenario. Music is what you can feel, and in this way Eminem engages a number of senses at once.
In the academic studies and hip-hop anthologies, Eminem will stand as a poignant symbol of transition; Mr Mathers transcended racial barriers and social stereotypes, an icon for change and evolution. There has always been a super sensitive, hyper dissection of everything he says, despite the fact that hundreds before him had more or less said the same thing. Unfortunately Hip-hop has evolved into an art form rife with hostility and misogynistic lyrics, so even at his most controversial, it was nothing new.
He is completely perceptive of the artificial world he now inhabits. He is not likely to be seen socialising in exclusively A-list circles or courting the paparazzi. One of my favourite pictures of Eminem was a photo of him leaving Jonathan Ross’ house holding a can of 39p KA (karibbean kola I believe). He is directly intermingled with the most famous faces on earth, but remains on the periphery of celebrity culture. However, a biopic of his life would make for an excellent cinematic breakthrough. It’s his personal story that I find so endearing, the ultimate triumph of the underdog against every single obstacle. A true 20th century Cinderella story of adversity and rags to riches.
I really hope he spent this momentous day and the coming night celebrating a lifetime of perseverance and triumph, with his soundtrack of awe inspiring masterpieces to instil a sense of pride.
Whether you love or loathe him, you probably respect him and if you don’t, you really should. Sometimes disturbing, often controversial whichever way he is perceived, it is undeniable that he at least has the conviction to truly speak his mind. After watching his life documentaries he emerges as a resilient, pensive man. Hardened by life, strengthened by music. A cathartic process of exorcising his demons laces almost all his serious releases, in a devastatingly personal portrait of who he is. I feel privileged that he has shared so much of his life with us.
So Mr Marshall Mathers, I salute you. You are simply phenomenal!