His real name is Marshall Mathers, but you probably know him as Eminem. He is the biggest selling artist of the decade, earning 11 grammies, 1 Oscar, and mountains of criticism for lyrics that are as profane as they are poetic. Whether you are a fan of rap or not Eminem’s life story is an extraordinary tale of success against all odds, a story he hasn’t talked about until now.
To understand how Eminem got ti where he is today, you need to know where he came from, not just a broken home, but a series of them. Raised by a single mom, they lived hand to mouth on and off welfare. Constantly moving from one place to another.
We met up with him in his hometown in Detroit in order to find out how a white kid who never made it past the 9th grade was able to propel himself to the top of a prodominately African American art form.
When Eminem stepped out of the shadows last month in Detroit in front of 40,000 people, it was a triumphant comeback for a superstar who’d all but disappeared. At 37, sober after struggling with addiction for the past 5 years, Eminem has the energy and intensity of a boxer. A fighter trying to win from the crowd “respect”.
Eminem: you know not to sound corny or nothing, I felt like a fight coming up, I felt like i you know I’m being attacked for this reason or that reason and I gotta fight my way through this.
Host: He’s been fighting since he was a kid living on the rough side of Detroit’s Eight Mile, a road dividing the whites suburbs from the mostly black city. Eight Miles also the title of the critically acclaimed movie Eminem started, his character based largely on himself, an aspiring white rapper with a dead end job, a troubled mother, and a dream of escaping his bleak life. You mean you still come back here.
Host: So you had to change schools every couple of months?
Eminem: Yeah, I would change schools two or three times a year, and that was probably the roughest part.
Host: The roughest and and most formative. He was a shy kid in tough public schools and was frequently bullied.
Host: You got beat up a lot as a kid?
Eminem: Yeah there was a lot instances
Host: Got beat up coming home from school.
Eminem: Beat up in bathrooms, beat up in the hall ways, stuffed in the lockers, you know just for, you know for the most part man, you know just being the new kid.
Host: He discovered rap as a teenager and in it’s tough talk and street smart sound he found his voice. After dropping out of high school, he began competing in local rap battles depicted in the movie one on one verbal fights, where the goal was to come up with the cleverest rhymes and he best insults.
Eminem: hip hop is always been about bragging and bosting and I am better than you at this and I am better than you at that and I finally found something that , yeah this kid over here, you know he may have ahh more chicks, like he may have better clothes or what ever, but he can’t do this like me, you know what I mean. He can’t write what I am writing right now and it started to feel like, you know maybe Marshall’s getting a little respect.
Host: That respect was hard won. He was often the only white guy competing in underground clubs like this one. Did you feed off the fact that people maybe underestimated you or didn’t respect you early on?
Eminem: oh definitely, definitely, I think that ah there was certainly like a rebellious like youthful rage kind of In me and there was also you know the fact of the ah the no getting away from fact that I am white you know and this is predominately black music you know and people telling me you don’t belong like you’re not gonna succeed because you’re this color, than you wanna show those people you can and you will.