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[UPDATED] Excerpts: Anthony Bozza/Nick Hasted's Books on Em

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[UPDATED] Excerpts: Anthony Bozza/Nick Hasted's Books on Em

Postby Amaranthine » Apr 7th, '12, 21:36

I own a couple of the books written on Em over the years [The Way I Am, Shady Bizzness, Whatever You Say I Am and The Dark Story of Eminem] and they have some cool stuff. Since we haven't had much in the way of news lately, I thought I'd post some of the most interesting excerpts from the last two for you guys, spark some discussion. There's certainly enough stuff here to keep TRShady busy reading it for a while.

I apologize if the formatting is a little odd in places, I noticed that there are spots in Bozza's excerpts that skip a line, but I really can't be bothered to look through all this and fix them, so deal.

I'm going to let the first set of excerpts sit for a while because that's a lot of shit to read and digest, and then in about a week or so, I'll post the stuff from Hasted's book.

Anthony Bozza - Whatever You Say I Am (2004)
Our journey in 1999 ended in a snowy trailer park, but it began in New York in the bathroom at his manager’s office, where I met Eminem by accident just after he’d finished throwing up a fifth of Bacardi and a slice of pizza. It was all he’d eaten that day but was only an appetizer for what was to follow: three club appearances spiced with four ecstasy caps, chased with ginger ale. Cruising from Staten Island back to Manhattan that night, Eminem was a different kind of tour guide. Riding a high that would floor most people, he was a lyrical Tasmanian devil, spitting couplets at all of us—his manager (Paul Rosenberg), DJ Stretch Armstrong, collaborator Royce Da 5'9", and a few others—that caused combustive laughter, jaw-gaping awe, or, often, red-faced embarrassment for the subject of his well-aimed darts. He was a living, breathing, drinking, falling, and reeling Slim Shady that night. His energy was almost tangible, as if you could see his synapses firing. The bits of stimuli before him flooded into his dilated pupils, coursed over his brain, and were spit back out at us, redefined in rhymes, jibes, and insults impossible to rebut. He commanded the room, the limo, the afterparty, wherever we were, not because we, his entourage, were a doting audience—in fact, there were many wits in the bunch—it was because no one could touch him.

Back home in Detroit, it was business as usual, which meant that Eminem didn’t even have a home. He’d been staying with his friends, or his mother, until she moved away temporarily. When he signed his record deal, he’d bought his mother’s trailer from her, out in what he called “hickville bumfuck,” because his daughter, Hailie Jade, liked it. His mother left Detroit for her native St. Joseph, Missouri, because of some trouble with the state of Michigan. Apparently she’d allowed Eminem’s half brother, Nathan, then about ten years old, to skip too many days of school (the legal limit in Michigan is one hundred). She’d lost custody of him but, after months of appeals and fighting through red tape, had won him back and promptly left town.

After the night of shows and after we’d missed a few planes, I spent the flight talking to Eminem while everyone around us slept. We broke down his broken home, his mother, his grandmother, and the family history that is now the stuff of lyrics. He was very different during that quiet time, as he was on the driving tour of his hometown and as he always is one-on-one. He expressed himself thoughtfully, without boasts or poses. He’s nothing if not kinetic, but it’s a quick, often subtle switch from Shady to Eminem, from Eminem to Marshall, and back again. It seems to happen as soon as you (or he, maybe), think he’s settled into one of them too long. The real Marshall Mathers, the one I met before the fame and have seen less of since, is the most interesting side of him—he’s angry and sensitive, shy and curious. The real Marshall is who America is really consumed with. He’s a whole new paradigm of the white male: talented, humble, proud, mad, frustrated, hateful, and capable of compassion. At his best and worst, Eminem embraces the contradictions at the heart of our society.

It might have been his hangover, or it might have been my empathy and enthusiasm, but Eminem was relieved that he could relate to me, and he told me as much as he’d told any journalist, at first, to the healthy dismay of his eavesdropping manager. I can only guess, but I think it was somewhere in the air between New York and Detroit that Eminem decided to let me be the one journalist he’d arrange to have interview his mother. It was a coup, the Holy Grail found before the search began. The honor did not come without responsibility. For several months after the story was published, Eminem’s mom, then called Debbie Mathers-Briggs, would phone me. Those talks were long, strange, and upsetting, some of the saddest speeches I’ve heard from anyone. We’d chat about Marshall as a child, and from my vantage point on the outside, her recollections sounded like tales of a family making do with what they had and finding happiness in their shared struggle. She would ask me why Marshall hated her now and why he was doing what he was doing to her. She stopped calling after she filed her legendary lawsuit against her son and, I assume, heard that the tape of my initial interview with her would be filed by the defense as evidence, should the case come to trial.

By the time we had wrapped that first session together in Detroit, it was late and Eminem, Hailie Jade, Kim, Paul, Larry Solters (Eminem’s first publicist), and I were in a van humming along the frozen highway to hickville bumfuck. Well past the townships of Warren and St. Claire Shores, where Marshall spent plenty of time earning the minimum wage and miming Tupac and the Beastie Boys in his bedroom mirror, everyone began to nod off, Hailie first, Paul second...Eminem sat on the bench seat in front of me. He had barely slept for three days. He sat erect, staring at the passing road, blinking, thinking, and flicking his hand to the beat. He seemed very far away. Looking back, I see that moment and that night as the final calm before the storm to come for him. As I’ve followed his career since 1999, spent time with him personally, and interviewed him again and again, I’ve seen the effect that that storm has had on him.

It is March 1999 and it is cold in Detroit, the kind of cold that freezedries sound. Snow piled in banks frames the sides of the road and grows higher the farther the avenues ripple out from the center of the city. The roads here are small highways, just two lanes each way. Far from downtown, off the interstate, the roads narrow. The lights are fewer and the trees are taller. Standing not far from one of these byways, ankle deep in snow, I hear the woosh of a lone passing car. Behind me, the
trailer park is silent and as still as a morgue. It is two in the morning. In front of me, a blond guy in baggy clothes trudges up the stairs of a trailer and reads the eviction notice on his front door. “We took care of that one,” Paul Rosenberg says. “Don’t worry about it.” The blond guy doesn’t answer, he just rips it down and opens the unlocked door. “He doesn’t lock it?” I ask. “No,” Paul says. “They’ve had so much shit stolen over the years, he doesn’t give a fuck anymore.” The double-wide trailer is warm, and I sit on the couch. Before me, on the floor in front of the TV, is a much smaller couch. A groggy, swirly-haired little girl curls up on it while her mother readies her bed. Above her on the wall are glossy photos in black frames: two of Eminem and Dr. Dre dressed as patient and analyst for the “My Name Is” video shoot, the other a solo shot of Dr. Dre with a scrawled note that reads, “Dear Marshall, Thanks for the support, asshole” (mimicking Slim Shady’s autograph to a fan
working at White Castle in “My Name Is”). The CD rack holds 2Pac Shakur, Snoop
Dogg, Mase, Babyface, Luther Vandross, and Esthero. On a wall by the kitchen hangs a photocopied list titled “Commitments for Parents.” The first line reads, “I will give my child space to grow, dream, succeed, and sometimes fail.” “My mother moved back to Kansas City, so I bought this trailer from her,” Eminem says, sitting on the couch. “Hailie feels really comfortable here, so I took over
the payments. I’m paying rent for no reason because I’m never here anymore. But when I am, I need a place to stay.” Kim Scott lifts their daughter from her nest and takes her into the second bedroom. Hailie’s bed is dwarfed by a mountain of toys, clothes, and boxes. Kim soothes her in hushed tones. It has been a long day that began tonight; a driving tour not sanctioned by the city’s board of tourism, through the Detroit streets and neighborhoods where Marshall Mathers spent the better part of the past twenty-six years.

“Man, driving through town tonight brought back a lot of memories,” Marshall says, lowering his voice. “I’ve been through a lot of shit, man. If I sit and think back on it, it’s really fucked up. I mean, all my life has been fucked up.” “Now that you’re out of that life, how much does the past bother you? Do you feel sorry that you grew up that way or just unlucky?” I ask. “No, man,” he says. “It’s just my life, that’s it. When you’re living in some fucked-up shit, it doesn’t really seem that fucked up to you when you’re in it. All you think is ‘What am I gonna do now?’ Day to day, I’d have to think about what I was gonna do. Even though I had a job for three years, I wasn’t making enough money to pay any bills. Me and my girl would get a house with my daughter; we could never stay more than three months. I would try to pay rent, always get behind, and we’d get evicted.”

He walks to the kitchen to throw the eviction notice, still crumpled in his hand, into the trash. “The only houses I was able to afford were in the gutter slums of Detroit,” he says. “I lived on Fairport on this shitty block and we had this crackhead that kept breaking in. Me and Kim and Hailie caught him one time. Just after Hailie was born, we walked in the house and there was a crackhead in there and all of our shit was gone. We had got robbed at the house we had been in before this one—cleaned out. So when we walked in and I see the TV gone and I’m like, ‘What the fuck!’ I start screaming, I set
Hailie down, and then I hear all these footsteps coming down the stairs. Oh fuck! So I grab Hailie and run outside and Kim runs out. I shut the door and we’re out on the lawn, wondering what to do. It was only one dude, but he was coming so fast he sounded like a bunch of people.”

He rubs his eyes at the memory. “The guy walks out the back door holding a wrench or something and he sees us out there and he’s like, ‘I seen ’em! They went that way.’ So I didn’t run after him directly, I ran through the house and grabbed the first thing I could find, a frying pan off the stove, and I came through the back door after him. He ran, and I tell you, man, this motherfucker was so cracked out, he hopped over this fucking fence that was huge. He just hopped right over it, and I couldn’t get up anywhere near the top. That whole time was fucked.” Kim closes Hailie’s bedroom door and sits beside her boyfriend on the couch. He looks at her sidelong. “Remember the crackhead?” he says through a smirk at the recollection.

“He left ashes all over the fucking floor, had lunch, and left,” she says with the
kind of annoyance reserved for inefficient salesclerks.

“Yo, this guy felt so comfortable stealing there,” he says, shaking his head. “He broke in three times, and the last time he did, he made a sandwich and left the fucking peanut butter and bread on the counter. And he left his coat there.” “Marshall pissed on it and I took one of Hailie’s shitty diapers and wiped it all over it and left it on the porch,” she says. “And he fucking came back,” he says. “We could never catch that guy. By the time he was done, he’d taken every fucking thing we had except the couches and the beds. This motherfucker took the pillows, pillowcases, clothes, everything you can imagine. He even cleaned out our silverware.”

I look around at the brand-new television, VCR, and the couch we are sitting on, all obviously bought in the past six months, and I realize that Marshall already lives the entertainer’s life. He won’t feel afloat existing in hotels and out of suitcases from now on. He has only known flux for the past twenty years, moving from home to home, living in different cities, changing schools, and working more than he didn’t, at one job or another, since he was fifteen. His anchors in this world are here in his mother’s double-wide: his daughter, Detroit, Kim, and the pen and pad on the counter. There are no mementos of Marshall’s childhood here; they exist in his mind, caught in the chaos he churns into words. Those mental pictures have sold 500,000 albums in just two weeks.

It is later than late now and time for me to go. Kim gets up drowsily and Marshall puts his arm around her. I look around the trailer once more, knowing I’ll never see it again. Soon enough, neither will they. A few weeks later, they will move in with Kim’s mother; some of her neighbors, excited to see Eminem on their block, won’t realize he is actually Marshall, Kim’s boyfriend, the one who has been stopping by off and on since he was sixteen. Just two weeks after the release of a debut that will go on to sell three million copies in one year, garner two Grammys, and inspire a call to censorship by the
editor in chief of Billboard, that Marshall, the one who cooked and cleaned at Gilbert’s Lodge for his minimum wage, is already gone. The cold air wakes me as I crunch through the snow on the stairs. Marshall stands in the doorway, Kim at his side, one of Hailie’s blankets in his hand. He nods a good-bye. Standing there, the next rap superstar doesn’t look dazzling. He looks weary, wary, and
content. He’s as home as he can be.

In 1996, just before Christmas and Hailie’s first birthday, Eminem was fired from his job at Gilbert’s Lodge. He was rehired six months later, this time for a few months, and then fired again, almost exactly to the year. In those interims, he worked where he could, mostly at a Little Caesars Pizza chain. It became so tough to make ends meet while raising Hailie that Eminem stopped rapping and writing for a time. Kim and Marshall fought bitterly, breaking up and making up with schizophrenic regularity. Eventually she moved back in with her family, who had long disapproved of Marshall and made it difficult for him to see his daughter. It was his lowest point, and a time when Marshall Mathers saw suicide as a viable option, nearly ending his journey before it began.

By this time, Eminem had already met Paul Rosenberg, an attorney and onetime rapper he met at the Hip-Hop Shop. Rosenberg had rapped in the early nineties under the name Paul Bunyan, with a group called Rhythm Cartel...Rosenberg met Eminem’s longtime partner Proof at one of these parties and Eminem actually saw Rosenberg perform there before they met. At the time, Rhythm Cartel, Eminem, a transplanted East Coast rapper named Bukari, and DJ Houseshooz were the only white regulars to speak of in the Detroit scene.

Proof introduced Rosenberg to Eminem one night at the Hip-Hop Shop. “The first time I met him,” Rosenberg says, “Proof had him at the Hip-Hop Shop late in the day, after all the freestylers had cleared out. He had him sort of audition for me, although I don’t think Em knew that’s what Proof was doing. He just had Em up there rapping by himself over instrumentals and not too many people were around. I was just checking him out and I thought he was really good. The day we really met was when he had just started selling his Infinite album. All his friends were really excited because he had
product, you know, which was a rare thing. And his was fairly professional-looking compared to what other people’s homemade product was looking like, so he was excited. He was in a battle that day and he won.” At the time, Rosenberg was in his second year in law school, pursuing a degree in music law. He had given up rapping years before, but was intent on representing Detroit’s untapped talent. “I talked to Em after the battle that night, told him who I was, and he was really standoffish and shy, as he usually is when he first meets somebody. I just got his phone number and I bought his tape off him for six bucks. Best investment I ever made.”

Rosenberg became a friend first, a manager-lawyer second, as he is today. Eminem’s circle at the time were his classmates in rap school, the peer group with whom he honed his skills: Proof (born DeShaun Holton), Denaun Porter (a.k.a. Kon Artis), and Rufus Johnson (a.k.a. Peter S. Bizzare). Proof had made his own reputation as a battle MC, an omnipresent figure at Detroit open-mike nights. By the midnineties he’d begun hosting the Saturday night proceedings at Maurice Malone’s Hip-Hop Shop. Proof was Eminem’s mentor and sponsor on the scene, encouraging him to rap at events where
Eminem would otherwise be a spectator, banking his own name on Eminem’s skills. Eminem began to write and rap with Proof and the others, throwing down at the Hip-Hop Shop and other local venues, such as St. Andrew’s Hall, the Rhythm Kitchen, and anywhere else they had the chance. Proof and Kon Artis, whom Eminem approached for production assistance on Infinite, gathered the rap troop that now call themselves D12, short for Detroit Twelve and Dirty Dozen. Proof’s goal in creating D12 was to form a band of MCs in a loose collective like the East Coast’s Wu-Tang Clan. He approached the rappers he felt were skilled but were stylistically on the outskirts of the Detroit scene. The D12 concept evolved further on a car trip back from a rap convention in New York, when Proof floated the idea that each rapper in the group create a dark-half alter ego to allow each of them to experiment with hardcore styles unlike their own. “The whole thing in D12 was to have a personality where you would just say anything,” Proof says. “You just didn’t give a fuck. Your persona was almost like a mask to hide behind, know what I’m sayin’? We all took our different identities, and Em took Slim Shady and he ran with it. He took it way more serious than all of us, that motherfucker.”

“I was taking a shit, swear to God,” Eminem says about the morning he thought up Slim Shady. “I was sitting on the toilet and boom, the name hit me. I started thinking of all of these words I could rhyme with it. So I wiped my ass and got off the pot and went and called everybody I knew. I was like, ‘Bada-boom, badabing, wanna go with it, or no?’ Once I came up with the Shady concept, I wrote the Slim Shady EP in two weeks.”

“The night before I went to the Rap Olympics in L.A., I had to break into that fucking house and sleep on the floor because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. No heat, no electric, everything was shut off. I woke up the next day and went to L.A. I was so fucking pissed then. I had gotten fired from
Gilbert’s for the second time, we got evicted, and that guy ran off—we still haven’t found that motherfucker.”

“[At the Rap Olympics] He was going to do the team battle, but our focus was the individual battle. That battle ended up taking so long that he didn’t get to compete in the team battle. Actually, the individual battle took so long that they didn’t really get to finish the Rap Olympics.”

By the time he reached the Olympics, Eminem was at the end of his rope, financially and spiritually. He was hungry for a break. “Right before the battle in L.A., I took him to a bar,” Rosenberg says. “I said, ‘I know you want to win, but if you don’t, it’s okay. Do your best.’ My god, he was unbelievable. I was sitting in there next to this big black guy and after the first round he shouted, ‘Just give it to the white boy, it’s over. Just give it to the white boy.’”

“I went in there just shitting on everyone, man,” Eminem says of the competition. “I had nothing to lose. I took second place and I was very unused to that. Everyone said I looked like I was ready to cry. And I was so mad. Steaming, dog. I had nowhere to live back home. The winner of Rap Olympics got, like, five hundred dollars. I could have used that, man. Second place got nothing.”

By most reports, Eminem was defeated twice at national MC competitions in 1997 by the same man, J.U.I.C.E., a talented freestyle MC from Chicago, who took first prize away from Eminem at the Rap Olympics as well as Scribble Jam in Cincinnati, Ohio. Many who witnessed both called it a victory for Eminem or a tie that Eminem lost to his competitor’s loyal fanbase or a color bias. Many others don’t even remember who won, just who was good.

Two Interscope assistants, Dean Geistlinger and Evan Bogart, son of deceased disco kingpin and Casablanca Records founder Neil, approached Rosenberg and Eminem after the Rap Olympics. They felt strongly about Eminem but were careful about pushing his music across the boss’s desk. “We stayed in touch with them,” Rosenberg says. At the time he still worked as a personal-injury lawyer and stayed after hours at his firm to call labels on the West Coast on Eminem’s behalf. “At some point I called the guys we knew at Interscope and was like, ‘OK, we’re coming to town; I’m bringing Em out and I want to set up a meeting because he’s starting to get really discouraged.’ There were a whole slew of labels flirting with it, but nobody was biting because he was white. Aside from the moderate success of 3rd Bass, there really hadn’t been a successful, credible white rapper. They thought he was talented, but they were scared of it.”

“When I met Dre I was nervous, man,” Eminem says. “I was just like, ‘what’s up,’ and looked away. I didn’t know what to say to him. I didn’t want to be starstruck or kiss his ass too much. I told him later that I’ve been a fan of his since I was little, since N.W.A. He was like, ‘I didn’t even think you liked my shit.’ I was like, ‘Dog, you’re motherfuckin’ Dr. Dre!’ I’m just a little white boy from Detroit. I had never seen stars, let alone Dr. Dre. That shit was bananas.”

The first day they worked together, Dr. Dre and Eminem recorded four songs in six hours. Two of them, “My Name Is” and “Role Model,” made the album and distinctly defined the Slim Shady persona.

At the 8 Mile premiere, Christina Aguilera gushed, “Everyone has that right to get out and be artistic in any way, shape, or form and express themselves. I’m a big supporter of someone who’s trying to go out there and do their thing.” Barbra Streisand’s reaction was supremely strange: “Most of the language I couldn’t understand,” she said of 8 Mile. “It was like watching a foreign film. But it’s a real slice of life. This kid Eminem is really interesting, I can relate to the truth and I can relate to the emotion and I can relate to him in some strange way. I was raised in the projects, I was born in Brooklyn. We were poor. I relate to that stuff because it’s my heritage. That’s a big part of me, that kid playing in the street.”

Strangest to see, though, was Eminem as the topic of coffee talk on The View in December 2002. Cohost Mererdith Vieira admitted to liking him, as did guest Whoopi Goldberg. A short discussion ensued when the raspy-voiced Joy Behar reviewed 8 Mile as if it were a home movie from the Mathers’ family archive and predicted that Eminem would lose credibility with his fans for appearing vulnerable in the film. “Once a tough guy like that shows he’s vulnerable, it’s over,” she said. “No one wants to see that.”

After the release of 8 Mile, Eminem avoided the spotlight as much as possible. In paparazzi photos he looked somber, and at the forty-fourth Grammys on February 23, 2003, he looked stoic but emotional. After the ceremony, Eminem passed on the parties much as he did at the L.A. premiere for 8 Mile, where he left the business of Hollywood to his costars and ran the red carpet like a fifty-yard dash. Eminem stopped for just one interview that night, with the hosts of a local hip-hop radio station. At the premiere party for the film, he sat surrounded by his friends, separated from the two thousand or so guests by a phalanx of security...He went to Hollywood on his own terms; he showed up, but he didn’t play any game but his own.

“Buuuuhhhhhpp,” the blond kid blurts from inside the bathroom stall. There is silence for a minute, then he emerges, his face red and his eyes watery. He wipes his mouth on his sleeve and leans on the sink. He looks at me, then washes his hands and his face. I don’t know him yet, so I stand a little to the side, not knowing whether to say hello. I must look like I want something from him, maybe just a clear path to the stall, because he stands there tense, his body language betraying his awareness of my presence. When he’s done washing, before I can even say “hey,” he swaggers by me woozily, eyeing me on the way out.

“I just threw up everything I had,” he announces to the people in the conference room down the hall. “All I ate today was that slice of pizza and that fifth of Bacardi. Feel good now, though.” He ducks into his manager’s office, leaving the rest of us, his fellow rapper Royce Da 5'9" and his boys, Dennis the security guard, and me to chat among ourselves. When he comes back in, it is to crack jokes on every topic in the air and every person in the room but me. Sure, he sees me, but he says nothing to me for the first twelve hours that I’m in his orbit. It’s a blessing and a curse: I’m never the target of his pointed jokes, but that only means that to him I don’t exist.

Two hours later, nine of us get into two limos, one of them white and immense, the other black and shorter. DJ Stretch Armstrong ducks his lanky frame through the car door and sits next to Eminem; he is singing, as he was in the elevator, an appropriate interpretation of a Cream song: “In the white room, with white people and white rappers.” The long white limo is now full; Eminem is deepest in, sitting behind the passenger seat. His manager and bodyguard are on one side, and as I get in, I am last on the bench...There is a rap at the window and the security guard rolls it down. A guy in a hood looks in at me with his hand out, nodding for me to do the same. I do and a pile of pills falls into my hand. I feel a kick in my knee and turn to see Eminem, crouched forward with his arm outstretched,
holding money at me. I exchange the pills for the cash through the window. Eminem’s manager, Paul, puts his head in his hands. “I don’t believe this. Are you fucking stupid?” he says. “Do you know what you just did? The guy from Rolling Stone just bought your drugs. That’s it, fuck it. You’re on your own tonight.” Paul gets out of the car. He will rejoin us when we leave thirty minutes later.

“Hey, Paul, you’re already fired, you fat fuck,” Eminem yells at the slammed door. “You’re so fired and rehired, you’re tired, you skinny fat fuck! Fuck you, you baldfat fuckin’ fuck. Fuck you fuckin’ fuck, your life, it’s over.” Eminem loves the word fuck. He uses it like a basketball player uses a dribble, to get from here to there. “Ohh, yeahh,” Stretch Armstrong says, imitating Eminem’s lecherous gay character, Ken Kaniff, from his albums’ skits. “Paul’s sexy when he’s mad. Oh, yeah.”
Ken Kaniff was the goof persona of underground rapper Aristotle, who recorded a skit of a prank phone call to Eminem on The Slim Shady LP. After the album’s success, as with so many relationships ruptured by unequal fame, Aristotle and Eminem had a falling out over who had the right to play Ken. On his next records, Eminem, an able mimic of any voice, performed the Ken Kaniff skits. For his part, Aristotle recorded anti-Eminem songs in the Ken Kaniff persona and set up a website to sell an album of Ken Kaniff raps.

“Yo, pass me a ginger ale,” Eminem says. “I need some shit to settle my stomach.” He swallows a hit of ecstasy with his first gulp. “Ohh, Eminem, yeah, I bet you melt in the mouth, not in the hand,” Stretch says, bugging out his eyes and baring his teeth. “Ohh, yeah, you fuckin’ fuck,” Eminem says. “Fuck you, you fuckin’ fuck. You’re Stretched, you fuck. You’re so thin you can’t spin, you skinny fat fuck.”

As the E starts to hit him, Eminem becomes a word dervish, a rhyme tornado, a spaz, and a force that can’t be reckoned with. In most people, ecstasy brings on a state of bliss. In Eminem, it brings out Slim Shady. Right now Slim Shady is cranked up to eleven and bristling with energy he can’t contain. His drug-fueled rhymes are sharp, and he cannot sit still. When the radio catches his ear, he’ll rap along perfectly with OutKast’s “Rosa Parks” or DMX’s “Ruff Ryders Anthem,” until the next bit of stimuli redirects him. At a red light, behind the blacktinted windows that keep the New York noise out and the riders’ noise in, he starts talking to the Sikh cabdriver next to us in Shady’s version of Hindi.

“S’cuse me, talkin’ a me, no?” he says, banging hard on the window. “S’cuse me fuckin’ a talkin’ a me? No? I’m a fuckin’ a talkin’ a you!” The man sits resolute and unaware, less than a foot away through the glass. He doesn’t hear and doesn’t respond, so Slim Shady fills in his half of the dialogue, too, all the while banging on the window. He’s soon conducting both sides of the “conversation” in a wacked-out language known only to him. The rest of us can’t even hear it because we’re laughing so hard.

“You’re all fired!” he yells at us, as the cab pulls away. “You fat fuckin’ fucks!” At the next light, a couple sits next to us in a Lexus. “Oh, yeahh,” Eminem says. “Mmm, yeah. Ohh, yeah. I’m Ken Kaniff from Connecticut. Can I ride with you? I wanna ride in that car of yours, mmm, yeah.” The more oblivious the other motorists, the more incited the joker. When a nearby driver suspects something, it kills us even more; the poor guy might hear Eminem pounding on the window or might be trying to divine who is in the stretch, but when he stares at Slim Shady while the rapper screams, “Oh, talkin’ a me!,” it’s like witnessing a police lineup, performance art, The Tom Green Show, and the greatest Candid Camera episode ever imagined, all combined.

“Somebody tell Paul he’s fired,” Eminem says. “Right now. Fire that fat fuck. Then rehire him. He’s over. He’s done. His life is garbage. Ay yo, Paul, what’s up?” At the opposite end of the limo, Paul cocks his head and looks at Eminem, then back out the window.

Eminem is starting to burn—his face is flushed and his eyes are wild and hungry. They twinkle with the unbalance of a madman and the steel focus of an athlete; his pupils are the size of pennies. Five blocks from Staten Island’s Club Carbon we see it: a mass of kids in the street, blocking traffic. It’s hard to tell how big the club is, but this mob looks big enough to fill it—and they’re the kids who didn’t make it inside. They are a teen amoeba on the blacktop: Every time a car comes through, they separate in blobs to let it pass, then rejoin. The limo creates a frenzied reaction. As we inch slowly into the crowd, the kids realize that the show has arrived and they move in to consume it. They surround the car entirely, forming a layer of insulation between us and the building. Guided by two
harried beat cops trying to direct traffic, the limo turns around slowly, honking constantly, and pulls up to the curb. Kids are trying to look in, waving, banging on the windows, and pulling the door handles. “Look at this place, man,” Eminem says, dead serious for a moment. “Fuckin’ fuck.”

“Staten Island in the house,” Stretch Armstrong says, grinning ear to ear. “We’ve got white rap in the house, Staten Island. We’ve got white people and white rappers in this white car for you.” We sit in the limo at the curb and wait while the police and venue security clear a path for us. Along with Eminem’s bodyguard, we form a phalanx at the car door as the crowd starts to freak out. The kids push forward, some getting stuck between the cops and our ride, some climb over the limo’s wide hood. They yell at Eminem, or just about him, as if he were in front of them, not live, but still in two dimensions, on their MTV. “You look good!” shouts one girl, who can’t be more than fifteen. “Oh my gawd, he looks so much better in person,” another says, as much to us as to her friends. We are in a tight circle, being pushed and pulled along, the kids packing in against the guards who can’t quite surround us. It is slow going, like swimming upstream, and we won’t fit through the doors of the venue without breaking rank. I’m holding on to one of the crew members as we push through the doors, flattening a few teenagers on the way. I start slipping behind as bodies push in against me and try to break our human chain. Eminem’s security guard pulls me forward by the neck of my shirt just before I’m squeezed out of the pocket and into the mob. Kids are screaming all of his names
now—Shady! Em! Slim!—and trying to high-five him over the human wall.

Waiting in the room, between boxes of plastic cups, is a man sporting Sopranos chic. “Hey, nice ta meet ya,” says the club owner in a thick Staten Island accent. “This is our big night. My daughter told me to get Eminem, so I got Eminem. It’s her fourteenth birthday today. Come on over here, say hi to her and her friends.”

Eminem is ruddy, bewildered, high, and suddenly shy. He looks pissed off. But he switches gears, takes off his coat, and poses for pictures while answering statements pronounced as questions, such as “You’ve got a cool video?” The girls say little beyond how much they totally love “My Name Is.” When his guests leave, Eminem retreats to a back corner by the chips and salsa with his stage gear: a towel and four bottles of water. He sits backward on a chair, resting his arms on its top. He is brewing, silently fuming. He’s quiet for the first time in hours, giving Paul Rosenberg a break in the hire-fire cycle and not talking to or about anyone else in the room. The rest of us chat, Stretch Armstrong cracks jokes as we all steal looks at Eminem. I’m trying to read him; wondering how much of his static stare is raw intensity how much meditation, how much preparation or chemical side effects. I’m wondering if he’s freaked by the crowd, their numbers, ferocity, or demographic. He must see, as I do, that these aren’t all underground hip-hop heads; these are MTV kids waiting to see him, their Total-ly Request-ed favorite, Live.

We climb down the ladder and once again fall into a tight pack, gripping each other’s clothes and pulling and pushing our way to where the screen used to be. These predominantly white kids are in such a frenzy, shouting, waving, and shoving so much that our entire entourage is coralled onto the tiny stage. We take positions along the back wall, forming a semicircle that touches the front edge of the stage at both ends. We’re told by venue security, military style, that after the last song we must immediately exit stage right, where police officers will escort us through the side door into the alley to our vehicles. Venue management and the present law enforcement officials are concerned about the possibility of a riot. I stand third from the edge of stage right, an arm’s reach from kids piled on top of each other.

Eminem heads over to the front of the stage, in front of me, and leans out over the audience. One of his more aggressive female fans reaches up and grabs his crotch, then looks at her friend with the wide-eyed pride of a victorious daredevil. Her friend gives her an “I don’t know” look, spying Eminem’s crotch where it hovers a foot in front of her face before she foists a demure grab of it. If Eminem feels the action through his baggy pants and boxer shorts, it doesn’t show; he’s so engaged in rapping the third verse of the song that it sounds like he may inhale the mike. He’s rattling off words, and heaving, and he looks like he might fall down, but instead he wanders back to the front of the stage as the beat stops and for a second there is silence.

“I touched his dick!” one of the two girls says loudly to the other. “I love you!” screams a different girl, directly in front of him, with her arms outstretched. “I love you, too,” he says, and in a moment of ecstasy-fueled affection and poor judgment bends over to give her a hug. She lays a kiss on his lips, and instantly the girl next to her clasps his head with talon-tipped hands and pries his face away. She kisses him, completely, with opened mouth and tongue. A forest of arms reaches out and nearly
pulls Eminem forward into the crowd. “Ohhh, shit!” he says, pulling free and falling back on his ass. “I’m going to jail tonight!”

...We pile into the car, flushed with the adrenaline rush of our exit. As we wait for the police to clear a drivable path, a sexy young girl who looks no more than fifteen taps on the window, inches from Eminem. “I want to fuck you,” we see her say. She pulls down the front of her halter top, exposing all of her cleavage. She flicks her pierced tongue at the window. “I want to fuck you, too,” Eminem says. “But I won’t.” He looks at her a moment longer and then sits back, his head deep in the corner of the seat, his eyes darting about, taking us in.

“Hey, you fuckin’ fucks! Why is everybody so quiet, you fuckin’ fat skinny fucks! Fuck you, you fuckin’ fucks! You’re so quiet, you’re tired, you’re so boring, you’re snoring, you’re so garbage, your life is over!”

In his first appearance on MTV’s TRL, the same week The Slim Shady LP was released, the rapper was subtly hilarious. The show’s co-guest of the day was pop-rapper-turned-underwear-model-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg, there to promote his current film, Three Kings, to the channel’s teen audience.

“Marky Mark, fucking asshole. Bastard prick,” Eminem told me about that day on TRL. “I don’t know what the fuck his problem was. He walked up in there like fuckin’ ‘What, is there supposed to be some fucking tension in here?’ He’s a fucking little faggot. I’m standing with Carson Daly and we’re off air. And some dude who works for MTV tells us Mark Wahlberg is coming in, says he’d appreciate it if we don’t call him Marky Mark. I thought that was kinda funny. I wasn’t planning on doing that shit anyways. Little fucking homo. Then he comes up and he’s standing on the side when we was off air and he’s like, ‘What, is there supposed to be some fucking tension in here or something?’ I pretended like I don’t hear him and shit. Then we’re on air and Carson calls him on set and I’m like, ‘What up, Mark?’ He shakes my hand but he don’t even look at me. He goes, ‘Where do you want me to stand?’ Carson’s like, you can just stand there. I’m like, ‘We’ll just stand around here like one big fun bunch!’ So I threw a stab at him. He didn’t want me to say Mark-y. Probably didn’t want me to say funk-y neither.” Eminem punctuated the “fun” moment with a bug-eyed look at the camera. Wahlberg looked as if he had forgotten his next line in a scene.

“Marky looked away and shit when I said that,” Eminem said, “with a look that was like ‘fuckin’ dick.’ So Carson congratulates me on my sales for the week and Marky Mark is like, ‘Oh, you got an album out?’ Fucking dick! Nah, you fucking bitch. You already heard it everywhere, you fat fuck. You probably got six copies, you fucking little queer. After I leave, Carson and Mark are talking about Korn on the air and Marky Mark says, ‘I like Korn. Ice Cube turned me on to them. I usually don’t like white people who do music, though.’ Trying to throw another stab at me I guess. What the fuck is he? Because he don’t do music now, he don’t like white people who do music? How’d he do albums? I’ve never even mentioned his fucking name anywhere!”

“Eminem’s style is incredible,” Dr. Dre said a few months after finishing up The Slim Shady LP. “He has his own thing and he sounds like nothing else out there. He’s saying some shit your average MC isn’t even going to think about. He has this one line on ‘Role Model’ that sticks out for me, it’s kind of grotesque: ‘Me and Marcus Allen were buttfucking Nicole, when we heard a knock at the door, must have been Ron Gold [sic].’ You know what I mean? It’s dope, it’s entertaining, it’s just bad taste.”...“Nobody is excluded from my poking at,” Eminem says. “Nobody. I don’t discriminate, I don’t exclude nobody. If you do something fucked up, you’re bound to be made fun of. If I do something fucked up, I’ll make fun of myself—I’m not excluded from this.”

“I remember the first time I saw Eminem rap,” says Sway Calloway, MTV News correspondent and host of the influential L.A. radio show, The Wake Up Show. “I noticed how he really assumed this identity when he started to rap. He looked kind of weird in the face, kind of crazy, and that was his thing. He was this little white guy, who when he rapped, looked kind of like a jerking mannequin. Every punch line he would jerk and bob his head really hard and he was saying the craziest shit, just the most extreme, outlandish, and really humorous metaphors. Before he showed up at our show the first time and I saw him do his thing, I remember we had a copy of his tape, I think it was just the Slim Shady EP on cassette. We were the first people in L.A., on commercial radio at least, to play ‘Just Don’t Give a Fuck.’ At the time, that was very extreme; nobody would dare to touch that lyrical content. But we banged it right off the cassette because this guy was just so extreme and crazy as shit, sayin’ ‘Fuck the world, like Tupac,’ and telling you ‘put my tape back on the rack.’ That’s funny shit.”

“I do most of my stuff at my home studio,” Eminem says. “I make the beat and, depending on how late it is, I’ll either write the rap there or wait until the next day. I’m taking whole days to write songs now—before I might do them in twenty minutes. Once I lay down the vocals, then I see what the beat can do, where it can drop out, what else can come in—most of that shit I learned from watching Dre. Sometimes, though, I get a couple of lines in my head and find a rhythm for them, then I’ll go downstairs and make the beat to that rhythm. That’s why a lot of my drum patterns are kinda crazy and offbeat, because they were made to follow my rhyme. Now more than ever I try to make my rap go right with the beat. I listen to my older shit, even from just two years ago, from the second record, and I can’t stand it. I think I fell behind the beat too much.”

“I was out in Detroit to shoot pictures of his house where he grew up and bits and pieces all around town for the inside of The Marshall Mathers album,” Jonathan Mannion says. “Afterward we were hanging out and I had heard just a couple of the songs they had finished for the album and a couple of others that were just vocal tracks and I was already, like, blown away. So he says he’s going to play one more and he puts on ‘The Way I Am.’ And he spit that, word for word, the whole thing, man. I took my friend’s camera right out of his hand and started shooting, like, ‘Sorry, man, give me that.’ Just to hear that song for the first time with him spittin’ it like that. Oh my God, I was floored, the kid was just fucking amazing. He’s out of here, no question.”

“I fucking hate ‘My Name Is,’” Eminem said in 2002. “I didn’t hate it when I first made it. When I do a record now, there’s an instinct thing that kicks in when a song could be big. When I listen to a song a few times and it starts to become cheesy to me, that’s when I know it could be a big record. Like ‘The Real Slim Shady,’ that started to get cheesy to me and I said, ‘I think people may like this.’ You know, the shit I really, really put my heart and soul into I don’t get recognized for. My serious shit like ‘The Way I Am’ is where I really dump out my true feelings. There’s a difference between being funny and being real and I feel like I don’t get recognized for the real shit, my best shit.”

“I sampled ‘Dream On’ for ‘Sing for the Moment,’ and Aerosmith cleared it,” Eminem says. “That’s really great of them because it’s one of my favorite songs in the world. I was talking to Steven Tyler about it the other day and he said some true shit. He said if I have to make songs that appeal to everybody—like to get people to listen to my realer songs—that’s what I’ll do. Basically, my theory is the same: If I have to make cheesy songs to get people to listen to my harder songs, then that’s what I’ll do. That’s the theory that everyone in the business sticks with but it’s cool to see, especially those guys, they’ve been in the business so long, it’s great to hear that you have the same
theories. You gotta play the fucking game, man, you gotta play the game I guess.”

Eminem is a perfectionist, a rapper who prefers the studio to the club and who has evolved into a producer quickly. “He’s a studio jockey, man,” Dr. Dre says. “He wants to get in there and make records. I admire that kind of energy, it keeps me on my toes.” Eminem’s growing production prowess is in the rolling, bombastic vein of his mentor, but with a rock-and-roll sense of drama.

“It really bugs me out that Eminem has this conception of himself that he thinks his older music was silly and his real music is this incredibly grimacing method acting shit he does,” says Village Voice critic Frere-Jones. “I thought that early music was a little bit happy and maybe him being a little bit silly, but none of it is exactly happy; it’s a strange hybrid of happy and twisted.”

[Of the psuedo-gangsta persona] “His persona, to me, has changed almost entirely for the worst,” says Sasha Frere-Jones. “But to be sympathetic to him, instead of just looking at the text of all the shit that happened to him in the last two years, with him hitting people you could see him
completely mythologizing himself. He got famous really quickly, seized up, thinking everyone’s looking at him and thinking he has to act tough, doing all this stupid shit because he’s in this tornado of people looking at him all the time and asking him for things. That’s also just what happens to people. We should all be glad he’s not dead, because it wouldn’t have been very surprising.”

“I don’t know if you’re going to see Slim Shady more on the next album,” says Eminem’s publicist Dennis Dennehy. “With the stuff going on around him, and I don’t mean this in a bad way, but he’s had a lot less fun. It has nothing to do with his probation, he’s just working his ass off. He’ll hang out with his friends and have a good time, but he doesn’t take a break. He is always working and thinking about music. Everything that happened to him in the past year and a half was a lot more serious than what came before that. The music that’s going to come out of a time like that is definitely going to be more serious. If you look at it as Eminem, Slim Shady, and Marshall Mathers, he hasn’t had a lot of room for Slim Shady in his life lately.”

There is a twelve-pack of Mountain Dew on the floor, hip-hop magazines on the coffee table, a big FedEx box on a chair, and an enormous security guard outside in the hallway.

“So I was thinking,” Eminem says. “About the angle for this here article. And I think it should be all about what school I went to and how I dropped out.”

“I’m with you,” I say, smirking. “That’s a good place to start. And then I’d like to cover your family life, and I’m kind of wondering if you’ve ever felt, as a rapper, judged for your race?”

“Well, you know, not really, no,” he says, picking at his food. “And I’ve got a good relationship with my family. I spend most of the day with all of them. We just sing songs and pick flowers. And that’s me, that’s just all the me there is to me. We done?”

“Yeah, I think that covers it. Well, just one more question, I was wondering, doyou get any kind of presidential treatment in this room? Does it come with, like, hotel Secret Service or some Oval Office special massage or something?”

“Yeah, you get dirty whores,” Eminem says with the half-cocked smile of a kid about to pop a wheelie. “You want to get some? We can get some dirty whores up here. We could get my mom up here.”

Eminem has done other interviews today, some for television, some for England, and at least one for another magazine, but I don’t think those started like this. Then again, you never know. He’s one-third slaphappy and two-thirds tired, as if he’s coming down from a Mountain Dew rush, even though the box is unopened. This is his first meal today, but he’s not complaining. I flash back to how he could barely contain his energy back in 1999. He seesawed between manic and shy in proportion to the size of the crowd. He was living moment to moment then, expecting the roller-coaster ride to end.

“So I’m thinking,” I say, “that we should forget the music—no one who reads Rolling Stone cares about it anyway—and make up new rumors about you, because everybody knows all the old ones. We could call the article “Eminem, the Born Again.” Or “Eminem, Saved by Scientology.” What do you think? Would the public bite?”

“The public?” Eminem says. “Oh, I’ve got something for them to bite on. Yes, I do. And I feel like I have a story to tell, man. I’ve got things to say. But I’ve got a better idea. We’ll sit here, crack jokes for two days, and then you can just read The Source interview I just did and then rewrite my bio. Fuck it, we’re done! Let’s go.”

Eminem looks healthier than he has in the last four years—his skin is clear and he is toned from the workout regime he started for his film debut in 8 Mile. There is a clarity to him I’ve not seen before, a kind of bright-eyed aura coupled with restraint. At first his new mood seems odd to me. In a few days, I’ll realize that this is Eminem calmer than he’s been for the better part of his life. The past year for him was sobering, dotted with lawsuits, his divorce, Kim’s suicide attempt, and his two-year probation sentence. Professionally, his responsibilities were daunting: a film, producing and writing for three albums, touring. The pressure in his personal life has lifted, but his professional trials
haven’t even begun. I know why he’s calm. He can handle the entertainment. It’s life that’s scary.

I watch Eminem pick through the rest of his food, and I listen to him talk about the calm he enjoys in Detroit. His speech has changed, too. The stretched vowels of his hip-hop patois are now a clean Midwestern dialect for the most part. He is still quick to respond when he’s passionate about a topic, but now he takes his time to structure the answer. When my tape recorder is rolling, Eminem is forthcoming, but the situation is more of an interview than it has ever been. We break up the questions with the kind of banter that editors cut and only musicians and fans care about, discussing in nontechnical terms (i.e., “I like old keyboards because you can get those, like, music-box kind of sounds.”) the science of mixing and mastering, the uncelebrated genius of the Pharcyde’s first album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, and the side effects of overanalyzation (paralysis, paranoia) brought on by too many interviews or too much psychotherapy, which are more or less one and the same. We skip tangentially over the past two years of his life and the album and film that capture and
encapsulate it, and I feel like he’s practicing, testing out subjects and answers for future meetings with writers he doesn’t know. In the months to follow, I see some of those same answers in print in other magazines, said better than today, with the afterthoughts born of repetition.

Eminem sits hip-hop style in a lounger: leaned way back, legs akimbo, one arm hanging over the armrest, a pose at once stately and disheveled. We’re talking about the pains he’s taken to be clear in his lyrics on The Eminem Show, about how he’s tired of being misinterpreted, about how the controversy in the past few years took attention away from the music. We’re talking about the mainstream press, the mainstream listener, the casual MTV viewer tuning in to Eminem for the first or second time and whether they’ll see “Without Me,” the first single from The Eminem Show, for its high-speed irony. I ask him if he thinks fans and critics who have followed him from the beginning will
appreciate a thematically heavier Eminem. His eyes widen and he stares straight ahead at the horizon, along the top of his right Nike Air Max where it rests on the coffee table. He’s seized by a thought. I’ve seen him this way before. We were on a plane and Eminem was talking about his mother, he was telling me a story about food poisoning and hot dogs and about being arrested on his birthday. He froze like he did now in the retelling, picked up a pad covered with his small, crooked scrawl, and proceeded to scribble rhymes with his left hand, keeping time with his right. He doesn’t do that now; this Eminem has probably already made a lyric of this feeling.

“I have to tell it like it is,” Eminem says, not looking up from his shoe. “What I sit around and talk about, you know, I have to go say to the world, otherwise what would I be? If I’ve got any balls at all, I’ll come out and say it, which is what I do. That latest Source article—I’m just not happy about it. I felt like there could have been more said and it could have been said in a different way. Whatever.”

In the magazine’s “Quotables” column, copy devoted to the best rhyme of the month, Eminem felt his best rhymes never made it to their pages. “It’s funny, it’s like that, though,” Eminem says. “Every rapper, especially me, always dreams of getting a Quotable in The Source. When that magazine first started, it was the bible of hip-hop to me. The first thing me and my friends would do is open it to see whose verse got the Quotable—whoever it was was God for that month. I’ve gotten
them now, but the shit I’ve gotten Quotables for is, to me, not my best shit. I can’t believe I got a Quotable for my verse in ‘Forgot About Dre.’ To me, that’s nothing compared to my third verse in ‘Criminal.’ In all my songs, I try to start the song off real slow, then in the second verse I amp it up a little bit, and the climax is the third. I think that last verse in ‘Criminal’ is one of my best. Or my verse in ‘Fight Music’ on the D12 record. The things of mine that I like most get slept on, and the shit that’s routine for me ends up becoming Quotables. It’s weird.”

“I know that plenty of artists, not just rappers, who sell a lot of records are looked up to and sometimes it’s deserving and sometimes not,” Eminem says. “A lot of people could be saying that I don’t deserve it. You know, failure has always been the scariest and biggest motivation for me, just the fear of losing and somebody getting the last laugh on me. In the back of my mind my worst fear is that I wake up tomorrow and I won’t be able to write nothing. That’s why this is good. If people stop writing about me tomorrow I might not have shit to write about. If there’s not drama and negativity in my life, and all that shit, my songs would be really wack. They’d just be boring.”

“No one will admit to it,” Interscope Records president of publicity Dennis Dennehy said in early 2003, “but when I started doing the press on The Slim Shady album, Eminem had done a few big
interviews, and at the tail end of it we tried to get him higher profile press and some TV spots. He’d sold two million records and people didn’t want him on their shows. At that point, people at the big shows and the others were like, ‘Eh, I don’t know.’ I don’t want to name names, but it was a bit of a hard time. It was actually difficult, because he got a lot of press, but there was an attitude like ‘this is a fad,’ and people questioned whether he would even be around for the next album. Of course, all of those people were delightfully proven wrong.”

Major-label publicity folk receive a pile of clippings every morning; faxes of the press their artists have garnered overnight. Dennehy has watched Eminem’s pile grow rapidly in the last year alone; at the height of the hype, it reached two inches daily, then leveled out at around an inch.

“If you look at the press he’s done, in terms of the quantity,” he says, “it’s been fairly static, album to album to album. He always does about the same number of real interviews—it’s the stuff around him that’s grown. It’s gone from press interest to press fervor on the Marshall Mathers LP, when he was public enemy number one, to a long and heated debate that’s still going on, about whether it’s okay to like him or not. When this started, I had friends giving me crap for working with him at all.”

Anyone who missed that Eminem is a card-carrying member of the hip-hop nation, from his walk to his product, wasn’t spending enough time on him. This wasn’t a charade by a clown who learned rap from MTV, it was a deft underground MC who had paid his dues.

“There were a few other underground rappers coming up when Eminem did who stood out as innovative lyricists,” says Sway Calloway, MTV News correspondent and longtime cohost of the influential L.A. hip-hop radio show The Wake Up Show. “Eminem found a way to do things better. And Eminem stayed on the grind. He just continued to come by our show and drop freestyles. I got so much stuff that he did. He was doing his footwork. And the thing about him I noticed each time I saw him back then—and it’s still going on—is that he keeps getting better and better. He came to our studio to record ‘Get You Mad’ [on Sway and King Tech’s 1999 album, This or That], and that’s when I first started noticing, damn, this dude keeps getting better. His metaphors are ridiculous. I could just tell he wasn’t going to run out of things to say or how to say them after one album. So many rappers do when they lose touch with the reality that got them there in the first place.”

Eminem’s first high-profile detractor was Timothy White, the deceased Billboard editor in chief. White devoted his page-long column the week The Slim Shady LP came out to a benefit album for Respond, an organization for battered women, as part of his denouncement of the misogyny in Eminem’s music, which he felt perpetuated cycles of violence against women and made “money off the world’s misery.” Eminem made White insult fodder in “Bitch Please II,” from The Marshall Mathers LP, and speculated on the validity of White’s assertions in “Criminal” and other songs.

“He’s a fucking asshole,” Eminem said about White the week the Billboard issue hit newsstands. “Fucker. He took everything I said so fucking literally it disgusts me. He should be able to tell when I’m serious and when I’m not—it’s not fucking rocket science. He didn’t even realize that ‘Guilty Conscience’ was a concept song. It’s about the way people are in the fucking world and how evil always seems to outweigh good, whether it’s in your conscience or in the world and in America especially. In the song, we’re talking about the devil half of you and the angel half of you. Nine times out of ten, the devil’s gonna win.”

If he hadn’t had street cred from the start, he’d have never even made it out of Detroit. As it was, getting out was a feat in itself. “We talked to everybody, every label,” Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, says about landing Eminem a record deal. “I mean, at the point that he did get signed by Dre, we just wanted a deal. Everybody passed on him. To them, it was a risk. Most people don’t officially pass on an act; they sort of string you along because if something happens they don’t want to be sitting there looking like a dickhead. So that’s how they handled it. They didn’t know what they had, but, honestly, neither did we.”

“The controversy didn’t surprise me,” Eminem says. “I knew there was something coming. I didn’t know exactly what it was yet, but Dre told me I’d better get ready for some shit. He was like, ‘You’re gonna go through it. Believe me, I went through it with N.W.A.’ But I had no idea all of that was gonna happen. You know, selling all the records I sold off The Marshall Mathers LP out the gate was strange to me. Not that I feel undeserving or anything like that, but I was just like, ‘Holy fuck, this is me doin’ this.’ That’s the biggest weirdest thing to live with. I had no choice but to get used to it. But it’s still strange.”

“Somebody called me during that time, around The Marshall Mathers LP, who is a homosexual,” recalls publicist Dennis Dennehy. “He’s with a website and he supports art that’s labeled obscene—Robert Mapplethorpe and other artists that Middle America find obscene. He called me to say that of all the controversial art he does support, he could not support Eminem. Yeah, you know, because it pissed him off. It’s fine to promote art that doesn’t piss you off, that pisses someone else off. But once it strikes a nerve, it’s a different story. You’ll defend something until it actually affects your world.”

To hip-hop fans, Eminem was different, but the harsh themes and violence in his music weren’t too terribly new. But the attention afforded him indicated a subtle racial prejudice. Eminem’s opponents, by singling him out, suggested that the same themes, as chronicled by black rappers, were somehow more acceptable. “I think it was about the messenger,” Sia Michel, Spin magazine’s editor in chief, says of the controversy surrounding The Marshall Mathers LP. “It was sort of this kind of weird racism, where it was like, ‘Oh, well, you know how those gangsta rappers are, they say lots of crazy shit.’ As if we don’t expect anything more from them. And then a couple of years later, the white guy comes out saying similar things and it’s like, totally shocking. This white, blond man is saying these things, we’re going to take umbrage at this. It is kind of racist, just assuming that Eminem should be any less violent or use any less offensive language than anybody else, simply because of his race. It was harder for people to stomach.”

NOW [National Organization for Women] must have been dismayed by Madonna’s open letter to the Los Angeles Times in defense of Eminem: “Since when is offensive language a reason for being
unpopular? I find the language of George W. [Bush] much more offensive. I like the fact that Eminem is brash and angry and politically incorrect. At least he has an opinion. He’s stirring things up, he’s making people’s blood boil, he’s reflecting on what’s going on in society right now. This is what art’s supposed to do. And after all, he’s just a boy.”

The first time I met Eminem, I asked him about the effect of his music on kids who may be too young to tell when he’s joking and when he’s not. He answered me then as he has everyone who has asked since. “My music is not for younger kids to hear,” he said. “That’s why there’s an advisory sticker on it. You must be eighteen to get it. That doesn’t mean that kids won’t. I got 2 Live Crew tapes when I was twelve. I’m not responsible for every child out there. I’m not a role model and I don’t claim to be. It’s what the song ‘Role Model’ says. I say that I do everything in the song, but it’s all fucking sarcasm. How can people not get it? … That’s fucking ridiculous. It’s obviously saying, ‘You wanna grow up to be just like me? Fuck no, you don’t!’ The message is: Whatever I say, do the opposite. You do that, you’ll be good, because my whole life is the opposite of good.”

Eminem’s duet with Elton John at the ceremony was calculated to soften his tag as a homophobe. But Eminem couldn’t resist stirring the waters again shortly after the event, claiming in an interview that he wasn’t aware that Elton John was gay. The truth of the matter was seen backstage at the Brit Awards, the U.K. equivalent of the Grammy Awards, later in the year, when a writer from London’s Daily Express observed Eminem, standing in the backstage bar, having a drink with his crew and being watched but left alone by the cream of the Brit pop-music scene, when he was greeted by John with a huge bear hug and a “Come here, darlin’!” If anyone still wondered about his views at that point, Eminem the homophobe didn’t flinch or shy away from John, he just grinned.

“It amazes me that people can’t see that what he is doing is a performance,” John told the reporter that night. “He plays a part onstage and he pushes buttons. I think he’s incredible as a performer and a person. The music industry needs people who can be subversive. As a nonsubversive songwriter, I particularly appreciate and admire his lyrics. I spent three days with him in America and I can tell you, he’s very calm, very modest, very sweet, and very shy.”

“His profile now is that he’s obviously here to stay, he’s obviously an artist with something to say,” Interscope Records head of publicity Dennis Dennehy says. “There’s no longer a debate about whether he is viable, or appropriate. The cultural argument, in this new world, is whether there’s any point in getting wound up about this stuff anymore—obviously America’s got more serious problems. Then it was the movie and more people talking about him. I wouldn’t say he’s a media darling, though. People, of course, want to talk to him, because who wouldn’t tune in to see it. Even the people who hate him all want him on the show. The people who spend hours deriding him in the media? They all want him on the show.”

Despite across-the-board praise, there are still two critics of stature in America who have not altered their stance against Eminem. Music critic Jim DeRogatis doesn’t see the voice of a generation in Eminem; he sees a packaged product—a rebel yell manipulated by Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre, and Interscope Records, as he said in an interview for this book.

“We’re talking about Generation Y, the second largest generation of teenagers in American history. There are seventy-two million kids in Generation Y, after seventy-six million of their parents, who are the Baby Boom generation. There’s a mere seventeen million of us Generation Xers sandwiched in between them. This is a consumerist generation so far, and the vast majority of Generation Y has yet to wake out of its consumerist slumber. I think of the pod people in The Matrix, everybody plugged into the machine. It’s a video game, television society, and everything can be solved with a quick trip down to Abercrombie and Fitch—and Eminem plays into that. He is product on exactly the same level that Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera and everybody else that he’s made fun of in his lyrics is. There is no difference, except that his tactic is cheap sensationalism and shock, as opposed to showing your fake boobs like Britney. Pop music is inherently disposable trash, and I’m not saying there can’t be great pop along those lines. But rarely has there been great pop that gives you that quick sugar fix, that had so much hatred intertwined, whether it’s hatred for specific people or hatred for groups of people. If you have a serious problem with a woman, to fantasize about killing her and slicing her and dicing her—there’s better ways to address your problem. Especially when you have vocal skills like he does.”

DeRogatis cites a “critical overcompensation” toward Eminem to explain his widespread praise by an older generation of music writers. “There is a problem with forty-year-old white guy critics, and now most of them are fifty,” says the thirty-eight-year-old DeRogatis. “They desperately want not to seem out of step with young tastes, so they go overboard in praising something popular with young people. I don’t have that problem. I know what my emotional reaction to Eminem is. I know what
my critical reaction to Eminem is. I have no problem standing up and saying it’s shit.” DeRogatis sees wasted talent in Eminem—and no one is calling him on it. “He gets covered in two ways: by people who don’t know hip-hop, who see him strictly as a sensationalistic scourge—and I don’t think he’s a plague on society, fuck that crap—or he gets covered with glowing hyperbole. There’s very little in between. If Bob Dylan had released an album in the sixties praising Richard Nixon as a great force in American society, his wrong-headedness would have been attacked and assaulted by his generation. I think that’s what the critical response should have been to Eminem. There’s this thing of thirteen million record buyers can’t be wrong, to which I say, where is Hootie and the Blowfish today? America voted for Ronald Reagan—twice. Tell me again that the American masses can’t be wrong. The tragedy is to have Eminem’s talent and to do so little with it.”

Richard Goldstein, editor in chief of the Village Voice also came out against Eminem just as the national opinion rose to unprecedented pro-Em levels. Goldstein sees the rapper as part of a tradition of celebrity bigotry and aligned him more with conservative Republicans, such as George Bush, than free-speech liberals. “Eminem is a paranoid personality,” Goldstein said in an interview for this book. “A paranoid male personality with an intense sense of aggrievement that is out of proportion to reality. That is projected through his music so that millions of people sign on to the paranoia. This is a dangerous phenomenon. What’s happening now with 9/11 is that this came together with
politics and is now a true orthodoxy, sublimated into militarism.”

All the Detroit newspapers ran stories featuring interviews of Eminem’s neighbors in the plush gated community that he now calls home. They told reporters about Eminem’s contribution to the
neighborhood—sleigh rides for the children at Christmas. They chronicled his trick-or-treating with Hailie, dressed in a hooded sweatshirt and hockey mask as Jason from the Friday the 13th films, the same mask Eminem wore each night at the start of his show on the Anger Management Tour. “Marshall is a very good father and a very nice person—very down-to-earth,” his forty-five-year-old neighbor Cathy Roberts told the Detroit News. The same paper interviewed another neighbor, fifty-seven-year-old Dave Crorey, who met Mariah Carey when Eminem brought her over to meet the Croreys during the pair’s brief romance. “He seems a little timid,” Crorey said of Eminem. “He’s
nothing like he’s portrayed—a wild kid and all that. Seems a little on the shy side.” There were Eminem cover stories gleaned from what seemed like twenty-minute interviews and endless articles about the concentric circles of his life, necessitated since at the time the man himself was not doing press. At the height of it all, three different houses in Detroit that were reported to have once housed Eminem went up for sale on eBay. The bidding price of the home pictured on the back cover of The Marshall Mathers LP, which had been appraised at $120,000, headed north of $10 million. It wasn’t exactly a slow year for celebrity culture, but the excitement, curiosity, and embrace of Eminem outshone everything. America, for better or worse, must have seen itself reflected in Marshall Mathers, and rushed to join the fan club.

“Everyone seems to love Eminem,” says Frere-Jones. “I think short of killing his own daughter, it doesn’t seem like he could do anything that would repel people. You open the paper and Jimmy Carter is saying, ‘Oh, I like Eminem’—they’re clambering on top of one another to be offended less and less. I’m not trying to sell my cure or anything, but Eminem, what is this idea that people hate you? As far as I can tell, nobody hates you, other than Richard Goldstein—God bless him for being out there on his own.”

“The challenge now is,” says publicist Dennis Dennehy, “to keep from willfully overexposing him. I don’t think he’s overexposed, but he’s everywhere. When you really get down to it, in the last year, he’s done maybe seven interviews in this country. It’s going to be a challenge with the next record, or the next whatever he does—but we’ve got to maintain the press he gets without giving him away. We could go out tomorrow and do an interview with almost any outlet in America—no one would say no to an interview with Eminem. But there’s nothing to be gained by it. He’s got a lot to say, he
explains himself really well. But it’s better to maintain some mystery. I think for anyone who really cares about artists, your favorite bands are always the most mysterious. You didn’t read about them everywhere—so when you did, it was a big deal.”

The truth is that Eminem doesn’t like to do interviews; he prefers to save his sound bites for song. That’s not to say he’ll make the experience unpleasant. He is civil, charming in a subdued way, passionate, and if he’s not too swamped or tired, a lot of fun to be around. He’s learned to do interviews well over the years—probably to make them go faster, since he thinks they’re pointless at their worst and redundant at their best. As for the storied past and personal life he chronicles in verse, he prefers to keep the intimate details private. “If you listen to the songs and don’t take the words out of context,” he says, “it’ll tell you why I’m saying this or why I’m saying that. I might say it in the song later on, but you’ll hear it. If you don’t listen to the whole song, it’s like watching the middle of a movie and turning it off and then talking about it. Just listen to the fucking songs. If you listen to them, they will tell you. The album’s like a fucking instruction manual—and sometimes interviews are like somebody trying to put something together but they don’t know how. Read the instructions! Why are you making me sit here and tell you?”

But Eminem being Eminem/Shady/Marshall/him/them, it can’t be that simple. There are subtexts, metaphors beneath the metaphors—right? “Somebody asked me today in another interview,” he said in 2002, “‘When you said you feel like your father, you just hate to be bothered—what did you mean by that?’ And I sat there for a minute and I was like, fuck! What did I mean by that? They almost had me thinking that there was a deeper meaning to it. No, dummy, it’s a metaphor! My father didn’t wanna be bothered with me. And I hate to be bothered by everything. Man, when people start to overanalyze, I tend to start overexplaining myself and in my head, I’m questioning it instead of taking it the way I meant it. It’s like, ‘I like to wear my raincoat in the rain’—what did I mean by that? I couldn’t have meant, like, that I like to wear my raincoat in the rain! Could I? Do I? Do I like when it rains, so I can wear my raincoat?”

“The truth is, at the end of the day,” Eminem says, “I really don’t care what people say about me because it’s people like me who give half of these people their jobs. They keep their jobs if they have something to write about, and if they write about something good all the time they’re not gonna sell papers, they’re not gonna sell magazines, and they won’t make a name for themselves. All of them dream of being a famous writer and whatever it takes and whatever they gotta do to slap a fucking headline in the fucking papers that says ‘Teen Murders Himself Because of Eminem’s Lyrics,’ they’ll do. That’s what’s gonna sell papers and magazines, so that’s why they do it. At end of the day, it doesn’t really matter to me. Ya know, it’s just kinda funny. I didn’t blow me up half as much as the press did. I couldn’t have sold myself half to these kids the way the press did. If they write that the Eminem album is gonna cause kids to go and murder and shit, they’re gonna go fucking buy the album and see what it’s about. And you know, it ain’t nothing but music.”

The headlights eat the dark between the traffic lights along four lanes sprawled each side of a wide divide. Electrical transmission towers form a spine up the median, carrying 200,000 volts through the city. Strip malls advertise sex and cars, mattresses and meals, glowing in the gray landscape. To one side of the road, the city’s residents are 82 percent black. To the other, the suburban county’s residents are 83 percent white. The white van slows to turn into a grid of streets. Each house we pass has a square patch of grass and a driveway wide enough for one car; some have fences, some have shingles, some are brick-faced. All are modest.

“Stop here,” Eminem says, sitting behind the driver of the van, on the bench in front of me. “That was our house.” The steep brown roof is broken by a deep-set window. The short porch is covered in snow, as is the car in the driveway. A light is on in the front room. The street is still. The house is sixty-two years old; as of this year, 1999, it’s been in Eminem’s family for nearly fifty years. Two years from now, Eminem will re-create the house’s facade for a concert tour spanning America and Europe. He will begin each show standing before it in overalls and a hockey mask, wielding a chainsaw. Three years from now, his uncle, Todd Nelson, will sell this house for $45,000. Four years from now, the new owners, a lawyer and a real estate developer, will watch eBay bidding on the
house reach $12 million, then yield nothing.

“My room was upstairs,” Eminem says, his breath fogging the window. “I was at my grandmother’s a lot, but this is the house I grew up in. This neighborhood is all low-income black families. Across 8 Mile back over there is Warren, which is the low-income white families. We lived over there in a park; people think they’re all trailers, but some of ’em are just low-income housing parks.” He points past me at another house. “Some redneck lived over there,” he says. “They were the only other white people.” No cars, animals, or people of any color stir the dusk. Eminem’s eyes run over the house, scanning details. He has shared troubled memories of this place with me, but his eyes aren’t melancholy, they’re proud. “I want you to see the walk I did every day to junior high,” he says.

Along the way, the van rolls past Osbourne High School, Eminem’s rap alma
mater. He attended Lincoln High School in Warren but snuck into this predominantly black school with Proof to battle-rap in the cafeteria, in the bathroom—anywhere a crowd might gather...A week from now, I will call every “D. Bailey” in the Detroit Yellow Pages and find D’Angelo. When I do, I’ll listen to him recount the beatings warmly, his memory either blurred by time or quasifame, denial or ignorance. Bailey once slammed Mathers onto frozen asphalt at recess, sending him to the hospital with a concussion, but Bailey will remember it as good fun. Before he will say goodbye, Bailey will ask me for Eminem’s phone number so that they can catch up on old times. [ :laughing: ] When I don’t offer it, he will ask me for tickets to an Eminem show that is a few months off. Three years from now, Bailey will file a million-dollar lawsuit against Eminem for invading his privacy, defaming his character, and hindering the sanitation worker’s efforts to launch a rap career.

We trace Eminem’s old walk to junior high school. It is more than a mile from Eminem’s house, farther from his grandmother’s house in Warren, across 8 Mile Road. The van heads in that direction, on 8 Mile and slows down at the entrance to the Bel-Air Shopping Center. There is a long stretch of grass, wider than a few cars, running along the parking lot. At one end is a wall, beyond it a few hundred feet of empty land.

“I got jumped by a whole crew right here,” Eminem says, looking over his shoulder at me. “I was sixteen, I was skinny as fuck, and I couldn’t fight as a teenager. I was walking home from my boy Howard’s house through the Bel-Air and I stopped at Toys “R” Us on the way to warm up ’cause it was winter. I came out of there and all these black dudes rode by in a car, flippin’ me off. I was like, ‘What the fuck?’ and I flipped ’em off back. They kept driving and I didn’t think anything of it. I’m walking down this long patch of grass right here to the wall at the end right there. Two dudes come from around one end of the wall and it’s them. One dude walks past me. The second dude stops and asks me what time it is. I’m like, ‘I ain’t got a watch.’ Dude who walked past came back and said, ‘What you say to my boy?’ And hit me in the face. I fell into all this mud.”

Once on the ground, Eminem realized that he was surrounded. “I got up and was afraid to swing,” he says. “I was like, ‘What did you do that for?’ And the dude’s like, ‘For the same reason I’m gonna do this.’ And he pulls out a gun. I turn around and ran, right out of my shoes. That’s what I thought they wanted. I had them new LL Cool J Troops and shit. I ran right out of them and didn’t even mean to.” Eminem had run past the wall in front of us, into the empty field on the other side, toward his grandmother’s house.

“The other dudes from the car started chasing me, and one caught up to me and threw me down in the mud,” he says. “I jump up and this dude is tall as fuck and I swing and hit him in the face and he just laughs. He hits me in the ribs and I fall down again. I’m in my socks, in the mud. I get up, start running again, and they don’t chase me, and I’m thinking they’re getting the car again. Then one of them shoots at me. Just one shot. As soon as I heard it, I thought I was shot but I couldn’t feel it yet. I just start screaming and don’t stop.”

A car had pulled up next to Eminem, on the shoulder of 8 Mile Road. “This guy throws open his door and I don’t even stop or look back—I thought it was one of the dudes chasing me. But this guy had seen what had happened and pulled a gun on them and scattered them. He drove to catch up with me, and I’m running on these train tracks over there past the field, cutting my feet up on ’em. This guy, he was a white guy, finally starts yelling at me, ‘It’s all good, it’s all good, get in.’ He drove me the rest of the way home, which by then, I had run so fast, I was almost there. I asked the guy to wait and tell my mom what had happened, but he took off. I was fucked up—face all swollen, feet bleeding and muddy. I slammed the door and screamed at my mom ‘Why the fuck do we live here! I’m getting fucked with every day!’ It was totally racial. I know it because the next day I went back and my shoes and hat were right where they came off. At least they could have jumped me for my shoes. The only reason they could have done it is because I’m white.”

The dance floor is full now, but no one is dancing. These VIPs pose, striking a stiff posture of nonchalance while shifting to glimpse the party’s honoree walk across the room. Eminem has seen enough of these events to expect that he’s still onstage at private parties, that everyone here is either desperate or too proud to talk to him...He moves slowly, looking at people, talking
to no one. Guests approach him cautiously. A few women flirt with him. His friends circle around and joke with him. He returns to the booth soon. “See anything interesting?” I ask him.

“Nah, man,” he says. “These things are all the same, you know. It’s weird to meet people like this. It’s funny, I mean, most of them want something from you. They might just want you to tell them stories and shit and entertain them. Some people are cool, but some don’t realize when I go out like this with my friends, I just want to have a good time. I don’t really take too many days off, so why do I want to entertain like that when I’m out with my friends? That’s what I do on stage.”

“You can’t really let loose when everyone here is here to meet you, I guess.”

“I can’t really let loose at all right now, I’m on probation,” he says, and laughs. “But yeah, I wouldn’t want to anyway; you never know what people want from you or what they’d do. I’ve had so many fucking lawsuits, man, it just isn’t worth it to me. I just hang out when I’m in Detroit. Just hang out with my friends, that’s it.” Eminem looks past me at a girl waving to him from across the room.

“I thought I knew her for a second,” he says. “You know all this shit really isn’t important to me. All I care about is making music, man. If I could live my life in the studio, except to be with my daughter, that’s what I would do.”

A rusted-out red Toyota sputters next to me; I hear the tattered muffler above the noise of the road and the stereo. Two black men in the car talk intently and nod. They lag behind, then cross from the left lane to the right. They drive beside me, then ahead. A red light stops the traffic, and the Toyota stops next to the Mercedes. The driver leans out of his window and talks to the one-way glass. Eminem rolls his window down and nods slowly as he talks. He is handed a tape. The traffic light changes and the cars drive off.

“Those guys shopping for a record deal?” I ask him later. “Yeah. They had a tape they wanted to give me,” Eminem says. “That’s cool. I did that shit, too. Everywhere that I might meet someone, I’d show up with a tape. I never gave them to rappers, but everybody else that I could. That’s what you gotta do, man. You gotta stay hungry, you gotta get your shit out there, you gotta show up places. You
gotta just live for rappin’, man. After my uncle Ronnie got me into it, that was it for me. As fucked up as shit got for me, I just lived for rap. It’s the only thing that got me through the day.”

“Em’s worked really hard to get where he is,” Bizzare, of D-12, says. “He went everywhere back in the day, battles, conventions. I was one of the first to take him out of town, actually. He had never been nowhere besides Kansas City and Cedar Point in Michigan. Around ’94, I think it was, me and him drove down to the How Can I Be Down? conference in Miami. There was like five of us in a Honda Accord, driving all the way down there. We didn’t do too good, we passed out a couple tapes, we didn’t get no respect, whatever. We had to leave early because all this bad shit was happening back home with Kim at the house Em had with her. They was getting broken into and they was getting evicted. Me and him had to get back to Detroit right away so we tried to catch a bus and they wouldn’t let him on it because he had his clothes in a garbage bag. He had to, like, put the clothes on and put shit in my bag.”

“The top two rappers right now, as far as skill, writing, and delivery, are my partner Big Boi and Eminem,” says André of OutKast. “That’s truly how I feel about it. I mean, I can tell that it’s real for Eminem. It’s a passion for him, you know. It ain’t just like fly by night, he’s jumping to it.”

“Being in battles keeps Eminem grounded I think,” says Sway Calloway. “Back in the day, that’s what helped develop and shape who he is. The only thing that was at all good about his whole ‘beef’ with Benzino is that it reminded Eminem where he came from. This is still rap, and guys like
Cannabis or Benzino or whoever are still gonna come for you and you gotta prove that you’re still a warrior, a gladiator, no matter how many millions you sold. That’s what keeps a rapper’s arrogance, his spirit, his edge, going.”

“Eminem came out of the box with this surreal violent thing going on. It wasn’t just that, it was also really funny, even more because he aimed so much of it at himself,” says the Village Voice’s Sasha Frere-Jones. “That was the huge difference. Everyone in rap has shot everyone else a hundred times, and everyone’s done mean things to people, and I really don’t need to hear that again. But, like, suicide and self-mutilation analogizes a useful state of mind—which is, ‘okay, I feel bad about myself.’ That’s a huge, not very well-explored part of hip-hop. I know people who think even that part of Eminem is a moral force for bad. But, you know, I don’t know anyone who thinks he’s not a good
MC. He’s like Biggie, and I’ve never heard anyone say that Biggie wasn’t dope. Nobody didn’t love Biggie—and it was the same thing when Eminem first came out; everyone’s running around with the same look on their face like, ‘Did you hear this shit?!’ When Ready to Die came out, it was the same thing—you couldn’t open the door without somebody quoting Biggie.”

On The Eminem Show, the rapper makes reference to retiring his jersey at thirty. He knows that hip-hop isn’t a forgiving medium: Fans move quickly, and a weak album may be a rapper’s last—as a white rapper of his stature, the pressure is double. “I’m gonna stop when I’ve got nothing left to say,” Eminem says. “As soon as I don’t feel it, that’s it, it’s over.”

“For white rappers, there’s such a fine line between shit you can and can’t do,” Eminem says. “The main thing is to be yourself. A lot of white rappers—look at Vanilla Ice. Yo, he got exposed. You can only put up a front for so long before people start coming out of the woodwork like, ‘Yo, you didn’t grow up here, you didn’t do this.’ You talk about guns in your rhymes and you never shot a gun! Talkin’ about shit you never lived, you’ve never even seen. If you ain’t got the balls to walk up and sock somebody in the mouth, don’t write it down, because if you say that shit on wax, you’re gonna get tested. If you’re not that type of person, don’t say it! Don’t talk about growing up in hard
times in the city if you grew up in the fucking suburbs. White rappers, if they grew up in the suburbs, should play off it, like, ‘Hi! I’m white.’”

Eminem sits on the dressing-room counter, leaning against the mirror, a Game girl at each leg. The security guard plays bouncer, quizzing the crowd at the door. He turns away a group of girls who just want to say hello, then a pair of dudes who are not who they claim to be. The door closes. There’s a knock again: MC Serch, one-third of the well-respected, early-nineties white rap group 3rd Bass. The rapper comes in and gives Eminem a hug. Three years from now, Serch will leave his native New York to host a morning radio show in Detroit for WJLB, the station that Eminem mentions in “Rock Bottom” (The Slim Shady LP) to criticize them for their lip-service-only support of local hip-hop. Two knocks later, West Coast rapper Ras Kass slides in; the room is now past full and Ras must leave his boys outside...Insistent knocks go unanswered; Eminem’s security guard just leans against the door now. After a few minutes, he opens it a crack to see who is pounding. Standing there
is a guy who says he manages Miilkbone, the white rapper whose anti-Eminem track, “Presenting Miilkbone,” will be released next month on the ill-conceived (produced from his prison cell) Death Row Records compilation Suge Knight Represents: Chronic 2000...Miilkbone's manager is denied entrance. Next there is a trio of white girls who squeeze by the manager, attempting to pass Eminem’s security guard while he is talking. They’ve tried three times so far. Patience failed to get them in; flirting, too. This time, they try sympathy. The guard is holding the door open, blocking traffic, allowing smoke and heat out of the room and only air in. “We just want to say hi. We’ve come all the way from New Jersey,” one of the girls says. “Oh, yeah, all the way from New Jersey?” the guard responds.
“Yeah!” another says, hopeful. “We came all the way just to see him. We love him. We promise we won’t bother anybody. We just want to say hi and we’ll leave.”
“Can’t do it. Too many bodies in here.”
“But we came all the way here just to see him,” the first insists, “We’re small, we can fit. You won’t even know we’re in there.”
“You’re gonna see him onstage in a minute. Ladies, you gotta move back.” A smallish guy in a baggy leather jacket tries to slip through the door. “Hey, who you with?” Eminem’s security guard asks.
“I was just in there, dog. I’m with all of them, yo.”
“What’s your name?”
“I’m K, man. KG.” The guy looks past the guard into the room at one of Royce’s crew facing him. “Yo, dog, what’s up man? How you feelin’?”
“He wit you?” the guard asks.
“Nah. I don’t know him.”
“Who you with?” the guard asks the guy.
“I was just in there, man. I know the guy at the label.”
“What label?”
“Shady’s label, man. Dre’s label,” the guy says. “I’m KG, man.”
“There’s no one here from the label tonight,” the guard says. “Keep it moving.”
KG steps back but doesn’t leave. The girls move in for another round. “Sir, I promise, we’ll just say hi and leave,” two say, almost at the same time. “We promise, we just want to say hi.”
We in the room move toward the door when it opens, breathing in the cooler air as the smoke escapes. The guard has had it. “Everybody! Get away from this door right now. Do not block it. Move outside unless you were invited in here. I am closing this door!” A line of people wring themselves out of the room, Game girls included, then the door again seals in the bong-water humidity. In the confusion, to the Jersey girls’ dismay, two different teenage white girls have pushed themselves in and now sidle over to Eminem.
“Hey, Slim Shady,” one of them says, “I like your song.”
“Oh, yeah?” Eminem says. “Which one?”
“The one with the video,” she says. “It’s really good.”
“Yeah, when you dress up like Marilyn Manson,” the other says. “That shit’s really funny.”
“Thanks a lot.” He looks unimpressed. “Hey, have you met Paul?” he says, looking at his manager. “He’s a fuckin’ fuck. His life is over.”
“You’re too late,” Paul Rosenberg says, bemused. “I already quit.”
“Oh, yeah? Well you’re so fired then that you’re rehired, you fuckin’ fuck. You know why? Because you’re fat, bald, and Jewish.”
The girls smile awkwardly.
“Can I get a beer?” one asks someone next to the cooler. He doesn’t notice.
“So you’re from Detroit?” her friend asks Eminem. “What’s it like?”
I predict, to myself, that this will end her interview.
“It’s aiight,” Eminem says, a mischievous glint in his eye. “Hey, you two know
Dee, right? You’ve met Dee?”
The girl crinkles her nose. “Dee who?” she says.
“Deez nuts!” Eminem shouts in her face. The joke is a hip-hop test and it looks like these girls have failed. “Deez Nuts” is a classic gangsta rap track featuring Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G, and Daz from Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (1992); it starts with a phone call skit much like the joke Eminem just played. “Deez nuts” is big in Eminem’s crew right now; anyone answering a “who” or “what” often gets “deez nuts” as the response. “Deez Nuts” are tough to avoid even if you know the joke; as the newest hanger-on, I myself am served plenty of “deez nuts,” the loudest set coming in the middle of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. I didn’t stand a chance, anyway; interviewing is a minefield of “who” and “what” questions. Before I was finished, though, I doled out “deez nuts” myself. Once. I’m not sure, but I think it signaled the end of that joke’s run in Eminem’s crew.
Everyone in the room is laughing, including the two young women, but it’s clear they don’t quite know why. Eminem stares at them with a toothy, he-crazy grin. One of them pokes him. “You’re funny!” she says. “Am I funny? Paul, am I funny?” Eminem asks.
An authoritative knock at the door reveals a man in a headset. “You’re good to go,” he says. “They’re all ready up there.” The crowd in the lounge has grown and is now pressing up against the
dressing-room door. Eminem’s security guard and the club staffer back us all up, and we file out in a line, Eminem in the middle. I hear drive-by comments from the VIP peanut gallery:
“Who’s that?”
“Yo, that’s him?”
“He’s a little guy.”
“He is so cute. He doesn’t look that good on TV.”
“Oh my God, I have to meet him.”
“Yo, Shady, mushrooms, dawg!”
“Why he rollin’ like dat?”
“Dre got a white Snoop, yo.”

When I return to the room, I squeeze into my place by the door. Eminem is surrounded by friends and strangers, drinking water, and not really smiling. He doesn’t look mad or glad, or under siege. I critique his game face, and though I’ve only been with the camp for eight hours and he hasn’t directly said a word to me yet, in that moment I see everything. He is raw star quality, fuming with the entitlement of deep, broad, untapped talent. He’s not the extrovert I thought he was, but he can play the part. I watch him scan the room, his vision attuned to the details, yet focused far, far beyond here.

Before our flight to Detroit, we sit in a booth at the food court in Terminal B of
Newark Liberty International Airport...We’ve missed three flights already after last night’s shows, which actually ended this morning. My headache is finally gone, faded by medication.
“You have to ask yourself how hungry you are,” Paul Rosenberg says, sliding into the next booth with a tray of dubious snacks. I see marbleized pizza in a triangular paper dish and a basket of amorphous breaded blobs.
“What is that shit?” Eminem asks.
“They’re calling it fried chicken,” Paul says.
“Nah, I can’t fuck with that.”
Behind him, three girls in a pack try to determine if Eminem is Eminem. He doesn’t notice.
“So, like, I was telling you about JLB, the radio station in Detroit,” he says. “I dissed them on the record because when I was coming up, those motherfuckers showed me no love. They had two local favorite rappers. One was the cousin/niece of the program director and shit. They got airplay for, like, three years and never fucking got a record deal or nothing. I got friends who work at the station and one of them told me when I had Infinite out that one of the DJs played it and Frankie Darcell, the program director, when he found out I was white said, ‘We ain’t playing this record, what the fuck is a white person doing with this.’ And that was it—he took my record off. Believe me, I had my boys begging to get it played. I ain’t just mad at them for that. There were so many dope MCs when I was coming up and they would never fucking play them. Their saying is ‘Where hip-hop lives.’ I told them in the Detroit papers: If JLB is playing my song now, fuck them. As soon as I get home, I’m telling the motherfuckers to take my shit off the air. I don’t want them to play it. Fuck those fuckin’ ragged-ass fucks. No help from them at all, motherfuckers.”

Eminem stretches out sideways in the booth, with his legs on the bench. Last night, he won over a doubtful black crowd; fended off a rabid, mostly white one; and today is heading to his racially divided hometown, which has an underground that knows him and a mainstream that didn’t want to.
“Man,” he says, looking sidelong at me, “the respect level I get now, I never got before. I couldn’t play at or even get into a club like the one last night just being Eminem before all this shit with my video being out. It’s fucking bananas. It’s some scary shit because you can fall just as quick as you get to the top.”

A black food-court employee walks by our booth to pick up two trays from the top of the closest garbage can. He eyeballs us on his way back to the kitchen and returns a minute later.
“Uh, what’s up?” he says.
Eminem turns to look. “Nothing man, how you doin’?” he says.
“Um, are you …? Uh, I was just wondering …”
“Yeah! What’s up nigga! Yo, your shit’s tight, yo. All about the mushrooms and shit!”
Eminem sits up and laughs in short snare-drum blasts, “Ha-ha.”
“Hey, can you sign this?” the guy asks, holding out a paper plate. “It’s to George Ito and Wah, that’s W-A-H.”
Above his signature, Eminem writes “Do you like violence?”
The group of teen girls are convinced now; they’re in conference to choose a plan of action. Another uniformed employee walks over.
“Can I get a signature, too?” he says.
“No problem, what’s your name?”
To show his appreciation, Daniel gives handshakes and hip-hop half hugs to everyone in the two booths around Shady, almost including a third booth of two men who aren’t with us.
“Man, Paul waking me up this morning was my worst nightmare,” Eminem says.
He looks alert enough, but washed out. “Him waking me felt like somebody crushed my back. It was daylight when we left the club. I got two hours’ sleep, if that. Paul, he gets home, he goes into instant snore mode. Paul, your life is over.”
Paul nods from behind Blaze magazine. Beyond him is another autograph-hunter, this one from Pizza Hut, and judging by the piece of pizza she’s biting into, she’s on break.
“I think we’ve been discovered,” Eminem says.
“Which one of you is Slim Shady?” she asks, chewing and looking at us.
“Uh, that would be me,” Eminem says.
“Can I get a signed picture?” she asks.
“I don’t got any pictures,” he says.
“Where you from?”
“Where you goin’?”
“Back to Detroit.”
“Will you sign this for me?” she asks, holding out an unused, unfolded slice-to-go box.
“That’s a bugged-out song you made,” she says.
“You should get the album,” he says. “What’s your name?”
She extends her name tag.
“Rashida,” he says.
“What are you writing? Here, will you sign this one for Jimmy?” She holds out another box.
On both, Eminem writes “High, my name is Slim Shady.”
It is time to leave, just in time—the fans and the curious are growing. We pass the three white girls, still huddled near the doorway.
“Are you a singer?” a brown-haired one asks.
“Nah,” Eminem says.
“Slim Shady?” another asks.
“How you doin’?” he says to them, smiling wide. “I should just have cards ready
to give out,” he says as an aside to me.

I’m not sure if the variations in race, sex, age, and background of the curious he has met today alone have registered with Eminem. They’ve approached him, mobbed him, sought verification of his identity, or solicited him on this trip in ways he has only seen, perhaps, in his dreams. I think that the encounters I’ve witnessed must be more amazing to me right now than they are to him, not only because I’ve never seen anything quite like this, let alone at such close range, but more because he is too busy living for every second of right now to analyze it. I have a feeling that he wouldn’t notice anyway. The vision of music Eminem is tapped into and the hip-hop creed he believes in doesn’t
see differences. It sees only people, and that makes anything possible.

Eminem is the product of a white background as well as a black culture, and he was alienated from both groups when he was growing up. He was picked on for “acting black” by white kids in the trailer-park suburbs; he was jumped for simply being a white kid on the streets of the city. In hip-hop,
his talent triumphed over stereotype, and as he gained national recognition, the handicap of his color became an asset beyond his estimation. Eminem personifies city and suburb, archetypes of black and white culture, and the common ground where they have met for fifty years: pop music. He also represents the current paradigm of race consciousness in America, whereby skin color is almost of secondary consequence to one’s racial identity, where racial association seems to be more defined by behavior than color.

It cannot be said that Eminem is a white musician poorly imitating black music. He represents a synergy of black and white styles so completely that he destroys convention by transcending it, as only a few artists in pop music have done...Eminem is hip-hop’s signpost artist, the one gifted enough to blend black and white musical and cultural elements without compromising the integrity of the music. We are at a time in America in which blacks and whites and all races have culturally met on a wide patch of shared ground, where white rock acts freely appropriate rap and where black artists front an image of capitalism reminiscent of Donald Trump. Eminem stands squarely in the middle: accepted—and debated—by both sides. At the same time, his “meaning” is deeper. His achievement is doubly significant in spite of the cultural overlap of the times, because of the ingrained race identity inherent in hip-hop. In the thirty years of the music’s history, and in spite of a few respectable white MCs, hip-hop remained uniquely black in image until Eminem...If anything, Eminem downplays his race advantage, out of respect for hip-hop and to maintain his credibility. If he chose to, Eminem could be everywhere. There isn’t a media outlet in the country that would refuse an interview with Eminem, and this has been so since 2000. Eminem is careful about the kinds of media projects he participates in, and most of the magazines and TV shows that feature him do so without his cooperation. The number of corporations willing to pay Eminem millions for product endorsements are even more numerous. Whereas the average fan doesn’t hold it against Jay-Z for doing a Heineken commercial, or Method Man and Redman for hocking deodorant, Eminem would not be judged as kindly as another rapper trying to get paid in full. To his credit and to his credibility, Eminem has done virtually nothing to cash in on his popularity that wasn’t directly tied to the music: Aside from a DVD release of an animated series and two limited-edition action figures, Eminem’s clothing line, Shady, will be the rapper’s first nonartistic merchandising venture beyond T-shirts and hats. Still,
the idea of a popular and consistently genuine white rapper does not sit well with many
rap fans.

“It almost seems as if the black folks who love Eminem want to love him more than any of the white people who love Eminem,” says Village Voice critic Sasha Frere-Jones. “It’s like some kind of anti-recapturing. It’s a game in which there have been so many moves at this point. There have been white people fucking with hip-hop and black culture before, but I don’t think anyone has ever gotten the one hundred percent stamp of approval. I think that gold stamp has been in the box for fifty years. And he is the first dude to get it. The Beastie Boys got it for a minute, but they took themselves out of the game. Eminem wants to be in hip-hop, right in that tradition. And he got the full-on go-ahead.”

“He’s the great white hope,” Snoop Dogg says. He’s the first one that’s really solid, hardcore, really commited.”

“One of Benzino’s issues with Eminem is that Eminem acts like he’s a street guy, a hard gangsta, and that he’s not, he’s a fraud,” says Sway Calloway. “In rap, who doesn’t? Everybody’s been gangstered out or else they rap about stories that haven’t always happened. From the beginning, people have made themselves into superheroes in their raps. But, the thing is, Eminem has never tried to say he was a gangsta growing up, just that he grew up hard. The only point Benzino has is that Eminem was accepted in the industry and the world easier for doing the same things that black rappers have done over the years—and Eminem’s had more success doing it. There is validity to that because Eminem reaches new fans who probably grew up like him and look like him a little bit
and can relate to him better than they’ll relate to DMX. To those fans, Eminem’s like a rock star, like Nirvana was. They can relate to him and it’s just cool and hip to be down with the guy who’s anti-establishment.”

“The Source is part of the same system Benzino is talking about, to be honest with you,” says Calloway. “It’s confusing, but everything they’re saying the system is guilty of, they’ve been guilty of, too. They had Eminem on the cover just as many times as Rolling Stone has to sell issues. And Rolling Stone is pretty clear about the fact that they don’t put too many black artists on their cover. Eminem isn’t lying to himself or his audience about selling more because he’s white. But he’s also saying, ‘Let’s be real, I’m one of the best that’s doing it right now, hands down.’ And he is.”

“What white rappers bring,” says André of OutKast, “is a fuck-it attitude. The Beastie Boys brought a fuck-it attitude, but it was more or less a party fuck-it attitude. Eminem’s attitude is ‘fuck it,’ I’ll say anything, to anyone, anywhere, fuck it, fuck it all. Who’s the hottest pop group on MTV right now? Fuck them. What did the president do? Fuck him, too. I think that’s what’s lovely about it. It ain’t like he’s trying to wear gold chains and shit and playin’ like he’s from my neighborhood. And people respect him for it. They can identify with all of it because it’s real. That’s all that people will identify with—what’s real to them.”

“I never asked Dre if he knew I was white when he heard my tape,” Eminem says. “I had met one of his A&Rs at the Rap Olympics, so I guess he knew. I don’t think it really mattered much. It’s because I’m dope. It sounds corny coming out of my mouth and I don’t want to sound prima donna or nothin’, but if somebody takes it to a certain level, it doesn’t matter. A few people who work with Dre told me at first when they heard about him wanting to work with me, they were like, ‘no white rappers.’ Dre told them he didn’t give a fuck if I was green or yellow or whatever color, he was working with me as his next project.”

“To be real with you,” Dr. Dre says, “usually white MCs aren’t good—it’s as simple as that. It’s not a racial issue, you just have to be good and most of them aren’t. Someone like Eminem is rare. A white MC is like seeing a black person in a hockey rink—it’s gonna get some attention, but you know he’d only be playing if he was real good. Eminem is one of the best MCs I’ve worked with and one of the best out there, period. I didn’t think twice. To me, I don’t give a fuck if you’re purple; if you can kick it, I’m workin’ with you.”

“It’s just an obvious fact to me that I probably sold double the records because I’m white,” Eminem says. “I’m not saying that if I’d been a rapper of another race I wouldn’t have sold records. In my heart, I truly believe that I have talent, but at the same time I’m not stupid. I know that when I first came out, especially because I was produced by Dre, he gave me that foundation to stand on. That made it cool and acceptable for white kids to like it. In the suburbs, the white kids have to see that the black kids like it before they do.”

“There’s always going to be assholes,” Eminem told writer Matt Diehl in 1998, “but if there’s one music that could break down racist barriers, it’s hip-hop. When I do shows, I look out into the crowd and see black, white, Chinese, Korean people—I see all these nationalities there for one thing. You don’t see that shit at a country show, you don’t see it at a rock show. It’s hip-hop that’s doin’ it.”

[At Gilbert's Lodge] “Yo, Pete, wassup?” he says to a mustached man who is surveying the cooks.
“Hi, Marshall,” he says, with a slight smile. “Coming in to buy the place?”
“Yeah, Pete, you’re fired,” the blond guy says. “Nah. We’re coming in to eat.”
“Well, sit anywhere you like, you know the place. We’ll get ya set up.”
A woman bustles through the door and attaches an order ticket to the line.
“Oh, hi, Marshall, good to see ya!” she says. “I saw your video on MTV.”
“Oh, yeah?” Eminem says. “Thanks.”
The cooks look up and say hello. As Eminem leaves the kitchen, a waitress in her forties stops him.
“Hi, Marshall!” she says, in a cotton-candy Midwestern accent. “You know, I heard you were on MTV all the time, that’s what they’re telling me, but I watch it and I never see you.”
“Oh, yeah?” he replies.
“Yeah,” she says. “I watch it all the time and I never see you. Am I missing it?
When is your video on? Is it on late at night when I’m sleeping?”
“You know, I don’t know,” Eminem says, his smile static, his eyes glinting. “It’s
on a lot. I don’t know why you haven’t seen it.”
“I don’t know, either. I turn on MTV all the time and I look for you, but I never see you on there. I’m starting to think they’re all joking me about you being on MTV!”
“Well,” he says, “keep watching and you’ll see it. Nice to see you, we’re gonna go sit down.”
“OK, Marshall,” she calls as he’s walking away. “I’ll look for you on MTV, maybe I’ll see you sometime!”
He leads his party past the bar, toward the wide tables and barrel-backed chairs. Televisions box the area, broadcasting sports in visual stereo, while Sugar Ray’s lazy ballad “Every Morning” blares from unseen speakers. We sit, five at a table for six, in silence.
Ten minutes later, our table is still devoid of silverware, water, menus, and conversation. I watch a man and woman dig into a pizza not far away. A waitress refills their water glasses. Eminem stops her as she passes our table.
“Can we get some beers here?”
“Yeah, sure,” she says, “but I need to see some ID.”
“I don’t have my wallet,” he answers flatly. “I used to work here. Ask Pete, I’m over twenty-one.”
“OK, I’ll have to do that,” she says. “I’ll be right back.”
Eminem is a bit wild-eyed but civil, like an unbelieving host whose guests never arrived. He doesn’t look crushed, more ready to crush something.
“Don’t worry about it,” Paul Rosenberg says. “She must be new.”
“Yeah,” Eminem says, leaning back in his chair. The silence is filled by more pop music, now Eagle-Eye Cherry’s “Save Tonight.” The waitress delivers a beer and a shot of Bacardi for Eminem. He swallows it before she leaves the table and he orders another.
I talk to Paul until we run out of steam. Eminem stares at the televisions.
“Why did that bitch have to say that?” he says, turning back toward us. “Fucking bitch, I never liked her. Always watching MTV. She probably doesn’t even have a TV.”
He pauses. “Bitch.”
Paul looks at Eminem, scanning him. “Well, she’s still here and you’re not,” he says. “She’s jealous.”
“Ahh, yeah,” Eminem says. “I’m getting another shot.”
He ambles to the bar and shakes the bartender’s hand. He downs the liquor and brings a refill with him to the end of the bar, where some of his former coworkers chat.
“Man, everything can be going right,” Paul says, eyeing Eminem, “but a comment like that will stick with him for days. She’s seen the video, you know she’s seen the video.” He sips his pint.
“This is his reality,” Paul continues. “He came from this. And after everything is over, this is the reality he has to go back to.”
Eminem lopes back to the table, his spirits lifted by Bacardi and Kathleen, a coworker who always believed in him.
“You know, Paulie, a lot of the shit that’s happened to me,” he says, dropping into his chair, “is because you’re fat.” He stares at Paul. He laughs, two quick chops. “Heh-ha!”
Eminem knocks back some beer. “I can’t wait to do my second album. That shit is gonna be fucking bananas. Every time I make music, I know more and more what I’m doing, so it’s gonna get hotter and hotter.” He looks at us and then at the waitress by the bar. “Lots of drugs and lots of fuzz,”
he says, throwing his hand in the air. “Hey! Can we get some more beers over here?”
Eminem surveys the room, the backdrop to a past too recent for nostalgia but just
far enough away for examination. “You don’t even know how much at home I felt here,” he says to me, leaning in a little. “My home away from home. Dog, I fucking lived here, man. I worked forty-eight hours a week. Sometimes I pulled sixty hour weeks and still wasn’t making shit. I started off at five-fifty. That’s not a lot of money.”
He isn’t proud or ashamed of the details of his life, even the darkest; his mood is bittersweet. Sitting here, watching his old coworkers react to him, warmly, coolly, mockingly, or not at all, I see Detroit’s mixed message in his life. Eminem endured here in an isolated rap scene, rejected by the radio stations that now play his song; in New York and L.A. he is a celebrity already, but his former coworkers at home don’t come to his table. There is a territorial pride in Detroit; it doesn’t allow its own to grow an ego. I will watch this play out as Eminem’s fame grows. When Eminem buys his first house, fans will swim in his pool, flip him off, take his mailbox, and wait in his driveway until he resorts to guns as a deterrent. In 2000, after the same guns get him in trouble with the law, he will return to his hometown with Dr. Dre’s Up in Smoke Tour for two concerts. City officials will successfully pressure promoters not to screen a pre-show video in which Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre hold up a liquor store and sit in a hot tub with seminaked women. The mayor’s office will ask to preview and edit the video to their approval; they will be refused. Hours before the show, city officials will threaten to cut the power to the stage if the video is shown. They will also strongly recommend that Eminem not bring an inflatable sex doll onstage. He has been using it to represent his wife, Kim. Eminem will comply; he will have been in court already that day, for the initial proceedings of one of
his two trials. Dr. Dre will be ticketed for promoting pornography for screening the video at the first night’s concert. Detroit will be the only city in the country to censure the tour, one of the most high-quality, incident-free, and professionally run (from sets to security) hip-hop tours ever. Dr. Dre will sue Detroit for violating his First Amendment rights and will win $25,000. It will hardly be a homecoming for Eminem. I understand now why he thrives in the face of adversity; it is a way of life here.
“Hey, Marshall, how you doin’?” Pete Karagiauris, manager at Gilbert’s Lodge, asks. “How about we make you guys a special garlic chicken pie?”
“All right, Pete,” Eminem says. “We’re going to be sitting here awhile. We plan on getting drunk.”
“OK, drink up,” Pete says.
“Pete’s cool,” Eminem says. “But the owner, Louie, he ain’t here. That motherfucker was a fuckin’ dick. I worked here for three years, cooking, washing dishes, I was a busboy, all that. And the whole time I kept saying I was going to be a fucking rapper. Louie used to always come in when I was cooking and be like, ‘Oh shit, Marshall, you’re here. I thought you’d be gone, blowing up as a rapper by now.’ That guy always fucked with me. When I got fired right before Christmas, he was the one who OK’d it. It was like a week before Christmas and then they hired me back eight months later.”
The waitress is more friendly now. “How are you doing over here!” she says.
“I’m wasted and good!” Eminem says.
“This shot is from Kathleen, she wanted to get you drunk.”
“Well, OK,” he says. “Tell her she’s too late.”
Pete and two waiters return with plates and a sizzling pizza, preceded by roasted garlic aroma. “Here’s the special,” he says.
“Marshall here was a good worker,” Pete tells me, sitting down in the empty chair, “but I always knew his music mattered the most. I had to stay on top of him sometimes. He’d be in the back rapping all the orders! I had to tell him to tone it down sometimes. But he was good about that.”
“He’d rap the orders?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “Everything that came out of his mouth was a rap. Every once in a while, I had to check on him and make sure he wasn’t fooling around back there too much. No matter how much he was joking around, he always took his music very seriously. We were all really surprised when we saw he really did it.”
“Did you think he sounded like a good rapper?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t know anything about it,” Pete responds, chuckling. “I wouldn’t know at all. I listen to Greek music. Call me next time you guys are coming in, I’ll bring my bouzouki.”
“And I’ll bring my bazooka,” Eminem says, in a mobbed-up Italian accent. “And ah, I’ll blow up the place. Then we’re good.”
The pizza is eaten and the beer is drunk. The plates are cleared and a round of shots arrive from the bartender.
“OK!” Eminem says. “You gonna drink that, Paul?”
Later, TLC’s “No Scrubs” plays as we walk to the door.
“Hey, Marshall,” says a smiling lady, “I see your video all the time.”
“Hi, Holly,” Eminem says.
“I’m so fucking proud of you!”
“Thanks a lot, Holly.”
“How’s your daughter doing?”
“She’s good,” he says. “Real good.”
“You take care of yourself, Marshall. Be careful.”
Eminem walks across the parking lot, crunching snow underfoot. He strides along an invisible path he knows well, but he doesn’t go to the Dumpster this time; or around the back to where he’d park his worn Ford Tracer. He opens the door to the chauffeured van that is billowing smoke, and he disappears inside.

In 8 Mile, the characterization of JLB falls under the fiction column, where it was portrayed as a bastion of local support. “You know, that was pointed out,” director Curtis Hanson told the Detroit Free Press. “There were mixed feelings about [the radio station], actually. Some felt that way, some didn’t.” The lack of support or curiosity may be a kind of unconscious Detroit self-hate, or just a test of its artists’ mettle.

“I busted my ass,” Eminem says. “I didn’t have any money to go anywhere. There was nothing in Detroit as far as labels and shit like that to get you recognized, unless you put some independent
shit out and it happens to blow up, which is rarely the case.”

“Motherfuckers don’t know, man,” Proof says. “Eminem’s song ‘Lose Yourself,’ that line about having one shot—that’s some of the best work he’s done in his life. People don’t understand, in this industry you really only do get one shot because out of sight, out of mind in this game. Detroit gave us that gusto times ten, man. It’s so hard to get a foot in the door that when you do, you fucking do that shit. You know how many people’s asses I had to whup? Niggas would not play your shit for nothin’ in this town, man. I’m talking about for nothin’, no matter what you do or say. They don’t want to support you, they don’t even act like they like you as a person. Now that I understand the music game, I see how radio is controlled by corporate shit, but I still see where they could help locals.
They’re doing it more now, because Detroit is like the third biggest music market. The problem lies with Berry Gordy—when those motherfuckers left here, there was nothing to build on. Detroit was in the music industry then, we had radio. But after Motown left, everything here stagnated.”

Debbie Mathers-Briggs raised her son, Marshall, in some of the worst years Detroit has seen. She moved frequently, either around the city or back to her family in St. Joseph, Missouri, requiring Eminem to change schools more than once a year, on average. By his mom’s estimate, Marshall attended between fifteen and twenty schools before finally dropping out of Lincoln High School, located north of 8 Mile Road in Warren County, in 1989. In the years between 1995 and 1998, when Eminem tried to move out of his mother’s house, sometimes with girlfriend Kim, he could only (and just barely) afford to rent a house off 8 Mile Road, in the city limits. At the time, Detroit’s unemployment rate was about 4.5 percent, meaning roughly 100,000 people were out of work. There was an average of 450 reported murders and about 20,000 burglaries annually during those years. “There’s nothing to do, so motherfuckers get bored,” Eminem recalled in 2000. “All they got to do is shoot each other and rob. I was coming back from St. Andrew’s club one time a few years back with my boy Denuan—Kon Artis, who’s in D12. This must have been 1997, I think. We were in a White Castle parking lot at the drive-through right across from a gas station, and we saw this motherfucker get popped. He dropped right in the middle of the station. We didn’t even see where the bullet came from.”

Detroit has exercised a dualistic influence in Eminem’s life. It both nurtured and hurt him; it provided hard times and material to mine from. It held him down creatively, forcing him to innovate to be noticed. He was alienated on both sides of the racial divide and then made race as it relates to his music irrelevant locally and nationally through his talent. Detroit taught Eminem to be humble, but it also fostered a fuck-it attitude. It is the place where he leases a Mercedes but owns a Ford, and where America’s most controversial rapper is beloved by his neighbors in the upper-class, gated community that he now calls home. Detroit is where, when he was arrested for weapons possession in
2000, Eminem found himself signing autographs in jail.

“I’m in the fucking precinct getting booked, and these cops are askin’ me for autographs while they’re fuckin’ booking me,” Eminem says. “I’m doing it, but I’m like, ‘My life is in fucking shambles right now,’ and they’re looking at me, literally, like I am not a fucking person. I am a walking spectacle.”

What’s most telling about Detroit—and Eminem—is that for all the bad times, the probation, the boos, the marriage, the divorce, the whuppings, the tears, and the scars, he’ll never leave. “I have a love-hate relationship with Detroit,” he says, “but all my friends are here. I’m used to the pace here, it’s so relaxed. There’s no hustle and bustle. That whole city atmosphere in New York and L.A., I only like to visit it. This is where I’m from.” Eminem can’t leave Detroit, he isn’t that kind. Detroit is in him; in many ways, it is him. Detroit is the creative well that feeds him—mud, blood, and all.

“If I hadn’t’ve made it in rap,” he says, “I’d’ve worked at Gilbert’s Lodge. Probably gone postal at Gilbert’s Lodge.” Though Eminem was unlike many of the white kids he grew up around, in many ways he was just like them; a product of an unhealthy single-parent home, and a young man who became a parent too young.

Eminem’s history with Kim and his mother reads like a Sigmund Freud parable. Eminem is the son of a willful, perhaps delusional mother and he married a willful, possibly deceitful woman. He fights with both and makes his revenge a reality—in song and in fantasies. He has used these women as the inspiration for some of his canon’s most distraught and improperly funny episodes. They are, Kim particularly, the key to understanding Eminem. Like a two-sided muse, Kim brings out his extremes: loyalty and revenge, maturity and primal rage.

Marshall and Kim met when she was thirteen and he was fifteen. They were dating by the time he was sixteen and Kim lived with Marshall and his mother on and off for years, before and after Hailie was born. “She lied to us from the beginning,” Debbie says. “She moved in with us when she was twelve and said she was fourteen. She used to sleep downstairs on a couch and told me a few years later she always snuck upstairs to Marshall’s room. She told me just to hurt me. Kim is a very jealous person. She doesn’t want him talking to anybody or to have any friends. And he has a lot of friends, just like me.”

All of the eleven years that Eminem and Kim have been together in some form or
another have been tumultuous. “We’ve just broken up and made up so many times, man,” he said in 1999, before fame made matters worse. “We’ve got issues, issues. It was fucked way before. We just
don’t get along.”

“Once me and Eminem and Bizzare all went fishing,” Proof told me that same year. “Then we went to this club 1212 to perform. We come back and Kim’s thrown all of Em’s clothes out, which was about two pairs of pants and some gym shoes. He spent the night at my grandmother’s with me. This is what I love about Em. He’s like, ‘I’m leaving her, I ain’t never going back, fuck it, I’m leaving her.’ Next day, he’s right back with her. The love they got, man, it’s so genuine, it’s ridiculous. He gonna end up marrying her.”

Eminem and Kim shared the kind of first love that is etched in high school desks; one that can be as intoxicating and unstable as a crack habit. It is a love-hate bind on par with Eminem and his mother—it makes for tragic, tormented art and great newsprint, and it isn’t a joyride. Little is known of Kim’s point of view outside of what can be gleaned from her actions. She refuses to be interviewed. I met her circumstantially when Eminem’s fame was still a whiff on the air. I doubt she wanted to meet anyone new, especially a writer, late that night on Eminem’s first night home, just a few nights before he would leave again, this time for a performance at MTV’s Spring Break. She was civil, but hardly friendly; her raised guard was a sensate force field.

Kim’s comments in the press, mostly the Detroit press, have been few. She maintains that she and Eminem do not care to live a flamboyant life; that Eminem’s anger toward his mother in song is very real; that since most of his fans are women, they don’t want to know that he’s married; and that nobody “in their right mind would cheat on their millionaire husband—especially with a nobody at a neighborhood bar.”

“Kim is the person I want to know about,” says Sasha Frere Jones. “She is the one I feel bad for. I might do those things if I were Eminem’s wife, if my husband had people chanting ‘Kill Kim.’ My heart goes out to her. I’d like to read her autobiography. It just seems like their whole thing is nothing but bad. And she’s been sacrificed by her husband. It would be one thing if Eminem were married to Jay-Z, then they could do dis records back and forth. But this poor woman doesn’t get to respond. Jesus, do you imagine it’s easy to live with Eminem? What could she possibly have done?”

The few signs there are point to a woman unprepared for the chaos and distance of a famous partner. One side of her portrait is of a regular girl who wants a life and family. “It’s hard for Kim being the only parent,” her mother told People magazine in 2000, “and handling all the [media] outside her house. She can’t even go in the backyard.”

“This is a lady who prefers to wear jeans and gym shoes as opposed to Versace and Armani,” said Kim’s lawyer, Neil Rocking, in the same article. “A small-town girl who wants to be a mom.”

Whatever the reality, Eminem’s relationship with Kim is a recurring theme in his music; his love for her, and his hatred. “If I was her, I woulda ran when I heard some of those songs,” Dr. Dre says. “That shit is out there. She gives him a concept, though, and that’s cool shit, no doubt.” For all the ups and downs that Kim and Marshall Mathers have had—as kids, as young parents, as husband and wife, as litigants in court—one truth remains: Eminem needs the mania of their relationship to create his music, but Marshall, the man, has a place in his heart for Kim that will probably never be filled by another woman. But that, like everything in this man’s life, is anyone’s guess.

“Divorce is probably the hardest thing that I’ve ever worked through,” Eminem says. “I feel like I’m a better person because I went through it, I feel stronger now, but you know, it was hard at first. I’ve known this chick all my life; she’s the first real true girlfriend that I ever had. I grew up with this person, and then they want to leave you. At first you don’t know what to do. I put the blame on everything. I put the blame on myself, I put the blame on the business, my career. I put the blame on everything except—I don’t know if I should say that—I took a lot of the heat for that. I blame myself for a lot of that shit. But, it’s like, as it progressed and I got through it and everything like that, I step back and I look at the whole picture, I realize that it wasn’t my fault and there’s nothing I
coulda did. It was inevitable anyways. Which is cool, because me and Kim, we’re on speaking terms, we can communicate, no hard feelings, fuck it. Didn’t work, you know, after eleven years, it ended up not working.”

This troubled relationship did, however, yield the one constant source of joy in Eminem’s life: his daughter. He will truly do anything for Hailie. All he has achieved is for her, the one person who inspired responsibility in an artist who channels excess. For all the antiauthority, hardcore traits in his art, Eminem’s views on parenting are midlevel conservative. When we first met, Eminem was more worried by the fact Hailie had asked to wear makeup than he was by the pressure of his escalating career. He has said repeatedly that he wouldn’t let his seven-year-old listen to his albums and pointed to the necessity of a parental advisory sticker on his albums.

“People don’t know this about me, but in everyday life, being a father, I limit the swear words,” he says. “I don’t cuss around my daughter. If someone else is around and they say the F-word, she’s heard it before; I don’t say, ‘Hey, watch your mouth around my daughter.’ That would be ridiculous. After all, I’m Eminem, Mr. Potty-Mouth King. To me it’s different when it’s in a song because it’s music and it’s entertainment. Hailie hears it, but you can’t avoid that, it’s just part of life—you’re going to hear swear words and you’re going to hear what they mean; it’s up to you if you want to repeat them or not. I’d rather have her do that than running around beating people up.”

When Eminem isn’t on tour—especially in 2001, when he was in Detroit making The Eminem Show and 8 Mile—he spends as much time as possible with his daughter. “When I’m home, I wake her up in the morning, feed her cereal, watch a little TV, take her to school, pick her up,” he says. “We watch a lot of movies—typical shit.” In the Eminem canon, his daughter is the only woman who receives his undying love, the only one to be the object of his devotion.

Eminem is characteristically clear-eyed about the themes of his songs and how his daughter may feel about it. “When I was six years old, music flew by my head, but I caught it if there was a swear word in it,” he says. “Kids nowadays are a lot smarter than we were growing up, but if there’s a song that I have that has a lot of swear words in a row, I make her clean versions and I play those in the car. At the end of the day, I would give my life for my little girl. If there’s something that I believe in my heart is going to affect her, then I won’t say it, that’s where I draw the line. There’s a couple of things I said on The Eminem Show that I ended up spinning back because I didn’t want her to go
to school and have people say, ‘Oh, your mom did this.’”

Eminem knows he will have some explaining to do, as surely as he fears Hailie’s teens will bring out the Slim Shady in him. “I’m sure Hailie is going to come to me and ask me about all of it when it’s all said and done,” he says. “I’m sure she’ll come to me, probably when she’s a teenager—which I dread. I have no fucking idea what I’m going to do when she starts dating. I’m gonna kill boys. It’s gonna drive me crazy. It’s the greatest feeling in the world to watch your seed grow, to watch a life that you created look at the world through another set of your eyes. It also hurts to know that one day she’s going to grow up and be out of the house. But that’s what we’re here for, to create more life I

“There’s a certain sophistication involved with Eminem, because he is literary in a certain way,” Shelby Steele says. “Even his imagery is, in this self-report, the openness of his life with him as a character, there is vulnerability. There’s self-examination, and boy that has a lot more power than the tough-guy thing. He has the bravery of the real artist to put himself out there. That’s the secret that’s distinguished him from the others.”

“I’ve always felt, since my first day of rapping, that my time is ticking,” Eminem told me in 2002. “The day that I made it, I felt that my time was ticking. I always feel that my next album could be my last, so I have to give it everything that I’ve got. And that’s how I’ve set the standards for myself and that’s how I’ve based my whole career, that this chance may never happen again. I invest my money, and you know, I treat every dollar like it could be my last, every album like it could be my last, every song like it could be my last. That’s how I make my music.”

“All that Eminem has to do is just be a great rapper,” says André of OutKast. “What’s happened with his career, it really is a phenomenon. Him being white definitely helped a lot, but really it is a phenomenon. I listen to him rap, this white dude, and he’s got perfect timing. He listened; he paid attention. He’s proved that, so now he can do anything. As far as his music, he’s done his work, so he can play now. I don’t mean he can go and not give a fuck about music anymore, I mean he can do whatever he wants. He can change the backdrop, the musical style, the tempo, the delivery—anything.”

The end.
I'm probably going to get a bunch of tl;dnr now.
Last edited by Amaranthine on Apr 12th, '12, 03:51, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Relapse. » Apr 7th, '12, 22:07

some one wanna summarize?
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Cuz I ain't crazy I say shit that's crazy to crazy people to make em believe I'm crazy so they can relate to me and maybe believe in shady so they can be evil baby I LIKE THAT.

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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Devil'sAdvocate » Apr 7th, '12, 22:08

The devil ain't on a level same as him!
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Trimss » Apr 7th, '12, 22:37

can't believe i read it all.
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby SajN » Apr 7th, '12, 22:50

I have the Nick Hasted book. It's pretty interesting
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby WakeUpShow » Apr 7th, '12, 23:03

By most reports, Eminem was defeated twice at national MC competitions in 1997 by the same man, J.U.I.C.E., a talented freestyle MC from Chicago, who took first prize away from Eminem at the Rap Olympics as well as Scribble Jam in Cincinnati, Ohio. Many who witnessed both called it a victory for Eminem or a tie that Eminem lost to his competitor’s loyal fanbase or a color bias. Many others don’t even remember who won, just who was good.

Bullshit. Everyone who has seen the video knows Juice won fair and square.
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Amaranthine » Apr 7th, '12, 23:03

SajN wrote:I have the Nick Hasted book. It's pretty interesting

I think Hasted's is more interesting than Bozza's because about a third of Bozza's book is a history of Detroit, hip-hop, and white people in hip-hop, and while all of that is's not exactly what most people look for when they buy a book on Eminem.

Good job, Trimss. ;)
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby momentsgolden » Apr 7th, '12, 23:06

Thats some good shit... think i looked for this a while back and couldnt find it. Will finish reading 2ma... gotta sleep
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby limea » Apr 7th, '12, 23:50

Holy fuck... I like Marshall but damn. I don't want to know when the last time he took a shit.
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Asche » Apr 8th, '12, 02:31

Wow... thank you very much for posting all this! I read half of it before I even realized shit... this is LONG. I'll have to come back and finish it later. Great stuff. :y:
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby DanWS » Apr 8th, '12, 02:43

I have that Whatever You Say I Am book by Anthony Bozza. It's pretty good for what I read, but I only read about a third of it. Always found it interesting how highly Em rated the third verse of "Criminal" and wondered how The Source didnt give him a quoteable for it.
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby TheGentlePlayer » Apr 8th, '12, 03:57

Omg, your like the best user on this page! Keep up the good work. Fantastic post! :smoking:
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Mr Change » Apr 8th, '12, 04:08

Man, really interesting stuff. I was especially interested in Eminem talking about his first day on TRL with Marky Mark. :wub:
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Amaranthine » Apr 8th, '12, 04:22

GoinThruChanges wrote:Man, really interesting stuff. I was especially interested in Eminem talking about his first day on TRL with Marky Mark. :wub:

Haha I thought you'd like that part. :happy:

TheGentlePlayer wrote:Omg, your like the best user on this page! Keep up the good work. Fantastic post! :smoking:

:flutter: Aww. Thanks, I love you too.

Em was the most obnoxious person ever in 1999. "You fat fuck, you're fired! You're so fired! Tell Paul he's fired and then rehire him and fire him again, the fucking fat fuck!" lol slap that boy.

I'm glad you guys liked this, I was sitting there putting it together like, "What if nobody reads it or they think it's stupid or it's all old news to them?" I tried to keep it as short as possible, really, but I didn't want to cut too much out, either, so I ended up with a behemoth post. ;) The post on Hasted's book is turning out to be at least as long as this one, because he goes more in depth into Em's relationship with his mom and tries to put the whole picture out there, so I don't want to cut much out of that part. My fingers are dying.
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Re: Excerpts From Anthony Bozza and Nick Hasted's Books on E

Postby Solace » Apr 8th, '12, 04:31

Did you type all of that out omg LOL
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