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Rap Biographies: Eminem

Eminem (born Marshall Bruce Mathers III on October 17, 1972) is an American rapper, one of today's most popular and controversial rappers, and a Grammy and Oscar-winner. Marshall was born in St. Joseph, Missouri (near Kansas City) to parents Deborah "Debbie" Mathers-Briggs and Marshall Bruce Mathers II, and spent most of his childhood moving back and forth between Kansas City, and suburban Detroit. He is of mostly Scottish-American descent, and currently lives in suburban Detroit.

He is noted for his ability to change his own verbal pace (flow) and style multiple times within one song without losing the beat, and has been praised for his skill in alliteration and assonance. He is infamous for the controversy surrounding many of his lyrics.

His childhood was further marred by his family's meager financial status, which was the primary reason for the continuous moving. His father had abandoned the family before Marshall turned two years old, and the two have not had contact since, save some rejected attempts by Marshall's father to contact Marshall after his rise to fame. Constantly moving from home to home, he frequently changed schools, often finding himself to be an outcast in the new communities, and frequently fell victim to bullying.

Eminem began performing raps at age 14 in the basement of his high school friend's home. The two went under the names Manix and M&M (soon changed to Eminem), which Mathers took from his own initials. The second E in his stage name is always shown reversed on his records since his second album. The backwards-E has become a logo for him, appearing prominently in his videos and stage set.

Due to the unavoidable racial boundaries that came with being a white rapper, he decided the easiest way to win over underground hip-hop audiences was to become a battle rapper and improve against other MCs in clubs. The birth of Eminem's first child put his career on hold again as he started working in order to care for his family. He created Slim Shady, an alter ego that was not afraid to say whatever he felt. Tapping into his innermost feelings, he had a bounty of material to work with when his mother was accused of mentally and physically abusing his younger brother the same year.

The next year his girlfriend left him and barred him from visiting their child, so he was forced to move back in with his mother, an experience that fueled his hatred toward her and made him even more sympathetic toward his brother. The material he was writing was uncharacteristically dark as he began to abuse drugs and alcohol at a more frequent rate. An unsuccessful suicide attempt was the last straw, as he realized his musical ambitions were the only way to escape his unhappy life.

Now Eminem is known as one of the most skillful and controversial rappers in the industry simultaneously earning respect from the hip-hop community for his lyrical talent. He is the second-highest selling rapper of all time, behind Tupac Shakur, though the latter has had several posthumous albums released. Some people called him rap's "great white hope". With his storytelling way of expressing rap, he became known in the underground as "The White Shadow".

According to legend, Dr. Dre discovered his demo tape on the floor of Interscope label chief Jimmy Iovine's garage, but the reality was that Eminem took second place in the freestyle category at 1997's Rap Olympics MC Battle in Los Angeles and Iovine approached the rapper for a tape afterward. About two month later he played the tape for an enthusiastic Dre, who eagerly contacted Eminem. When Dr. Dre first heard a recording of Eminem rapping, he thought that Eminem was black. Upon meeting, Dre was taken back by his skin color more than his skill, but within the first hour they had already started recording "My Name Is." Dre agreed to produce his first album and the two released "Just Don't Give a Fuck" as a single to preview the new album.

The best-selling Slim Shady LP followed in early 1999, scoring a massive hit with the single and video "My Name Is," plus a popular follow-up in "Guilty Conscience"; over the next year, the album went triple platinum. With such wide exposure, controversy ensued over the album's content, with some harshly criticizing its cartoon-ish, graphic violence; others praised its edginess and surreal humor, as well as Eminem's own undeniable lyrical skills and Dre's inventive production. In between albums, Eminem appeared on Dre's ‘Dr. Dre 2001', with his contributions providing some of the record's liveliest moments.

‘The Marshall Mathers LP' was released in May 2000, quickly selling 2 million copies. The first single, ‘The Real Slim Shady', was a smash - thanks in part to the catchy rhythm and chorus line, "Won't the real Slim Shady please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?" It also created some buzz by trash-talking celebrities and spilling dubious gossip about them. For example in the third single, "Stan" (which samples Dido's "Thank You"), Eminem attempts to deal with his new-found fame, telling the story of a fan so obsessed with Eminem that the fan winds up killing himself and his pregnant girlfriend, mirroring one of the songs on The Slim Shady LP.

A large part of Eminem's popularity is his separation from the over-abundance of "pop-rap", in which rhymes rarely stray from bragging about money and jewelry, fast cars with large rims, huge parties, and constant casual sex. Instead, Eminem's songs typically explore deeper anger, thoughts, questions, and statements about his life and how he is treated. Common topics are: drugs and self-abuse, his mother and childhood, being white in a black business/culture and growing up in a black neighborhood, his wife, raising his daughter and niece, America and the government, poking fun at celebrities and American pop culture, annoyance and/or amusement with people's literal interpretation of lyrics in songs like "Criminal" and "Stan".

With the enormous popularity of Eminem's second album, the controversy surrounding Eminem grew even larger, especially when ‘The Marshall Mathers LP' was nominated for a Grammy for Album of the Year. Though Mathers had always claimed that his lyrics were not meant to be taken seriously, and that he had nothing against homosexuals or women, the gay rights group organized a boycott of the Grammy's against Eminem. Mathers responded to this by singing "Stan" on-stage with bisexual singer Elton John, ending the performance by hugging John to show that he didn't have anything against homosexuals. Though it shocked a lot of people, this gesture failed to appease all of his critics.

After Dr. Dre's leading protégé succeeded in multi-platinum record sales Eminem was granted his own record label. Eminem is active as a producer of rap records. D12's two albums, ‘Devil's Night' and ‘D12 World' (as one of six members of the rap group D12, Eminem appeared on these albums). Eminem's rap group "D12" which arguably means "Detroit 12" or "The Dirty Dozen" has only 6 members. Many people are often confused by the number. It is "12" because each of the 6 members of the group has two rap names or "personas." (For example, "Eminem" and "Slim Shady"). Eminem made the video ‘My Band' with D12. The controversial song was the band's sarcastic response to the media's frequent portrayal of D-12 as Eminem's band, giving little or no credit to its other members.

Eminem also produced 50 Cent's ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin' and ‘The Massacre'. He recently produced 2Pac's fifth posthumous album, ‘Loyal To The Game', with 2Pac's mother, Afeni Shakur. Although Eminem owns his own label, he is strictly signed to Dr. Dre's Aftermath Entertainment as a solo artist (the Aftermath list includes 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, Stat Quo, Eve, The Game and newcomer Bishop Lamont). He also owns a clothing line called "Shady Ltd."

When he re-emerged in 2002, surprisingly, the following album, ‘The Eminem Show', inspired little controversy. Instead, the popular second single, "Cleanin' Out My Closet," told of his dysfunctional childhood and explained his hatred toward his mother in a mannered, poignant fashion. Targets on his third straight chart-topper, 2004's ‘Encore', ranged from Michael Jackson ("Just Lose It") to war-hungry politicians ("Mosh").

By the end of 2005 he was back with a new video. In typical Eminem fashion, the clip for "When I'm Gone" riffed on his recent rehab stay. He also issued the greatest-hits set Curtain Call December 2005. Encore, Mathers' fourth major-label album, was released later that year, but was considered by many to be a disappointment in comparison to his previous three albums and sold half of what The Eminem Show had. His latest release is Curtain Call: The Hits, a compilation which covers many of his past hit songs, and includes three new tracks. Eminem has stated that Curtain Call may be his final solo album, but he continues to produce for and collaborate with Shady/Aftermath artists.

Eminem was married to Kimberly Mathers, in 1999, who he has angrily written lyrics about. Hailie Jade Scott is the daughter of Eminem and Kimberly Ann Scott. She was born on December 25, 1995. The songs "Mockingbird" on Eminem's album Encore and "Hailie's Song" on The Eminem Show are dedicated to her. The divorce with Kimberly was finalized in 2001. He gained custody of his daughter. Nathan Mathers is his younger brother who Eminem is the legal guardian for. Eminem has also adopted Alaina Mathers, the daughter of Kimberly's twin sister. Eminem remarried Kim on January 14, 2006 in Michigan. Eminem's best man was long time friend and D12 member Proof, while Kim's maid of honor was their daughter Hailie. They walked down the aisle to Eminem's song "Mockingbird".

In 2005, some industry insiders are speculating that Eminem is considering concluding his rapping career after five years and numerous multi-platinum albums. The reason for his retirement is to focus on acting, spending time with his daughter and niece, and more on his increasing popularity in production. This may not mean his retirement from rapping completely, as he may well still contribute to many of his Shady Record artists' projects as well as Dr. Dre's possible Detox album.
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