Marshall Mathers III, a.k.a. superstar rapper Eminem, is the epitome of a rags to riches story. He’s lead an insanely turbulent life and we know all about it through his songs. He grew up in Detroit, Michigan with his unstable mother and abandoned by his father. He and his mom moved from project building to project building never staying anywhere long enough to make friends. The only people Mathers had in his life were his mother whom he shared a rocky relationship with, his best friend and uncle, Ronnie, his on-and-off girlfriend, Kim, and eventually a young daughter. He’s experienced the best of times, and suffered through the worst of times like a lot of us do. He just happened to find an outlet for his emotions and that outlet ended up being his claim to fame.
Mathers found solace in rap music, pessimistically dreaming of a day he might make a career out of it. He eventually became well respected as a white rapper in Detroit’s hip-hop scene. He hooked up with the legendary Dr. Dre in 1996 and released the album The Real Slim Shady, it was his big break. Fast forward 20 years later, and Eminem is one of the best-selling artists of the 21st century.
His storytelling is vastly unique from other artists. He takes his real life experiences and emotions, turns them into verses and shares them with the world. To know the true Eminem, his fans don’t need to type his name into Google, they just need to listen to his songs. His life has been a turbulent one, but intriguing nonetheless. We’ve laid out 15 key moments in the rappers life that helped form him into the person and artist he is today.
15 He Failed 9th Grade... But Was Great In English
Eminem is successful because of his unique ability to craft the English language into entertaining lyrics. With that being said, can you believe he never even made it to the 10th grade? Yes he did spend three years at Lincoln High School, however those entire three years were spent at an attempt to pass the ninth grade which he continually failed due to truancy and bad marks. Although he hated most subjects in school, he did love… you guessed it, English class."I found that no matter how bad I was at school and no matter how low my grades might have been at some times, I always was good at English. I just felt like I wanna be able to have all of these words at my disposal, in my vocabulary at all times whenever I need to pull them out. You know, somewhere, they'll be stored and locked away,” he said in an interview. Remember, stay in school, kids… unless you’re Eminem I guess.
14 Lawsuit After Lawsuit...
Eminem’s first lawsuit came from his mother in 1999. She sued him for around $10 million for slandering her in one of his early albums. She only ended up receiving a total $1,600 in 2001. In 2002, Eminem released the song Without Me including lyrics, “I settled all my lawsuits; f**k you Debbie!”,I guess it's safe to say he didn’t seem phased.
Another lawsuit came from his ex-wife who sued him for $10 million for defaming her in his song Kim. The song depicting her violent death caused her to attempt suicide by slashing her wrists. The two eventually reached a settlement.
In 2001 came the lawsuit from his childhood bully. The bully sued Eminem for $1 million for publicizing information and placing him in false light in the song Brain Damage. He’d admitted to picking on Mathers as a kid but said the lyrics were exaggerated. The Judge threw out the lawsuit and even rapped her verdict, “Mr. Bailey complains that his rep is trash/So he's seeking compensation in the form of cash/Bailey thinks he's entitled to some monetary gain/Because Eminem used his name in vain" and "the lyrics are stories no-one would take as fact/They're an exaggeration of a childish act/It is therefore this court's ultimate position/That Eminem is entitled to summary disposition.” You go, Judge.
13 All The Celebrity Feuds
Eminem could write a book on how to piss people off. Not only do his lyrics offend the general public, he’s also gifted at dissing celebrities in his songs. He’s insinuated that some female celebrities are hussies… in less polite terms of course. For example, Christina Aguilera, Pamela Anderson, Mariah Carey, Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan. And he’s insinuated that some celebrities are gay… in less polite terms of course (Insane Clown Posse and Moby). Other celebrities he’s dissed for being ugly (Khloe Kardahian), for being accused of child molestation (Michael Jackson), for being bad singers (Britney Spears), and he's mocked some female celebrities for looking like men (Lady Gaga). Some of these celebrities fired shots first while others were innocent victims. Others shot back at him while some thought it would be best to stay quite and not fuel the fire.
Will he ever run out of people and celebrities to offend? Probably not. He’s the “king of controversy” as he calls himself and people love him for it.
12 The Rap Battles
Young Marshall Mathers was 14 when he began rapping with some high school friends. He adopted the rap name “M&M”, a play on his initials, which he soon changed to the famous name we know today, “Eminem”. He and his buddies would sneak into neighbouring high schools and start freestyle rap battles. On weekends they’d battle in the city of Detroit’s rap scene. He intrigued people by being white in a predominantly black music scene and they appreciated his talent. The 2002 movie, 8 Mile is largely based off of this time in the rapper's life.
His reputation in Detroit’s rap community continued to grow and he was recruited by several groups, including The Dirty Dozen, or D12 as they’re more commonly known as. He was eventually signed to a record label and recorded his first album which was a complete failure. Eminem’s lyrics lacked the iconic mood he’d later be known for. It was then he decided to develop his violent, murderous and vulgar alter-ego, Slim Shady. After Shady stepped onto the scene, all eyes were on Eminem and his career was going nowhere but up.
11 He Was In A Coma For 10 Days Due To Bullying
Eminem was the victim of severe bullying in his youth. He moved around a lot and often lived in predominantly black neighbourhoods where he would be picked on for being white. He was constantly abused by a then eighth grader, D’Angelo Bailey. He was beaten several times by Bailey which often resulted in symptoms like vomiting, nightmares and insomnia. On one terrifying occasion, Bailey threw an ice ball at a then nine-year-old young Mathers, hitting him in the head and leaving him in a coma for 10 days. Eminem rapped about his experience with bullying in the song Brain Damage in which he called out his bully by name. In 2001, D’Angelo attempted to sue the rapper for defamation, however the lawsuit was thrown out by the judge.
10 He Was Abandoned By His Father
When the rapper was only two years old, his father, Marshall Bruce Mathers Jr. walked out of his life. According to Eminem, his dad never made any effort to ever see him or contact him after he left. Feeling abandoned at such a young age, Eminem holds a deep-rooted grudge against his father which he often touches on in songs like Cleanin’ Out My Closet.
In 2002, his father had a letter he wrote to his son published in a newspaper. In the letter, he blamed Eminem’s mom for deliberately keeping them apart. The rapper didn’t fall for it and to this very day refuses to ever meet his dad. "I can't understand how (he could leave). If my kids moved to the edge of the earth, I'd find them. No doubt in my mind. No money, no nothing— if I had nothing I'd find my kids. So there's no excuse,” he said in an interview for 60 minutes.
9 The Death Of Ronnie
Ronnie Polkingharn was Mathers' uncle, the two were born only two months apart and so they grew up as best friends. Polkingharn was a massive influence on his nephew, he introduced the future superstar to hip hop and breakdancing. The two spent all of their time together and would record rap tapes. They both dreamed of a career in music.
In 1991, Mathers' received a devastating phone call from his mother stating that his uncle and best friend was dead. He shot himself following a break-up with his girlfriend. We’ve heard the name “Ronnie” mentioned in numerous Eminem songs including, Stan and Cleanin’ Out My Closet. His lyrics about Polkingharn are always expressing extreme grief over the loss, like in My Dad’s Gone Crazy: “More pain inside of my brain, in the eyes of a little girl inside of a plane aimed at the world trade, standin’ on Ronnie’s grave, screaming at the sky”.
8 Struggling With Addiction
Unfortunately, at one point in his career, Eminem seemed to fall victim to his childhood demons. He has spoken openly about struggling with addiction to prescription drugs like the way his mother had when he was growing up. Since he wasn’t into any hardcore street drugs, he failed to recognize that he had a problem. Instead of being a stereotypical drug addict and shooting heroin, he was popping drug cocktails of Vicodin, Ambient and Valium to get through the day.
In 2007, his addiction took a deadly turn when he overdosed on methadone. Doctors told him he had ingested the equivalent to four bags of heroin and was just hours away from dying before they saved him. He went for treatment and relapsed, but got clean in 2008 with Elton John as his mentor. He says his role as a father ultimately convinced him to get off of the dugs.
7 Breaking The Color Barrier
Forming in the United States in the 1970, hip-hop or rap music was typically a genre reserved for African-Americans. In the 1980s, the genre began to become recognized worldwide and we were introduced to some of the best like LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C. Come the 1990s, hip-hop began to diversify and that’s when white rappers began to step on the scene like Vanilla Ice, The Beastie Boys, House of Pain and of course, Eminem.
Eminem broke colour barriers with the success of his album The Real Slim Shady. With a highly respected rap name like Dr. Dre producing his albums, Eminem's career shot to the top. He’s now known as one of the biggest and best rappers of all time. He’s opened doors for numerous other white rappers including, Bubba Sparxxx, Asher Roth, Machine Gun Kelly, Macklemore, Mac Miller, and G-Easy.
6 His Unstable Mother
Anyone who is an Eminem fan will know about the horrible relationship he’s had with his mother, Debbie. She was only 17 when she gave birth to him and did not provide a stable home. As Eminem got older, the two constantly fought. In his songs and in the press, he’s accused his mother of child abuse and being addicted to prescription pills when he was growing up.
In 2013, Eminem released his song, Headlights in which he expresses the remorse he feels for airing his and his mother’s tumultuous relationship publicly. Appropriately on Mother’s Day in 2014, he released a heart-wrenching video for the song depicting his mom’s point of view through his career. Although this seems to be a step in the right direction for the two, we shouldn’t hold our breaths for a happy reunion. At the end of Headlights, Eminem states that he’ll always love his mom, but only from afar.
5 The Adoption Of Alaina And Whitney
Aside from his biological daughter with his ex-wife, Kim Scott, Eminem also has two adopted daughters, Alaina and Whitney. Alaina is actually Scott’s niece whom her twin sister was the mother of. Whitney is Scott’s biological daughter whom she had as the result of the relationship with a man she cheated on Eminem with. The rapper has always viewed his adopted daughters as his own.
Eminem and Kim adopted Alaina in 2002 in order to provide her with a stable life. Her biological mother, Dawn Scott struggled heavily with drug addiction while she was pregnant with her and throughout her life. Unfortunately, earlier this year Dawn was found dead in a trailer park due to a heroin overdose.
Scott became pregnant with Whitney by another man in 2001 during her on-and-off relationship with her husband. Six month after the birth of Whitney, she and Eminem were officially back on. The rapper always said he would be willing to raise Whitney as his own, and so he eventually adopted her. And so today he is proud to call three young ladies his daughters, each of them making him a father in a unique way.
4 Marriage To Kim Mathers: Round 1
Marshall Mathers III and Kimberly Scott met back in 1987 when he was 15 years old and she was only 13. Scott and Mathers eventually started dating in 1989 and there began one of the most volatile relationships in rap history. The two had a baby girl, Hailie Jade Scott, in 1995. The pressures of family life while trying to start a music career caused the couple to split for a short time in 1996.
The resentment he felt over the split lead to the creation of Eminem’s alter-ego, Slim Shady; a raging character who expressed his anger through rape, arson, and murder. Scott apparently saw past all of the traumatizing songs since she and Eminem later married in 1999. A year later, Eminem witnessed his wife kiss a male friend on the cheek in a parking lot. He assaulted the man and was arrested. This event was chronicled in a skit on one of his albums called The Kiss.
Scott went to go watch one of her husband's shows in 2000 and he told her he wouldn't perform the song Kim, however he did. He had a Kim look-alike blow-up doll on stage with him which he pretended to assault. Scott attempted suicide that night and in 2001, she filed for divorce.
3 Marriage To Kim Mathers: Round 2
Despite the suicide attempt, despite the lawsuit, despite the violent song, and despite their all-around toxic relationship, Eminem and Kim decided to give marriage another shot in 2006. They rekindled their romance five years after their first divorce. Unfortunately, marriage number two only lasted four months. In 2010, Eminem released the song I’m Going Through Changes with lyrics directed to his daughters, “I still love your mother, that’ll never change, think about her every day. We just could never get it together hey, wish there was a better way. For me to say it, but I swear on everything I’d do anything for her on any day.” Today, it’s reported that the couple get along better than ever. Eminem built his ex-wife and daughters a beautiful mansion five miles away from his own home and the family spends a lot of time together.
2 The Birth Of Hailie Jade
Yes, Eminem is angry. Yes, he’s violent. But, if anything softens him up, it’s his daughter, Hailie Jade Scott. She has been mentioned and been the topic of 22 of the rapper’s songs including, My Darling, Beautiful, and Infinite. Her voice has been used in his works and she also appeared in the music video for Mockingbird.
Throughout his career, he has expressed nothing but dedication, love and pride for his daughter. In his best dedication to his daughter, Hailie’s Song he sings, “Hailie, remember when I said, if you ever need anything. Daddy would be right there? Guess what? Daddy’s here, and I ain’t going nowhere baby, I love you”. Hailie Jade is now a beautiful and intelligent 20-year-old young woman who remains someone to be incredibly proud of. You can call the guy a lot of things, but a bad dad isn’t one of them.
1 His Bluntness
Eminem has been accused of many things during his career including being violent towards women as well as being homophobic. His lyrics are vile, vicious and vulgar there's no doubt, but, that’s what’s gotten him this far. His raps tell stories, they're shocking and intriguing and he really doesn’t care what anyone thinks.
He’s often been asked about the homophobic lyrics and slurs he’s used in his songs. He’s continually denied having any ill feelings towards gay people and is actually good friends with openly gay singer-songwriter, Elton John. He's said growing up rap battling, gay slurs were thrown around in a generally derogatory manner and not specifically directed at homosexuals.
He’s clearly got some deep-rooted issues against the women in his life, like his mother and his ex-wife. It’s likely these experiences that fuel his hateful lyrics toward females. He claims that his lyrics always reflect how he’s feeling at the time, but that he’s become more mature about things as he’s gotten older. Does he hate women? Maybe a few in specific, but now, as the father of three blossoming young ladies he’s seemed to take his misogynistic lyrics down quite a few notches.