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While he may be one of the best hip-hop stars in the US, Eminemís story hasnít always been about success. Marshall Mathers grew up in a dysfunctional family and found that music was the only escape he had. He formed a group called D-12 with some friends and they rapped together as they supported one anotherís attempts to be solo artists. With long-time girlfriend Kim Scott by his side, Eminem (as he is better known) participated in freestyle competitions and even attempted a solo album. But Kim gave birth to their daughter Hailie Jade in December 1995 and Eminem put his career on hold to support his family.

The Kodak moment didnít last very long. Eminem and Kim had a falling out soon after Hailieís birth and Eminem went back to music, releasing his debut album Infinite on an independent record label. Infinite was not the breakthrough album he had hoped and received severe criticism, often earning Eminem comparisons to fellow rappers Nas and AZ. He took his music back to live audiences as he continued to rap in freestyle competitions.

It was the 1997 Rap Olympics MC Battle in Los Angeles that proved to be the big break Eminem had hoped for. He took second place in the freestyle category, and Infinite found its way into the hands of Interscope Recordsí Jimmy Iovine. A few weeks later, Iovine played the tape for rap mogul Dr. Dre, who contacted Eminem immediately. Rumour has it that when Dre and Eminem first met, Dre was taken aback by the colour of Eminemís skin. Regardless, he was amazed by his talent and agreed to produce Eminemís first major album.

Things had begun to look up for Eminem. Not only was he working with Dre and signed to Interscope Records, he had reconciled with and married Kim in 1998. Slim Shady was on his way.

ďCan I have the attention of the class for one second?Ē ~ My Name Is
Eminem couldnít possibly have imagined how much attention he would garner. The Slim Shady LP released in 1999 and its debut single My Name Is propelled Eminem into the limelight. But a closer look at the lyrics showed that Eminem wasnít all about the carefree and catchy sound of My Name Is. The song, like several others in his career, highlight his extreme dislike for his mother, and even has homophobic undertones that came back to haunt him with the release of Stan from his next album.

The album went triple platinum and peaked at #2 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. Teenagers everywhere were going crazy about the new rap sensation that had emerged. And just as his career was on the upswing, his relationship with Kim began to unravel again.

ďI'm not Mr. N'Sync, I'm not what your friends think.Ē ~ The Way I Am
If The Slim Shady LP had made Eminem famous, 2000ís The Marshall Mathers LP made him a phenomenon. The album sold almost two million copies in the first week of its release and stayed at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart for eight weeks. Eminem even won three Grammy Awards, including one for Best Rap Album. As he grew more successful, he also grew more controversial.

Eminem was already a fixture on the rap scene, but he was now taking it one step further. The teen icon ridiculed others like Fred Durst, Carson Daly, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera in The Real Slim Shady, even parodying them in the music video. His fans lapped it up, but Eminemís real success came with the hit Stan. His duet with Dido is sometimes credited for introducing the British musician to the US. The haunting song and video (featuring actor Devon Sawa) about a man who kills his pregnant girlfriend because he is in love with Eminem, was the first of its kind and shocked the music world. The Real Slim Shady made fun of bubblegum pop, and Stan showed the world the darker side of Eminem.

The songs on The Marshall Mathers LP were even more personal than those on its predecessor. Kill You was simply an assault of aggressive insults aimed at his mother, which later resulted in a lawsuit filed by Debbie Mathers claiming defamation of character. Eminem rapped about killing his wife on the song Kim, which led to her attempting suicide and, ultimately, to their divorce in 2001.

You can read the rest of our feature on Eminem in the December 2005 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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