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Drugs, Poverty And Controversy: How Eminem Turned Himself Into A Rap Megastar

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Drugs, Poverty And Controversy: How Eminem Turned Himself Into A Rap Megastar

Eminem has had some life. Most of it is no secret to a lot of us as it's well documented in his music and 8 Mile, which was loosely based on his life.

Looking back, when Em burst onto the mainstream music scene in the late '90s, it was a surprise anyone touched him as the content in his songs was so controversial. Nowadays, if songs like 'Kim' or '97 Bonnie & Clyde', which both depict Eminem kidnapping his girlfriend while his daughter Haley is present, made it onto an album, he'd likely be arrested.

It's no lie that Shady's career is nowhere near as explosive, controversial or indeed as good as it was back in the late '90s and early 2000s, but it was an impressive journey to go from 'trailer park trash' to global rap megastar. Pissing thousands of people off along the way.

On the day he was announced to headline Reading and Leeds festivals, then, it's best to look back on how he became so big, and how he pissed everyone off.


The 44-year-old released his lesser-known debut album, Infinite, in 1996, making it 'radio friendly' in the hope that he'd get played more. It was his second release, The Slim Shady LP, that gained him his first taste of proper success.

This album mostly featured lyrics from the perspective of Eminem's alter ego, 'Slim Shady', a sociopath who partakes in over the top violence. Many believe that the writing, presented through the alter ego, is simply a cover up for Eminem's actual thoughts. This is something the rapper has denied.

On the major label debut there were 182 swear words, which is quite an incredible feat. Of the 22 songs, most referenced drug use, misogynies, domestic abuse, murder and a no fucks given attitude. So, it's not hard to see why he pissed people off.


Credit: Interscope Records

The record spawned three lawsuits for Eminem. One was from his own mother, who sued him for the line: "I just found out my mom does more dope than I do" in 'My Name Is'.

The second suing came from DeAngelo Bailey, who was the subject on the song 'Brain Damage'. On the track, Eminem depicts a scene at high school where Bailey beats him to a pulp. The case was upheld in 2003, with a judge determining that the lyrics were so exaggerated that they could in no way be believed to be recalling a genuine event.

And then the third lawsuit came from Harlene Stein, who accused both Eminem and Dr Dre of using an unauthorised sample of 'Go Home Pigs', which was written by her late husband, in the song 'Guilty Conscience'.


Not one bit of any of that bothered Marshall Mathers. He could have pissed off every single person on earth and it wouldn't have mattered. Just years before he was 'white trash' (by his own admission), and then he had gone from an underground rapper to a rap phenomenon. His dream had come true.

At the age of 14, he began rapping at school under the alias M&M with a friend. He would often sneak into Osborn High School to have lunchtime freestyles with Proof, who was a long-time best friend. On stage he was known as 'hype man' for Em and a member of D-12 before his death in 2006.

Mathers' success and undeniable talent was denied for a long time as he was a white man trying to make it in what was primarily a 'black man's genre'. He spent his time on the underground circuit, gaining popularity and even came second in the Rap Olympics in 1997.

His success is in the main down to hard work. When his mother would leave him at home to go to bingo, he'd sit and blast music, perfecting his lyrics.


This was the same in the jobs he'd have. Although he'd never be at them long, he'd use his breaks to write music. He also did this during the filming of 8 Mile. In between takes was the only time he had to work on his tracks, so that's when he did it. There was no time off.

Of course, in among all the hard work, there were problems. He has never shied away from the fact that he struggled with drug addiction.

The rapper allegedly had addictions to prescription meds like Vicodin, Ambien and Valium. According to him, he'd take a "ridiculous amount [...] I could consume anywhere from 40 to 60 Valium [in a day]."


Credit: Shady Records

Eventually, after piling on a load of weight because he would simply sit around taking drugs then binge on fast food, he overdosed on methadone in 2007. He reportedly bought it from a dealer who had told him it was 'just like Vicodin'. Incredibly, he took the equivalent of four bags of heroin which left him 'two hours from dying'.

Luckily he was able to kick the drugs in rehab, with help from close friend Elton John.

Topics: rap, Eminem

Mark McGowan
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