Demolish to Slim Shady had become a necessity for Eminem in 2002. The character or alter ego with which the rapper, real name Marshall Mathers (St. Joseph, Missouri, 49 years old), had risen to fame seemed to have opposite life plans. theirs: built on their first EP, The Slim Shady EP (1997), and the subsequent album The Slim Shady LP (1999) as a way to reverse criticism towards the serious and dramatic tone of their debut album, Infinite (1996), Eminem’s alternate face functioned as a loudmouthed, satirical, flippant, mocking version of himself, one that kept getting him into trouble…and, let’s face it, giving him significant public notoriety. After publicly insulting pop stars like Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, *NSYNC or Backstreet Boys in his songs, however, the character – who even had his own cartoon series, The Slim Shady Show– now threatened to devour him.
“My whole life seemed to be turning into a circus at that time,” Eminem reflected a few years ago in an Instagram post. With his own semi-biographical film on the way, the huge critical and commercial success 8 miles (2002), the rapper decided to run away and make a public spectacle out of his circumstances. Using the culture of fame to project himself, to the detriment of his character, Eminem thus conceived The Eminem Show, an album whose abrupt release, brought forward at the end of May 2002 by pirate leaks and the rapid spread of recorded radio broadcasts via the Internet, is now 20 years old. And whose title, although it could be read as the personal counterpart to The Slim Shady Showhad as its main inspiration the movie the truman show (1998), to the point that the rapper declared that his album “was written by Jim Carrey”, the protagonist of that drama where a normal man lives in a great reality television program followed by millions of people without being aware of it.
With titles as illustrative of the self-referential nature of the album as the single Cleanin’ out my closet (Cleaning out my closet), Eminem was looking for an honest twist in the album’s lyrics, this time more at the cost of his own dirty laundry and particular concerns, even politically, than an insult to the star system. “One of the most frustrating things for me was people saying I needed to swear to sell records. I wanted to show that I am a solid artist and that I am here to stay, ”said the rapper in an interview at the time with the magazine Spin. own Cleanin’ out my closetin fact, worked as a settling of accounts with his own mother, addicted to drugs, who had denounced him before for his attacks in other songs like My name is o Marshall Mathers.
Other topics like ‘Till I collapse, White America o Sing for the moment (with a very recognizable sample of Aerosmith’s Dream on) abounded in the confessional nature of the album, also openly critical of the administration of then President George W. Bush, which would later lead him to be investigated by the Secret Service as a result of the possible threats towards the main tenant of the White House in his lyrics, an achievement that he would repeat under the presidency of Donald Trump.
Although, of course, the goat always shoots into the bush and The Eminem Show, despite its intentions, also contained its own catalog of invectives – some more understated than others – against its peers on the charts. The song Supermanwithout going any further, marked the beginning of his well-known and long controversy with Mariah Carey, with whom the rapper claimed to have had a tumultuous relationship, an extreme initially denied by the voice of All I want for Christmas is youwho would respond to him publicly and, later, dedicate the song to him Obsessed. The controversy would enter a impasse years later, when Eminem made veiled threats on another song (The Warningo sea, The advertisement) with publishing intimate photos of the New York artist. In 2020, rumors that Mariah Carey would talk about Eminem in her biography caused concern, according to sources from US Weekly, to the rapper, because “she was always his Achilles heel and they had a very toxic relationship.” Finally, Eminem was not even mentioned in the book, although Mariah Carey parodied him last year by appearing disguised as him on TikTok.
A recurring theme that the artist dealt with in The Eminem Show was that of his status as a white rap star, which also had an important plot weight in the film 8 miles. In the song White America, for example, pointed out the hypocrisy around the great concern that his lyrics had caused, greater, in his opinion, than that caused by other black rappers because he was listened to by young white men. “Hip-hop was never a problem in Harlem, but it was in Boston,” he quipped. And in the theme that was previously popularized on his album, Without me (composed together with Jeffrey Bass and very famous for its base, surely one of the best known in history), Eminem directly addressed his parallels with Elvis Presley, another icon who also went down in history for succeeding in a genre developed by the black population. .
Although Eminem was far from the first white rapper to be famous (in fact, on the cover of his 2018 album Kamikaze, he paid tribute to the Beastie Boys, a white group that succeeded in hip-hop long before him), the discussion about whether the Missouri artist is an example of cultural appropriation has continued even today. However, many black rap figures have argued that Eminem’s case is radically different from that of Elvis Presley: Likewise, Chuck D, leader of Public Enemy, has frequently spoken of him as an example of a white musician who stands up to the elvismothe syndrome of adopting the music of others without hardly acknowledging its promoters or even being openly hostile and racist towards them.
In addition to collaborating on the album with artists like Dr. Dre or Nate Dogg, on the song ‘Till I collapse Precisely, a section that Eminem dedicates to quoting all the black rappers who marked him stands out. “Eminem has earned a pass in the same way that black people, during the days of segregation, had to prove that they were better than the average person to be accepted,” said Stephen Hill of Black Entertainment Television in 2002. , praising his technical ability and vocal speed.
With 27 million copies sold, The Eminem Show It was the most successful album of 2002 and one of the biggest commercial successes of all time. Without assuming a break with the satirical style that had catapulted him into The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), his previous massive success (and which had also led him to beg the comedian Weird Al Yankovic not to parody him, for fear that he would beat him on the ground and “affect his image and his career”), the beginning 2002’s big hit on the table Eminem was also a critical success. Due to the inclusion of guitars, the journalist Kris Ex, from Rolling Stone, raised the possibility that it was the “best rap-rock album in history”. The dean of music criticism, Robert Christgau, for his part, said: “It represents a coherent and formally appropriate response to the changing position and role of Eminem, which captures the privileges and alienations that fame produces, as well as the resolution of their worst traumas and the details of their success”.
With a controversy over cultural appropriation much better resolved than his accusations of homophobia (which he tried to counteract that same 2002 using the well-known letter “I have a gay friend” through a collaboration with Elton John) and misogyny, which continue to this day Due to the rapper’s refusal to modify his language, Eminem would close a triumphant year by winning the Oscar for the title song of 8 miles, Lose yourself, the first hip-hop song to do so. However, it would also be the trigger for a stage of decline, where he would become addicted to drugs to support the workload and be able to sleep, and would even disappear from the public scene for a long time and would gain weight until he exceeded 100 kilos. . Another parallelism with Elvis, in whose biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann, which opens this week, precisely Eminem has collaborated with a song.
Twenty years later, the artist is still in the limelight, despite the fact that his latest works have generated significantly less interest than his first period. Eminem closed his long dispute with his mother in another song, Headlightsand currently claims to feel ashamed of Cleanin’ out my closet. Although his lyrics continue to annoy the aforementioned (actress Jamie Lee Curtis asked him on Twitter, in 2017, if he had a daughter, in response to a letter where Eminem spoke of murdering her, in relation to an old statement by Curtis about not allowing children listen to the rapper), the artist’s recent controversies do not have the same path as before, despite, for example, Eminem’s valiant attempts to position himself as the victim of an alleged persecution on TikTok that sought to “cancel” him for his language: the data from the hashtag #CancelEminem2021 showed that the majority of users of the alleged campaign were millennials complaining that the new generations apparently wanted cancel and Eminem.
@eminem “They blame me 4 murdering Jamie Lee Curtis said I put her face in the furnace, beat her with a space heater.”
You have a daughter?
— Jamie Lee Curtis (@jamieleecurtis) February 4, 2017
However, other more flattering data, such as the one billion views that his songs received in streaming in 2021 (to accumulate a total of 11,000 million), are, rather, an indication of what the artist already intuited two decades ago: that his fame is lasting and does not need minor controversies.