By: Soo Jeon
Eminem is one of the most influential and best selling artists of our time, having sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. But Eminem is probably most known for his talent of storytelling through his lyrics. While it is not uncommon for artist to discuss their personal lives in their songs, Eminem does it for his own satisfaction without consideration for the feelings of others and, with much bluntness. Eminem has overcome myriad of problems and controversies that have only helped him to grow and mature as demonstrated through his music. Eminem’s transition from rapping criticism about others to rapping about hope is something Eminem himself, said he would have never imagined writing about ten years ago. With his much anticipated album due out in the later half of 2013, many are wondering in what other aspects Eminem have matured and grown.
Timeline of all of Eminem’s released albums and a bit of description about each one of them.
Born Marshall Mathers to a single mother, Eminem spent much of his childhood moving from various cities until he settled down in Detroit, Michigan. Eminem had a tough childhood due to growing up in poverty that contributed to his tense relationship with his mother. But Eminem was able to find comfort in rapping. As a predominately African-American art form, Eminem struggled to gain acceptance. But, because of his obvious rapping talent, he gradually became a part of the rap community. Eminem’s talent for rapping and free styling prompted him to begin a career out of this newfound passion.
Eminem’s maturation of lyrical storytelling is most evident through his relationship with Kim Scott Mathers, his ex-wife and the mother of his children. Married in 1999, their seven-year marriage was plagued with legal and martial problems that resulted in two divorces. Eminem wrote early on in their marriage about their problems as shown through “97 Bonnie and Clyde,” featured in his second album, The Real Slim Shady LP (1999). He speaks in this song of his desire to not have Kim around anymore and metaphorically raps of the disposal of her corpse in the lake. The playful and light-hearted beat of this song strongly contrasts to the dark content of the lyrics that creates a satirical feel to “97 Bonnie and Clyde.” This song signifies Eminem’s then child-like approaches to his problems by ridiculing and even going as far as to rap so insensitively on a topic such as death.
Eminem wrote “Kim,” featured in his 2000 The Marshall Mathers LP album, after discovering Kim’s infidelity. This song further demonstrated Eminem’s inability to sustain his emotions – especially his anger – and getting satisfaction by backlashing those who hurt him through his music. The crying, screaming, and vulgar lyrics in “Kim” makes this Eminem’s most angry and disturbing song. Kim has sued Eminem for defamation for depicting her violent death in this song. This lawsuit created a new level of animosity and backlash between Eminem and Kim.
Eminem remained mentioning Kim in his albums as shown through The Eminem Show (2002) and Encore (2004). It is notable that in these albums Eminem continued to speak maliciously of Kim but also made subtle praises about Kim, something he would have never characterized Kim to be in his previous songs. In one of Eminem’s most famous song, Mockingbird
(2005), Eminem raps about the early relationship he had with Kim and their daughter, Hallie. He apologizes to Hallie for the hardships she had to endure because of Kim and himself. Eminem reminisces to one Christmas he remembers in particular and mentions a fond memory he has of Kim:
It’s funny I remember back one year when daddy had no money
Mommy wrapped the Christmas presents up And stuck ‘em under the tree
and said some of ‘em were from me Cuz daddy couldn’t buy ‘em
I’ll never forget that Christmas I sat up the whole night crying
Although Eminem rarely spoke of Kim after 2006 following their second divorce, Eminem’s most recent album, Recovery (2010), made subtle references to her, nevertheless. His song, “Going Through the Changes,” is the first time in four years Eminem mentioned Kim and makes his feelings about her perfectly clear:
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
-Going Through the Changes
Kim’s presence in Eminem’s songs have diminished over time just as their relationship have quietly calmed down. During the most horrific and emotional times of their relationship had Eminem write alarming songs such as “Kim” and “97 Bonnie and Clyde.” And during his time of reminiscence did Eminem rap about Kim’s signification to him as a human and an artist. Recovery (2010) appears to hold many songs on what Eminem feels and thinks about love after all that have occurred. Songs “25 to Life” and “Space Bound” speak of hardships associated with love and the lessons he has learned from his past. It is safe to assume that these songs are still references to Kim but unlike his previous songs, Eminem does not blame just Kim for their past but also places blame on himself and his naivety.
Eminem is no stranger to drugs and alcohol, as suggested by a large number of his songs including “Drug Ballad” (2000) and “These Drugs” (2001). Eminem’s addiction to Vicodin and Valium have caused him to often go onstage high. Although Eminem went to rehab in 2005 to fight his addiction, it wasn’t until a couple years later he would actively seek help. Eminem’s 2009 album, Relapse, documented his initial efforts to finally become sober. Journalist Tony Newman says Eminem’s song, “Going Through the Changes,” speaks of the, “…hopelessness and [how Eminem] watch him going deeper and deeper until he ends up overdosing and in the hospital…[Eminem] survives and then expresses his determination to clean up and get off of drugs.”
Eminem’s album Recovery, discusses Eminem’s victory and triumph over his addiction as well as the hardships he had to overcome. After recovering from his drug addiction, Eminem had to teach himself again on how to write as he was so highly reliant on the drugs to do the job for him. Songs such as “Not Afraid” is as Eminem explained, “…anybody tonight who’s been through personal struggles.”
In this “60 Minutes” interview between Eminem and Anderson Coopers, Eminem discusses his drug addiction and how he had to”…teach himself to write again, rap again, and even how to perform.”
Eminem’s vulgar yet poignant lyrics have made him both famous and infamous. But both his fans and critics alike praise the powerful stories his lyrics convey. The series of events and struggles Eminem endured and experienced make him the artist that he is today. Eminem’s lyrics are undeniably profane as they are poetic. With his relationship with Kim put to rest and his triumph from his drug addiction, many are curious to see how else Eminem have matured in the past three years. And more importantly, what goes in the mind of this musical genius.
- Caramanica, Jon. “Eminem Reasserts His Core Value.” The New York Times. The New York Times. 21 June 2010. Web. 12 April 2013.
- Fennessey, Sean. “Album review of “Recovery”.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post. 22 June 2010. Web. 12 April 2013.
- Ackerman, McCarton. “Eminem Thanks Fans for Helping Him Out of Dark Place.” TheFix. 10 Aug 2012. 20 April 2013. <http://www.thefix.com/content/eminem-fans-addiction-struggle90493>.
- Newman, Tony. “Classic Songs About Drug Use, Drug Selling and the Drug War.” Huffington Post. Huffington Post. 24 Jan. 2013. 20 Apr. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tony-newman/songs-about-drugs_b_2546191.html>.
- “Going through changes lyrics Recovery.” Online video clip. YouTube. Youtube. 22 Jul. 2010. 19 Apr. 2013.
- Cooper, Anderson. “Eminem’s Rise to Stardom.” 60 Minutes. Interview. CBS. 11 Oct. 2010. 11 Apr. 2013.
- Slimshadyonline. Kim Scott Mathers. JPEG.
- The Michigan Mental Health Networker. Brighton Hospital. JPEG.