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Who would have guessed that a white boy from Michigan would be the one to move today's jaded hip-hop world? Without any warning, Eminem burst onto the rap scene spouting more vulgarity than ever with his first 14-cut collection, The Slim Shady LP, distributed by Aftermath/Interscope Records. "I Just Don't Give a F--k," the signature piece on his demented album, and "Brain Damage," which literally did just that to listeners, are the two most notable songs exhibiting for his dirty mouth. So good, in fact, that legendary rap artist/producer Dr. Dre scouted the angry chirpster after hearing him freestyle on the radio to collaborate on Dre's own label, Aftermath. The impressed Dre did not hesitate to include many of Slim's independently released EP tracks as Eminem jumped at the offer to work with "the biggest hip-hop producer ever."
As randomly offensive as his lyrics may seem, Eminem has mastered his talent into a form of reclaiming his pride. He spent his childhood roaming from his birthplace, Kansas City, to Detroit with his mother, never being able to find a stable hometown and school. Hence he pursued a life and identity in the hip-hop culture by releasing a debut album, Infinite, in 1996. Ironically, the response to his debut stifled his self-expression as he was labelled as a Nas and AZ sound-alike. Ripe for revenge, Eminem bombarded his critics with The Slim Shady EP, which not only gave the rapper a chance at originality but also at stirring controversy with his remorseless tunes of fury.
Yet it would do him no justice to dismiss him as a spiteful cursing machine. His fascinating freestyle ability is easy to underestimate or even recognize with the scorching flames blowing out of his mouth. At the start of his rap career, Eminem personally sent a copy of his overlooked debut album to Wendy Day from the Rap Coalition. Her nod of approval got him into the Coalition's 1997 Rap Olympics in Los Angeles, where he was honoured with second place in the freestyle competition. With the help of his manager, Paul Rosenberg, Interscope Records got a hold of his demo. Finally Eminem decided that it was his "time to shine" on his radio debut on the world-famous Wake Up Show with Sway and Tech by spewing a most ferocious lyrical mix that literally slapped the faces of the hosts and listeners wide awake. His underground classic "5 Star General" stretched out to Japan, New York, and Los Angeles, which also won him a spot on the inaugural Lyricist Lounge tour.
Before long, Eminem was a superstar and one of music's most controversial figures. His shocking lyrics (both solo and with side posse D12), his duet with Elton John, his public trials with his on/off wife and estranged mother...all of these things and more kept him in the public eye so often, he made Tommy Lee look like a social recluse. But Eminem's music kept his profile high too, as his Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers LPs sold by the millions; the latter was even nominated for several Grammys, including album of the year.
In the age of bored and hungry hip-hopsters, Eminem, with his fiery eyes and blazing lyrics, has broken into the rap and hip-hop dome by melting the image of the sold-out Vanilla Ice. You may hate his anger, but it's his only ammunition, and as long he is who he is, Eminem is going to take nothing back.
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The average rapper wouldn't be able to grace the pages of Rap Pages, VIBE, Rolling Stone, Spin, The Source, URB and Stress and go on a national tour months before their major-label debut album is released. Then again, Eminem isn't an average rapper. He's phenomenal.
The impending release of the The Slim Shady LP, his first set on Aftermath/Interscope Records, already has underground hip-hop heads fiending for Eminem. Chock full of dazzling lyrical escapades that delve into the mind of a violently warped and vulgar yet extremely talented wordsmith, the 14-cut collection contains some of the most memorable and demented lyrics ever recorded.
For Eminem, his potentially controversial and undoubtedly offensive songs will strike a chord with a multitude of hip-hop loyalists who believe they have little to lose and everything to gain.
"I'm not alone in feeling the way I feel," he says. "I believe that a lot of people can relate to my shit--whether white, black, it doesn't matter. Everybody has been through some shit, whether it's drastic or not so drastic. Everybody gets to the point of 'I don't give a fuck.'"
Those words are more than just a slogan for the Detroit resident. "I Just Don't Give A Fuck" and "Brain Damage" are the two songs comprising Eminem's initial single from The Slim Shady LP. Each tune is sure to paralyze meek listeners with their relentless lyrical assault. Produced primarily by long-time collaborators FBT Productions, the Slim Shady LP also features beatwork from Aftermath CEO Dr. Dre. The N.W.A. alum handled beats for "My Name Is" (the second single), "Guilty Conscience" and "Role Model."
Dr. Dre was so impressed after hearing Eminem freestyling on a Los Angeles radio station that he put out a manhunt for the Michigan rhymer. Shortly thereafter, Dre signed Eminem to his Aftermath imprint and the two began working together. Thoroughly impressed with Eminem's previously released independent Slim Shady EP, Dre said they would include many of the EP's tracks on the album.
"It was an honor to hear the words out of Dre's mouth that he liked my shit," Eminem says. "Growing up, I was one of the biggest fans of N.W.A, from putting on the sunglasses and looking in the mirror and lipsinking to wanting to be Dr. Dre, to be Ice Cube. This is the biggest hip-hop producer ever."
But like many other rappers, Eminem's rise to stardom was far from easy. After being born in Kansas City and traveling back and forth between KC and the Detroit metropolitan area, Eminem and his mother moved into the Eastside of Detroit when he was 12. Switching schools every two to three months made it difficult to make friends, graduate and to stay out of trouble.
Rap, however, became Eminem's solace. Battling schoolmates in the lunchroom brought joy to what was otherwise a painful existence. Although he would later drop out of school and land several minimum-wage-paying, full-time jobs, his musical focus remained constant.
Eminem released his debut album, Infinite, in 1996. Desperate to be embraced by the Motor City's hip-hop scene, Eminem rapped in such a manner that he was accused of sounding like Nas and AZ.
"Infinite was me trying to figure out how I wanted my rap style to be, how I wanted to sound on the mic and present myself," he recalls. "It was a growing stage. I felt like Infinite was like a demo that just got pressed up."
After being thoroughly disappointed and hurt by the response Infinite received, Eminem began working on what would later become the Slim Shady EP -- a project he made for himself. Featuring several scathing lines about local music industry personalities as well as devious rants about life in general, the set quickly caught the ear of hip-hop's difficult-to-please underground.
"I had nothing to lose, but something to gain," Eminem says of that point in his life. "If I made an album for me and it was to my satisfaction, then I succeeded. If I didn't, then my producers were g
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In a few short months, Eminem has gone from being one of the most heralded emcees in independent hip-hop to one of the most provocative, controversial rappers in contemporary pop music. The overnight success of his debut album, The Slim Shady LP, literally rocked the rap world, making him one of the biggest music success stories of 1999. But Eminem is more than the latest rap artist to blow up. He's spent the last several years paying his dues, and his lyrics, which cover topics such as poverty and single parenthood, reflect a rough upbringing. His unlikely acceptance by the pop mainstream has made some wonder how his popularity will affect the future of hip-hop music.
Before he had the world singing along to "My Name Is …," he was Marshall Mathers, a poor kid growing up in Warren, Mich. "It's like the real, stereotypical, trailer park, white trash," Eminem told Rap Pages earlier this year. As a child, he and his mother moved constantly, staying at relatives' homes in places as disparate as Warren and Kansas City, Mo. As a result, Marshall found it difficult to make friends, and he retreated into his comic books and television. "I didn't really start opening up until eighth grade, going into ninth," he said.
When Mathers was 12, his mother finally settled down on the east side of Detroit. There, he attended Lincoln Junior High School and Osbourne High School, hanging out with friends and listening to artists like LL Cool J and the 2 Live Crew. He battled against other rappers at his high school, and quickly gained a reputation as a nimble rhymer. But his penchant for skipping school led him to fail the ninth grade. After dropping out of high school, he held down several odd jobs, while continuing to work on his craft. "I tried to go back to school five years ago," he said, "but I couldn't do it. I just wanted to rap and be a star one day."
Mathers rapped in several groups such as Basement Productions, the New Jacks, and Sole Intent, before deciding to go solo. In 1997, he released an album, Infinite, through a local company called FBT Productions; it was met with derision from the local hip-hop community. "I was getting a lot of feedback saying I sounded like Nas or Jay-Z," he admitted. Despite the criticism, Eminem continued to promote himself through shows and appearances at radio stations and freestyle competitions across the nation. His perseverance garnered him a notice in the Source's influential "Unsigned Hype" column. Later that year, he won the 1997 Wake Up Show Freestyle Performer of the Year from L.A. DJs Sway and Tech, and earned second place in Rap Sheet magazine's "Rap Olympics," an annual freestyle rap competition.
In 1998, Eminem put out The Slim Shady EP, which contained the original version of "Just Don't Give A …" "Slim Shady is the evil side of me, the sarcastic, foul-mouthed side of me," he said during an interview with the Source. The EP made him an underground star, and Eminem was invited to appear on underground MC Shabaam Sahdeeq's "Five Star Generals" single, Kid Rock's Devil Without a Cause, and other rap releases. At the end of the year, Eminem put out a popular 12-inch, "Nuttin' to Do/ Scary Movies," with fellow Detroit rapper Royce the 5'9".
Meanwhile, a copy of The Slim Shady EP made its way into the hands of Dr. Dre, the legendary creator of The Chronic and N.W.A., and current president of Aftermath Entertainment. Dr. Dre quickly signed Eminem to his label, and the two began preparing The Slim Shady EP for a full-fledged release, adding songs like "My Name Is …" and "Guity Conscience." Early in 1999, Eminem made the world take notice with his charismatic video for "My Name Is …" parodying everyone from Marilyn Manson to the President of the United States. Shortly afterward, The Slim Shady LP debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Album Chart. Its sensationalistic depiction of rampant drug use, rape, sex, and violence horrified some; equally disturbing was Eminem's various
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