Marshall Mathers, alias “Slim Shady,” alias “Eminem,” turns 40 years old tomorrow. This is kind of incredible, especially for anyone else who still sees him as the young guy snubbing his nose at the music establishment, and graphically telling half of them 30 different ways they can fuck themselves.
To honor the occasion, Robb Stark and Andy Moore holed up in their childhood bedrooms decked out in Slim Shady posters, cranked up “The Marshall Mathers LP,” and wrote down the 40 most unforgettable moments from Em’s life. If we forgot anything good, let us know in the comments, preferably in rap form.
40. Early Life/High School Years
Marshall attended Warren, Michigan’s Lincoln High School between 1986-1989. While he struggled with his studies, he became involved in freestyle rap battles at Osbourne High School, located on Detroit’s East Side. Eminem’s talent quickly gained him acceptance in a the predominantly African-American scene, where he would spend much of his late teenage years. In 1989, Marshall dropped out of high school as a result of bad grades (he repeated the 9th grade three times) and truancy.
39. Release of “Fuckn’ Backstabber”
The title like sounds exactly what one would think an early Eminem song would sound. One of Em’s earliest singles, his rap group “Soul Intent” released this in 1995 under the label “Mashin’ Duck Records.” What do you think?
38. Finishing second in the 1997 Rap Olympics
While the guy he’s competing against sounds a little bit like Big Sean with a speech impediment and allergy infection, Eminem’s performance at the Rap Olympics was good enough to win the attention of Jimmy Iovine and Interscope Records and, later, a spot on their label. The rest, as they say, was history.
37. Signed to Aftermath Entertainment
In 1998, Eminem officially signed with Aftermath Entertainment, a subsidiary of Interscope Records run by a dude called Dr. Dre. Let's just say it was a great pairing from the get-go.
36. “Slim Shady LP
Much like early episodes of “South Park,” popular attention directed at this 1999 album focused on the profanity, the vulgarity, and the sheer weirdness of someone so against the norm (in the case of “South Park,” elementary school kids, for Em, his whiteness) entering an established genre. And, much like the anti-”South Park” movement, this distracted from the artistry of the “Slim Shady LP.” It's number 273 on Rolling Stone’s all-time greatest albums for a reason.
35. ''97 Bonnie and Clyde'
"'97 Bonnie & Clyde", which was Previously featured on The Slim Shady EP as "Just the Two of Us", Eminem recorded this song to feature his daughter, Hallie. The song discusses some pretty non PG themes however (Eminem disposing of his girlfriend's corpse), he told Kim that instead of going to record, he was taking Hallie to Chuck E. Cheese.
Said Em, "When she found out I used our daughter to write a song about killing her, she fucking blew. We had just got back together for a couple of weeks. Then I played her the song, and she bugged the fuck out."
34. “Guilty Conscience”
For sheer fucked-up hilarity, you’re hard-pressed to find a funnier song in Em’s repertoire than this experimental track, delivered via the stories of Eddie the liquor store thief, Stan the wannabe date-rapist, and Grady, the cuckolded 29-year-old construction worker. It’s worth a re-listen. Try, right now, to not to crack up during Em’s taunts of Dre, “Mr. N.W.A., Mr. A.K. coming Straight Outta Compton, y'all better make way!”
Released off of “The Marshall Mathers LP, ”“Stan” was ranked #15 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs List and #296 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.” One of Em’s darker tracks, “Stan” is sampled over Dido’s “Thank You” to create a truly remarkable, yet ultimately tragic vibe. The haunting video has been lauded as one of his best.
32. 1999 Real Slim Shady VMA Performance
Hundreds (thousands?) of blonde-haired Em clones took a break from spitting on your onion rings at Burger King to descend upon Radio City Music Hall for a truly legendary performance of “The Real Slim Shady.” This, we’ve decided, is the moment when Eminem officially arrived as a mega star.
31. Assault Charges
How about this for a two-day stretch? On June 3rd, 2000, Em got in an altercation with Douglas Dail, an affiliate with the Insane Clown Posse, at a car audio shop. Em pulled an unloaded gun on Dail and was promptly arrested. Then, THE VERY NEXT DAY, Mathers saw his wife kissing a bouncer in the parking lot of a restaurant. He assaulted the bouncer... and was arrested again. Em received two years probation the two incidents. And you thought your weekend was rough.
30. “Collaborating” with the Notorious B.I.G. for “Dead Wrong”
With its references to dead hookers and such, 2000’s “Dead Wrong” is one of the darkest songs in the Biggie canon. His low depths are complemented nicely by Em, who, in a double-time rap over the beat, pokes fun at his “Satanic” reputation by listing off day-to-day hobbies like cannibalism, animal sex, and human sacrifice. Ah, the good ol’ days, before the Illuminati—when all our rappers weren’t one-world conspirators, just Satan worshippers.
Haha, did I say “Dead Wrong” was dark? This six-minute and seventeen-second number was notable for ending, as Rolling Stone said, with “Eminem screaming at his ex in an insane stream-of-consciousness hate spew.” This is his “Dance with the Devil”—easily his most uncomfortable song ever put to record. Terrifying.
28. Feuds with Moby and Fred Durst
Em has always been known for having in his arsenal some of the funniest and meanest put-downs in the music biz. They were on full display for feuds with Fred Durst (“Shit, Christina Aguilera better switch me chairs/so I can sit next to Carson Daly and Fred Durst/and hear ‘em argue over who she gave head to first…), and his historically shitty band, Limp Bizkit (“Chris Kirkpatrick you can get your ass kicked/worse than them little Limp Bizkit bastards”), as well as for Moby. Oh, Moby. The techno artist called the rapper a “misogynist, a homophobe, a racist, and an anti-Semite” at the 2001 Grammy’s. He received this response in “Without Me”: “You 36-year-old bald-headed fag blow me/You don't know me, you're too old let go it’s over, nobody listens to techno!” Did it work? Do you see Moby or Fred Durst anywhere near the Billboard list? (Although you will see a lot of techno.)
27. “Up In Smoke Tour” and “Forgot About Dre”
In 2001, Eminem toured with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and Ice Cube, Devid the Dude, Warren G, Nate Dogg, D12 and many more in what is considered one of the more famous hip-hop tours in history. Em’s “Forgot About Dre” collaboration has him sounding like a hyperactive kid playing with his older brother, all energetic lines and bouncing-off-the-walls enthusiasm. (That was a compliment.)
26. Grammy Awards Performance with Elton John
This may go down as the greatest performance in Em’s career. After gay rights groups like GLAAD called out the rapper for what they felt were homophobic and misogynistic lyrics in his work, Em countered by saying, well, he was offensive to everyone. And then he got Elton John to perform “Stan” with him at the Grammy Awards. The debate cooled.
25. Calling Out Lynne and Dick Cheney in “Without Me”
Lynne Cheney, the wife of then Vice-President Dick Cheney, repeatedly spoke out against Eminem and his vulgar, violent tone. Em zinged her and her hubby rather nicely in this number, which made the case that society uses him as a scapegoat for its own many problems. (And, in the interest of bipartisanship, Em also routinely called out Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, for puritanism.)
24. Terrifying “Cleaning Out My Closet” Video
23. “8 Mile”
Eminem starred as Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith in the now-classic hip-hop drama about a young rapper growing up in the Detroit Ghetto. (The role was a stretch.) “Lose Yourself,” which was written for the film, received an Academy Award for “Best Original Song.” This was a big deal at the time, because no rap song had ever before won the prestigious award—Em opened up the floodgates for pioneering acts like, uh, Three Six Mafia.
22. Discovering 50 Cent
50 Cent is in “mogul mode” now, but there was a time when he was, far and away, the biggest rapper in the world. “In Da Club” will never get old, and 50, we’re forever grateful for essentially ruining Ja Rule’s career. Thank you.
21. Investigated by the US Secret Service
In 2003, The United States Secret Service admitted they were “looking into Eminem” as a result of some choice lyrics from “We As Americans,” which appeared on the bonus CD for “Encore.” (The lyrics in question: “Fuck money/I don’t rap for dead presidents/I’d rather see the President Dead/It’s never been said, but I set precedents.” The meaning of those lyrics is not really up for debate, we’ll admit.)
20. “Just Lose It”
Eminem pissed off Michael!
"I am very angry at Eminem's depiction of me in his video," Jackson said. "I feel that it is outrageous and disrespectful.”