Game Changers: Eminem

How a guy from the streets of Detroit became one of the most influential artists of his generation and changed hip hop forever. 

“Guess who’s back? Back again? Shady’s back. Tell a friend.” Yesterday it was announced that Dr. Dre and Eminem would be teaming up to work on some new music for Eminem’s next album. With no new album since 2013 (although he's released a few one-off singles), fans have been wondering when Eminem may drop a new album.

With this being the first real news regarding an album, it sweetened the pot tremendously. Dre, who brought Eminem to the masses is a legend in the music business and a Game Changer himself, but it is Eminem who had the raw talent to change the rap game and become one of the greatest rappers of all-time.

Eminem, born Marshall Mathers, had a rough upbringing and became a father at a young age. His hope for becoming a rap star weren’t working out as his first album, Infinite, went nowhere. At the end of his rope and with no hope in site, Mathers created the persona of Slim Shady.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Deputat

Shady became his outlet as this alter ego rapped about sadistic and violent topics. Eminem’s anger was funneled through this new version of himself and he started to gain a reputation at rap battles. His Slim Shady EP started getting him some buzz, but he still wasn’t going anywhere.

Just as he was evicted from his home, Eminem took part in the Rap Olympics and battle rapped his way to second place. Executives from Interscope Records sent label head Jimmy Iovine a copy of the Slim Shady EP after seeing Eminem perform and Iovine went right to producing partner Dr. Dre.

When Dre heard the EP, his first words were “Find him now!” Even though he received a lot of heat for working with a white rapper, Dre did not care. In the new docu-series The Defiant Ones, the duo looks back on their first meeting.

Dr. Dre was Eminem’s idol and he jumped at the opportunity to work with the man who was his inspiration. These sessions led to Eminem’s real introduction to the music world, The Slim Shady LP. Released in 1999, the album became a huge hit. I still remember hearing the monster hit My Name Is for the first time. I was driving on the highway when my local rock station played a rap track.

Rap rock was popular at the time so I get it, but what I heard come through my car speakers was not like any other rap I had ever heard. The lyrics were dark but sounded comedic. This was also the first time that a white rapper was taken seriously in the rap world. His association with Dre legitimized him and Eminem became a huge star and a regular in the TRL era of MTV.

I was an instant fan and listened to the Slim Shady LP all the time. Eminem seemed to bridge the gap of the 90’s hip hop scene I loved so much and the future sound that would come to the forefront not to long down the road. Eminem and Dr. Dre became very close and have worked together on tracks for each other’s albums over the years.

Pretty quickly, the stigma of a white rapper disappeared and Eminem became the biggest hip hop artist in the world. Eminem’s second album, Marshall Mathers LP, is my personal favorite of Eminem’s and included some of his best work. Songs like Stan and The Way I Am were so dark but then they are accompanied by The Real Slim Shady and you see the dual personalities he portrayed on his albums.

The album sold 1,760,000 copies in its first week eventually selling over 10 million copies, proving to us how much we loved Eminem and how truly talented he was. Due to his lyrical content, there were a lot of people out there who protested the rapper and his effect on young fans. So what did Eminem do? His third album The Eminem Show responded to his detractors with the track Without Me.

Once again, Eminem had the best-selling album of the year and his legend began to grow as he became the most important hip hop artist of this new generation. More hit albums followed and he branched out, discovering up and coming artists like Dre did for him. None were as successful as Eminem’s first real protégé, 50 Cent.

Photo Credit: Frank Micelotta

50 Cent became a huge star and the first on Eminem’s Shady Records label. I still love listening to In Da Club off Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Eminem took a chance at acting and put on an incredible performance with 8 Mile. Released in 2002 at the height of his fame, the film was semi-autobiographical about Eminem’s rap battle days in Detroit. The soundtrack produced what I feel is Em’s best, Lose Yourself.

My cousin, who’s favorite artist of all-time is Eminem tells me how Lose Yourself brings him back to his snowboarding days, and how he'd play it as he was coming down the mountains in the orange lights of the night. Furthermore, how that song inspired him up on that hill and in life, in good times and in bad.

With a 13-year age difference, Eminem’s music was a source of common ground with my cousin and a way for me to connect with a family member, as I too was able to look back on Eminem’s music with a smile. That is the power of music. Over the years, Eminem has released so many incredible tracks over the years.

He's influenced a whole generation of rappers and many of the stars of today were directly inspired by him. Everyone from The Weeknd to Kendrick Lamar to non-rap music stars like Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey have all cited Eminem as a massive influence on their music.

Eminem has sold over 170 million albums worldwide and from 2000-2009 he was the biggest selling artist, period. He is on every list of best hip hop artists of all time and even as streaming has become the way we listen to music now, he dominates there as well. Love the Way You Lie and Not Afraid both sold over 10 million albums digitally making him the first artist to do so.

He's even one of the most streamed artists ever on Spotify. As we anxiously await Eminem and Dr. Dre’s next collaboration, let’s take a minute and look back on a man who faced adversity and prejudice and used it to become one of the greatest artists of his generation and an artist who dominated a genre of music and continues to do so almost twenty years later.

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