Marshall Bruce Mathers III was born in St. Joseph, Missouri, the son of Deborah Mathers-Briggs and Marshall Bruce Mathers, Jr. Shortly after his birth, his father abandoned his family. Until he was twelve, Marshall Mathers and his mother often moved between St. Joseph; Kansas City, Missouri and Warren, Michigan, a Detroit suburb. As a teenager, Mathers became interested in hip hop, performing amateur raps at age fourteen under the pseudonym "M&M" and joining the group Soul Intent around 1995, when his first single was released. Although a student at Lincoln High School in Warren, he frequently participated in freestyle battles at Osborn High School across town, gaining the approval of underground hip hop audiences. After repeating the ninth grade twice due to truancy, he dropped out of high school at age 17.
Since 1992, Mathers had been signed to FBT Productions, run by brothers Jeff and Mark Bass. Mathers also held a minimum-wage job of cooking and dishwashing at the restaurant Gilbert's Lodge at St. Clair Shores for some time. In 1996, his debut album Infinite, which was recorded at the Bassment, a recording studio owned by the Bass brothers, was released under their independent label Web Entertainment. Eminem recalls: "Obviously, I was young and influenced by other artists, and I got a lot of feedback saying that I sounded 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. It was a growing stage. I felt like Infinite was like a demo that just got pressed up." Subjects covered in Infinite included his struggles with raising his newborn daughter Hailie Jade Scott while on limited funds. Early in his career, Eminem collaborated with fellow Detroit MC Royce da 5'9" under the stage name Bad Meets Evil.
With the release of The Slim Shady EP, Mathers was accused of imitating the style and subject matter of underground rapper Cage. While promoting the EP, Mathers approached Insane Clown Posse member Joseph Bruce and handed him a flyer which implied that the group would make an appearance at the EP's release party. Bruce refused to appear because Mathers had not previously approached him for permission to use the group's name in this way. Taking Bruce's response as a personal offense, Mathers subsequently attacked the group in radio interviews. Barbs between Insane Clown Posse and Eminem continued.
Jimmy Iovine, CEO of Interscope Records, requested a demo tape of Eminem's after Eminem won second place at the 1997 Rap Olympics. Iovine played the tape for record producer Dr. Dre, founder of Aftermath Entertainment. The two began recording tracks for Eminem's upcoming major-label debut The Slim Shady LP, and Eminem made a guest performance on the album Devil Without a Cause by Kid Rock. Hip-hop magazine The Source featured Eminem in its "Unsigned Hype" column in March 1998.
1999: The Slim Shady LP
Main article: The Slim Shady LP
According to Billboard Magazine, at this point in his life Eminem had "realized his musical ambitions were the only way to escape his unhappy life". After being signed to Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records in 1998, Eminem released in 1999 his first major studio album, The Slim Shady LP, heavily based on the production by Dr. Dre. The album was, according to the same Billboard article, "brutal" and "light years ahead of the material he had been writing beforehand." It went on to be one of the most popular albums of 1999, going triple platinum by the end of the year. With the album's popularity came controversy surrounding many of the album's lyrics. In "'97 Bonnie and Clyde", he describes a trip with his infant daughter, disposing of the body of his wife. Another song, "Guilty Conscience", ends with his encouraging a man to murder his wife and her lover. "Guilty Conscience" marked the beginning of the powerful friendship and musical bond that Dr. Dre and Eminem would share. The two label-mates would later collaborate on a line of hit songs, including "Forgot About Dre" and "What's the Difference" from Dr. Dre's album 2001, "Bitch Please II" from The Marshall Mathers LP, "Say What You Say" from The Eminem Show and "Encore/Curtains Down" from Encore. Thus, Dr. Dre would go on to make at least one guest appearance on all of Eminem's studio albums under the label Aftermath.
2000–2001: The Marshall Mathers LP
Main article: The Marshall Mathers LP
The Marshall Mathers LP was released in May 2000. It went on to sell 1.76 million copies in its first week, breaking the records set by Snoop Dogg's Doggystyle as the fastest-selling hip hop album and Britney Spears' …Baby One More Time as the fastest-selling solo album in the United States. The first single released from the album, "The Real Slim Shady", was a success and created some controversy by insulting celebrities and making dubious claims about them; he states, among other things, that Christina Aguilera performed oral sex on Fred Durst and Carson Daly. In his second single, "The Way I Am", he reveals to his fans the pressures from his record company to top "My Name Is" and sell more records. Although Eminem had parodied shock rocker Marilyn Manson in the video "My Name Is", the artists are on good terms. They have performed a remix of the song "The Way I Am" together in concert. In the third single, "Stan" (which samples Dido's "Thank You"), Eminem attempts to deal with his new-found fame, taking on the persona of a deranged fan who kills himself and his pregnant girlfriend, mirroring "'97 Bonnie & Clyde" on The Slim Shady LP. Q magazine named "Stan" the third-greatest rap song of all time, and the song came tenth in a similar survey conducted by Top40-Charts.com. The song has since become highly acclaimed and was ranked 290th in Rolling Stone magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list. In July 2000, Eminem became the first white person to be featured on the cover of The Source magazine.
Music tours that he participated in for 2001 included the Up In Smoke Tour with rappers Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and Ice Cube and Family Values Tour with the band Limp Bizkit.
2002–2003: The Eminem Show
Main article: The Eminem Show
Eminem's third major album, The Eminem Show, was released in summer 2002 and proved to be another hit for the rapper reaching number one on the charts and selling well over 1 million copies in its first week of release. It featured the single "Without Me", an apparent sequel to "The Real Slim Shady", in which he makes derogatory comments about boy bands, Limp Bizkit, Moby, and Lynne Cheney, among others. The album reflected on the impact of his rise to fame, his relationship with his wife and daughter, and his status in the hip-hop community. He also addresses the charges he faced over assaulting a bouncer he saw kissing his wife in 2000. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic felt that while there was clear anger present on several tracks, this album was considerably less inflammatory than The Marshall Mathers LP. However, L. Brent Bozell III, who previously criticized The Marshall Mathers LP for perceived misogynistic lyrics in the album, noted The Eminem Show for its extensive use of obscene language, giving Eminem a nickname of "Eminef" for the bowdlerization of motherfucker, an obscenity prevalent in the album.
Main article: Encore (Eminem album)
On December 8, 2003, the United States Secret Service admitted it was "looking into" allegations that Eminem had threatened the President of the United States. 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 song in question, titled "We As Americans", was being recorded possibly for Encore but wound up on a bonus CD accompanying the album instead.
The year 2004 saw the release of Eminem's fourth major album, Encore. The album was another chart-topper, as it was driven by the single "Just Lose It", notable for being disrespectful towards Michael Jackson. On October 12, 2004, a week after the release of "Just Lose It", Eminem's first single off Encore, Michael Jackson called into the Los Angeles-based Steve Harvey radio show to report his displeasure with the video, which parodies Jackson's child molestation trial, plastic surgery, and an incident in which Jackson's hair caught on fire while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984. The lyrics to "Just Lose It" refer to Jackson's legal troubles, however he does state in his song "...and that's not a stab at Michael/That's just a metaphor/I'm just psycho...". Many of Jackson's supporters and friends spoke out about the video, including Stevie Wonder, who called the video "kicking a man while he's down" and "bullshit", and Steve Harvey who declared, "Eminem has lost his ghetto pass. We want the pass back." In the video, Eminem parodied Pee Wee Herman, MC Hammer, and a Blonde-Ambition-touring Madonna.
Regarding Jackson's protest, "Weird Al" Yankovic, who parodied the Eminem song "Lose Yourself" on a track titled "Couch Potato" on his 2003 album Poodle Hat, told the Chicago Sun-Times, "Last year, Eminem forced me to halt production on the video for my "Lose Yourself" parody because he somehow thought that it would be harmful to his image or career. So the irony of this situation with Michael is not lost on me". Black Entertainment Television was the first channel to stop airing the video. MTV, however, announced it would continue airing the video. The Source, through its CEO Raymond "Benzino" Scott, wanted not only the video to be pulled, but the song off the album, and a public apology to Jackson from Eminem. In 2007 Jackson and Sony bought Famous Music LLC from Viacom. This deal gave him the rights to songs by Eminem, Shakira and Beck amongst others. Despite the comedic theme of the lead single, Encore had its fair share of serious subject matter, including the anti-war track "Mosh". On October 25, 2004, a week before the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, Eminem released the video for "Mosh" on the Internet. The song featured a very strong anti-Bush message, with lyrics such as "fuck Bush" and "this weapon of mass destruction that we call our president." The video features Eminem gathering up an army of people, including rapper Lloyd Banks, presented as victims of the Bush administration and leading them to the White House. However, once the army breaks in, it is revealed that they are there to simply register to vote, and the video ends with the words "VOTE Tuesday November 2" on the screen. After Bush won the election, the video's ending was changed to Eminem and the protesters invading while Bush was giving a speech.
In 2005, some industry insiders speculated that Eminem was considering ending his rapping career after six years and several multi-platinum albums. Speculation began in early 2005 about a double-disc album to be released late that year, rumored to be titled The Funeral. The album manifested itself as a greatest hits album under the name Curtain Call: The Hits, and was released on December 6, 2005 under Aftermath Entertainment. In July 2005, the Detroit Free Press broke news of a potential final bow for Eminem as a solo performer, quoting members of his inside circle who said that he will begin to fully embrace the role of producer and label executive. On the same day of the release of the compilation album, Eminem denied that he was retiring on Detroit-based WKQI's "Mojo in the Morning" radio show, but implied that he would at least be taking a break as an artist, saying "I'm at a point in my life right now where I feel like I don't know where my career is going… This is the reason that we called it 'Curtain Call,' because this could be the final thing. We don't know."
That year, Eminem was a subject of criticism in conservative Bernard Goldberg's book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, being ranked at #58. Goldberg cited a 2001 column by Bob Herbert of The New York Times claiming, "In Eminem's world, all women are whores and he is eager to rape and murder them." The Eminem song "No One's Iller" from The Slim Shady EP was used by Goldberg as an example of misogyny in his music.
In summer 2005, Eminem embarked on his first U.S. concert run in three years, the Anger Management 3 Tour, featuring 50 Cent, G-Unit, Lil' Jon, D12, Obie Trice, The Alchemist, and others. In August 2005, Eminem canceled the European leg of the tour and subsequently announced that he had entered drug rehabilitation for treatment for a "dependency on sleep medication".
Main article: Relapse (album)
In September 2007, Eminem called into New York radio station Hot 97 during a 50 Cent interview and said he was "in limbo" and "debating" about when and if he would release another album. He said, "I'm always working -- I'm always in the studio. It feels good right now, the energy of the label. For a while, I didn't want to go back to the studio ... I went through some personal things. I'm coming out of those personal things [and] it feels good."
Eminem made an appearance on Shade 45 in September 2008 in which he said, "Right now I'm kinda just concentrating on my own stuff, for right now and just banging out tracks and producing a lot of stuff. You know, the more I keep producing the better it seems like I get 'cause I just start knowing stuff." It was around this time that Interscope finally confirmed the existence of a new Eminem album, with Spring 2009 later being stated as the period span in which the album is due. In December 2008, he gave more details on the album, which he recently reported was being titled "Relapse." He said, "Me and Dre are back in the lab like the old days, man. Dre will end up producing the majority of the tracks on Relapse. We are up to our old mischievous ways ... let's just leave it at that."