Eminem (1972- ) American rap artist and actor, known for his popular and controversial music. Eminem’s second album, The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), sold more than 5 million copies in the first month of its release, a record for a solo artist within that time period.
Eminem: Rapper Eminem (Marshall Mathers) found success with his 1999 debut album The Slim Shady LP, despite criticism over its explicit themes and lyrics. The Michigan native quickly followed up with The Marshall Mathers LP (2000), which won the Grammy Award for best rap album. Both albums were made with veteran rap producer Dr. Dre.
He was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III in St. Joseph, Missouri. (His initials, M.M., are the source of his performing name.) Raised by his mother, Mathers moved to Detroit, Michigan, in 1984. He was often the target of teasing and physical abuse as a boy, and he sought refuge in rap music. After failing the ninth grade three years in a row, Mathers dropped out of high school in 1989. He got a job working as a cook and wrote rap lyrics in his free time.
Struggling to cope while living in a dangerous neighborhood, the aspiring rapper created an alter ego named Slim Shady that allowed him to vent his anger in a humorous manner. At the 1997 Rap Olympics, a contest held in Los Angeles, California, Eminem won second place and came to the attention of rap producer Dr. Dre. With Dre’s support Eminem released The Slim Shady LP (1999), which showcased distinctive rhythms, rapid-fire wordplay, and a self-mocking humor that was new to hip-hop. The recording sold more than 3 million copies and won Grammy Awards for best rap album and best rap solo performance for the song “My Name Is.”
Eminem’s success was further cemented the following year by the huge reception given The Marshall Mathers LP. But the album’s slurs and glorification of violence against gays and women led to protests by gay rights advocates and women’s groups. The protests diminished, however, after he sang a duet with bisexual pop star Elton John at the 2001 Grammy ceremony. Eminem won three Grammys at the event, including a second straight award for best rap album.
In 2002 he released his third album, The Eminem Show. That same year he starred in 8 Mile, a semibiographical motion picture in which he played a young, white rapper struggling to succeed in a mid-1990s Detroit music scene dominated by black artists. The song “Lose Yourself” from the movie won the Academy Award for best song at the 2003 ceremonies. The following year Eminem had another bestseller with the album Encore.
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