A phenomenally successful Grammy nominee whose controversial rhymes earned the ire of the more politically correct while simultaneously topping the charts and selling millions of albums to fans who could appreciate his warped sense of humor and pop-culture satire, rapper Marshal Mathers (aka Eminem) came out of left field to dominate the rap music scene before making the inevitable transition into film in the semi-autobiographical drama 8 Mile. Born in St. Joseph, MO, to a single mother whose father quickly abandoned both her and their future child, Mathers spent the majority of his destitute youth traveling between his hometown and the sometimes harsh streets of Detroit. Inspired to pursue a career as a rap artist after his uncle played the soundtrack to Breakin' (1984) for the impressionable nine-year-old, Mathers quickly became enamored with such popular rappers as Ice T and LL Cool J, performing in front of his bedroom mirror nightly and obsessively lip-synching to their skilled and often complex rhymes. Settling in Detroit when the aspiring rapper was twelve years old, Mathers showed little interest in school and dropped out shortly after failing the ninth grade three times due to lack of involvement. It was then that Mathers decided to fully immerse himself in pursuing a career as a rapper. Impressed by his debut album Infinite (1995), Rap Coalition's Wendy Day helped Mathers (now going almost exclusively by the moniker Eminem) to gain a spot in the 1997 Rap Olympics in Los Angeles. Though he didn't take first place, his demo landed in the hands of Interscope Records executives and an appearance on a L.A. radio show resulted in an enduring partnership with legendary rapper and producer Dr. Dre. From this point on there was no looking back and Eminem's uniquely obscene brand of humor proved a formidable force in the world of not only rap music, but also popular music (2000's The Marshal Mathers LP was the first rap album ever to be nominated for Album of the Year honors at that year's Grammys). Having made numerous videos in addition to appearances in such films as Da Hip Hop Witch (2000) and Dr. Dre's The Wash (2001), Eminem was no stranger in front of the camera, and would soon take a starring role in 8 Mile (2002). Directed by Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential ), 8 Mile loosely detailed Mathers' rise to stardom while struggling to overcome both racial and personal boundaries. An emotional drama that exposed the tempermental artist to a much wider audience, 8 Mile proved a huge hit at the box office and sent DVD sales soaring when released on home video. By the time the 75th annual Academy Awards rolled around and a visibly surprised Barbara Streisand pronounced Eminem the winner in the Best Song category, fans (many likely as shocked as Streisand herself) rejoiced for the success of their favorite underdog rapper.
Biography by Jason Buchanan
- Drawn to rap as a kid and began performing at age 14.
- Adopted stage name M&M from his initials, which later became Eminem.
- Released debut album Infinite in 1996.
- Placed second in freestyle competition at the 1997 Rap Olympics in Los Angeles.
- In 1999 released his first major label album, The Slim Shady LP, which won a Grammy as Best Rap Album; his next two albums (The Marshall Mathers LP, The Eminem Show) also won Grammys.
- Starred in semi-autobiographical film 8 Mile in 2002.
- Won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Lose Yourself" from 8 Mile.
- Selected by Rolling Stone as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
- Published autobiography The Way I Am in 2008.
- Named by Billboard in 2009 as the Artist of the Decade.
- Won back-to-back Grammys for Best Rap Album for 2009's Relapse and 2010's Recovery.