In three short months, twenty-four year old Marshall Bruce
Mathers III has gone from white trash to white hot.
The Michigan rapper who calls himself Eminem - and whose
debut The Slim Shady LP, sold 480,000 copies in its first
two weeks - was a $5.50-an-hour cook in a Detroit grill before
his obscenity-strewn, gleefully violent, spastic, hilarious
and demented rhymes landed him in the studio with rap honcho
The blue-eyed MC is dealing with the instant fame and simultaneous
criticism well enough -- much better, actually, than he is
dealing with the fifth of Bicardi he downed an hour ago. On
a chilly Friday night in New York, he emerges bleary-eyed
from the bathroom in his manager's office. "I just threw
up everything I had," he says in his slow-roll drawl,
which is a bit slower at the moment. "All I ate today
was that slice of pizza. Feel good now, though."
His manager exhales slowly with relief. Eminem has three
club gigs tonight, and the first one starts in less than an
hour. The crew (nine, including DJ Stretch Armstrong and Dennis
the security guard) ambles toward the elevator. Downstairs
awaits Eminem's partner in rap, Royce the 5'9, who looks to
be about that and has seven people of his own in tow. Em hops
into a gigantic ant white limo as fellow honky Armstrong cops
a rhyme from Eric Clapton's Cream. "In the white room,
with white people and white rappers," he bellows. A minute
later there's a knock on the window and one of Royce's posse
gives Em the first of the three hits of ecstasy he will consume
over the course of the night. Down it goes in a swallow of
ginger ale as the car zooms off towards Staten Island.
Out on New Dorp Lane, there is a crowd of kids, a mere fraction
of the number already inside the Lane Theater. The all-ages
show is packed, and Eminem is the evening's main course. The
mob is being controlled by the club's security, but when the
rapper moves inside, the burly dudes are no match for the
crush of shouting teens. "You look good!" one girl
shouts. "Oh, my God, he looks even better in person,"
shrieks another. Everywhere, kids have tiny glow sticks in
their mouths, which, here in the dark, look like neon braces.
At the back of the club, up a ladder, is the minute-dressing
room, where the very proud owner of the club is waiting. "Hey,
nice to meet ya," he says. "My daughter told me
to get Eminem, so I got Eminem. It's her fourteenth birthday.
Hey, say hi to her and her friends."
Eminem soon grabs four bottles of water and heads to the
stage. He owns this audience. These predominantly white kids
know every word, every nuance, and can't get enough. If Slim
Shady's rhymes about sex with underage girls ("Yo look
at her bush, does it got hair?/Fuck this bitch right on the
spot bare/Till she passes out and she forgot how she got there")
bother them any, they don't show it. In fact, the filthier
the material, the louder the cheers.
On The Slim Shady LP, Eminem says "God sent me to piss
the world off." Interscope Records is Em's label - a
perfect fit for a company that's home to controversial artists
like the late Tupac Shakur and Marilyn Manson. Eminem has
been condemned as a misogynist, a nihilist and an advocate
of domestic violence, principally in an editorial by Billboard
editor in chief Timothy White, who attacked The Slim Shady
LP as "making money by exploiting the world's misery."
"My album isn't for younger kids to hear," Eminem
says. "It has an advisory sticker, and you must be eighteen
to get it. That doesn't mean younger kids won't get it, but
I'm not responsible for every kid out there. I'm not a role
model, and I don't claim to be." On the album, his alias,
Slim Shady, hangs himself from a tree by his penis, dumps
the girlfriend he's murdered in a lake with the help of their
baby daughter, takes every drug at once, rips "Pamela
Lee's tits off" and heads out into the night yelling,
"Too all the people I've offended, yeah fuck you too!"
This hard-core attitude has won him acceptance not just from
teenagers taken with his video but also from the hip hop community.
Later on, at Manhattan's Sound Factory, Em will win over a
mostly black audience. He will be greeted with indifferent
stares that will melt into smiles, then rump-shaking abandon
by the end of his four-song set. The rapper will top of the
evening - well, the morning by that point - entertaining doelike
women and spiky-haired guys at the trendy mecca called Life,
where a table of model types will be evicted so that Em and
his friends may kick back.
Right about now, though, a roomful of Staten Islanders is
going berserk. In the silence between songs, a young girl
in the front row who's wearing a white baby T screams, "I
love you!" Eminem walks over. "I love you, too,"
he says and bends down to give her a hug. Big mistake. The
girl lays a kiss on his lips and sets off the girl next to
her, who tears Eminem's head away and kisses him full on the
mouth. "Oh shit," he laughs. "I'm going to
jail tonight!" He launches into "Scary Movies,"
the B side to the independently released "Bad Meets Evil"
single, and the audience raps right along. When he sits at
the front of the stage, his pants are pulled at and his crotch
is grabbed. "I touched his dick!" on girl boasts
to her friend.
Eminem is already a bona fide star, the type not-likely to
play a club this small again. The only reason he is here at
all is that this date was booked before his debut album entered
the charts at Number Two. The demand for the record at stores
around the country was so great the Interscope shipped more
that 1 million copies - extraordinarily rare for a first record.
Eminem has similarily conquered MTV: Since the January release
of the wise-ass video for "My Name Is" he has been
on the network more than Carson Daly. And now three months
later, despite the fact that he's never headlined for any
length of time, the rapper has been offered slots on every
summer tour except CSNY's.
Eminem empties a water bottle on the heads of the audience,
drops his pants, waves his middle finger around, and the show
is over. He is whisked into a waiting car through a back alley.
The police have been called to keep things orderly as the
limo moves of into the night. At the curb, a girl who looks
no more that fourteen shouts, "I want to fuck you,"
tugging suggestively at the top of her shirt and revealing
her pierced tongue. "I want to fuck you, too," Eminem
says aloud to himself. "But I won't."
Eminem is a white boy in a black medium. He has been booed
on the mic and told repeatedly by black hip-hoppers that he
should stop rapping and go into rock & roll. "It's
some very awkward shit," says Em's mentor, Dr. Dre, about
the race card. "It's like seeing a black guy doing country
& western, know what I'm saying?" Even Dre's judgement
was suspect when he signed Em to his Interscope imprint, Aftermath.
"I got a couple of questions from people around me,"
he says. "You know, 'He's got blue eyes, he's a white
kid.' But I don't give a fuck if you're purple: If you can
kick it, I'm working with you." Indeed, talent will overcome,
and Em is having the last laugh. "A lot of the people
who disrespected me are coming out of the woodwork now for
collaborations," he says. "But I like doing my own
shit. If there were too many other voices, the stories wouldn't
go right." True enough - slipping a verse into a song
about a New Wave blonde babe nurse's aide who overdoses on
mushrooms and relieves her father's sexual abuse, all over
a party-hearty tempo, isn't exactly the same as freestyling
on the "Money, Cash, Hoes" remix.
For anyone expecting more of the naughty pop-culture-obsessed
blonde kid in the clean version of "My Name Is",
proffered on MTV, The Slim Shady LP is some bad-trip nether
world. But that world is exactly why the hip-hop underground
loves Em. His off-the-beat flow, way off-the-beat lyrics and
loony-tunes presentation place him in a class by himself.
Em isn't trying to be Jay-Z, DMX, or Tupac; he's trying to
be the Roadrunner, turning his enemies' anvils back on themselves
with split-second trickery. He's also probably the only MC
in 1999 who boasts low self-esteem. His rhymes are jaw-droppingly
perverse, bespeaking a minimum-wage life devoid of hope, flushed
with rage and weaned on sci-fi slasher flicks.
And in the midst of the splatter is Marshall Mathers. Songs
like "As The World Turns", in which Shady "fucks
a divorced slut" to death with his "go-go-gadget
dick," are adolescent fantasies that indicate how Em
spells revenge. But songs like "If I Had" and "Rock
Bottom" are where the cartoons fade away, the bravado
drops and the frustrated kid of this not-too-distant past
appears, fed up with life, dead-end jobs adn the poverty that
has made him "mad enough to scream but sad enough to
"I couldn't even got into a motherfucking club just
being Eminem, before the video," Mathers says, walking
through Newark Airport the day after his New York club shows.
"Last night they had people clearing tables for me. It's
fucking bananas. Scary shit too, 'cause you can fall just
as quick as you went to the top." He is a smallish guy
who walks with a subdued swagger. Em is like a class clown
with a lot on his mind: When he's on, nothing escapes the
cross hairs of his snottiness, but when he's off, no one is
included in his thoughts. He keeps the world at bay with humor
and an ever-growing list of character voices, including a
roguish Scotsman, a Middle Eastern cab driver, and a sleazy
lech. He slips into these voices constantly, even in the midst
of heart-wrenching stories about his childhood. Today he is
chipper and apparently no worse for wear after just two hours
of sleep and no breakfast. He is bound for his home-town of
Detroit for three days off before heading to Mexico to perform
on MTV's Spring Break '99, then on to Chicago for more album
The rapper is no stranger to moving around. He and his mother
shuttled between Missouri and Michigan, rarely staying in
one house for more than a year or two, and finally settled
down when Marshall was eleven. It was the start of a life
full of enough screaming fights and sordid dramas that, at
the tender age of 24, Eminem is ready for his own Behind The
Music. But what happened depends on whom you ask. To hear
him tell it, his life up until now has been non-stop hard
knocks, beatings from bullies, and brawls with his pill-popping,
lawsuit-happy mom. His mother, Debbie Mathers-Briggs, on the
other hand, denies both of these characterizations, claiming
that her unending love and financial support got Eminem through
the dog days. It's a story that would make Jerry Spring salivate,
but let's just stick to the facts: (1) Eminem has never met
his father; (2) he spent his formative years living in a largely
black lower-middle-class Detroit neighborhood; (3) he dropped
out of high school in the ninth grade; (4) he and his baby's
mother have been breaking up and making up for the past eight
years, and; (5) he loves their three-year-old daughter Hailie
Jade, more than anybody else in the world.
Eminem's parents were married, his mother says, when she
was fifteen and his father was twenty-two. Marshall III was
born two years later. His parents were in a band called Daddy
Warbucks, playing Ramada Inns along the Dakota-Montana border.
But their relationship when sour. The couple split up, and
Debbie and her son lived with family members for a few years
before settling on the east side of Detroit. Marshall's father
moved to California. As a teen, the future Eminem sent his
dad a few letters, all of which, his mother claims, came back
"return to sender". "I heard he's trying to
get in touch with me now," the rapper says. "Fuck
that motherfucker, man. Fuck him."
The single mother and her sons (Em's younger half-brother,
Nathan, was born in 1986) were one of three white households
on their block. "I'm colorblind - it wasn't an issue,"
Em's mom says. "But the younger people in the area gave
us trouble. Marshall got jumped a lot." When he was sixteen,
his ass was kicked fiercely. "I was walking home from
my boy's house, through the Bel-Air Shopping Center,"
he recalls. "All these black dudes rode by in a car,
flippin' me off. I flipped them off back, they drove away,
and I didn't think nothin' of it." Evidently they parked
the car. "One dude came up, hit me in the face and knocked
me down. Then he pulled out a gun. I ran right out my shoes,
dog. I thought that's what they wanted." But they didn't
- when Mathers returned the next day, his shoes were still
stuck in the mud. "That's how I knew it was racial."
Em was saved by a white guy who pulled over, took out a gun
and drove him home. "He came in wearing just his socks
and underwear," his mother says woefully. "They
had taken his jogging suit off him, taken his boombox. They
would have taken him out, too."
Eminem heard his first rap song when he was nine years old.
It was "Reckless" a track featuring Ice-T on the
Breakin' soundtrack, which his Uncle Ronnie had given him.
Ten years later, when Ronnie committed suicide, Eminem was
devasted. "I didn't talk for days," he says. "I
couldn't even go to the funeral."
He dropped out of high school after failing the ninth grade
for the third time. "As soon as I turned fifteen,"
he says, "my mother was like, 'Get a fucking job and
help me with these bills or your ass is out.' Then she would
fucking kick me out anyway, half the time right after she
took most of my paycheck." His mom says none of this
is true: "A friend told me, 'Debbie, he's saying this
stuff for publicity.' He was always well provided for."
Either way, his salvation was rap and the rhymes he had begun
to write. "As soon as my mom would leave to go play bingo,
I would blast the stereo," he says. Soon enough he was
ready to test his skills by sneaking into neighboring Osborne
High School with his friend and fellow MC Proof, for lunchroom
rap throw-downs. "It was like White Men Can't Jump,"
says Proof, now an account executive for hip hop clothier
Maurice Malone. "Everybody thought he'd be easy to beat,
and they got smoked every time."
On Saturdays the two friends went to open-mic contests at
the Hip-Hop Shop, on West 7 Mile, ground zero for the Detroit
scene. "As soon as I'd grab the mic, I'd get booed,"
Eminem recalls. "Once motherfuckers heard me rhyme, though,
they'd shut up." With four other rappers, Em and Proof
formed a crew called the Dirty Dozen before Em released his
own album, Infinite, on a local label in 1996 - an effort
devoid of Shady's wacked out humor and pent-up rage. "It
was right before my daughter was born, so having a future
for her was all I talked about," he says. "It was
way hip-hopped out, like Nas or AZ - that rhyme style was
real in at the time. I've always been a smartass comedian,
and that's why it wasn't a good album."
Detroit DJs and radio folks seemed to agree, leaving Infinite
well enough alone. "After that record, every rhyme I
wrote got angrier and agrier," Eminem says. "A lot
of it was because of the feedback I got. Motherfuckers was
like, "You're a white boy, what the fuck are you rapping
for? Why don't you go into rock and roll? All that type of
shit started pissing me off." It didn't help that days
before his daughter's first birthday, Eminem got fired from
his cooking job at Gilbert's Lodge. "That was the worst
time ever, dog," he says. "It was like five days
before Christmas, which is Hailie's birthday. I had, like,
forty dollars to get her something. I wrote "Rock Bottom"
write after that."
This downward spiral ended one day on the john when Em met
Slim Shady. "Boom, the name hit me, and right away I
thought of all these words to rhyme with it," he says.
"So I wiped my ass, got up off the pot and, ah, went
and called everybody I knew."
Shady became Em's vengeful gremlin, his knight in smarmy
armor, and Inspector Gadget Incredible Hulk with a taste for
a bit of the ultra-violence. It was high time for Em to write
some of the wrongs in his life, and Slim Shady was just the
cat to right them. At the top of the shit list was his grade-school
nemesis, D'Angelo Bailey. Yes, the bully who gets it with
a broomstick in "Brain Damage" was entirely real.
"Motherfucker used to beat the shit out of me,"
Eminem says. "I was in fourth grade and he was in sixth.
Everything in the song is true: One day he came in the bathroom,
I was pissing, and he beat the shit out of me. Pissed all
over myself. But that's not how I got really fucked up."
During recess one winter, Em taunted a smallish friend of
Bailey's. "D'Angelo Bailey - no one called him D'Angelo
- came running from across the yard and hit me so hard into
this snowbank that I blacked out." Em was sent hom, his
ear started bleeding, and he was taken to the hospital. "He
had cerebral hemorrhage and was in and out of consciousness
for five days," his mother reports. "The doctors
had given up on him, but I wouldn't give up on my son."
"I remember waking up and saying, 'I can spell elephant,'"
Em recalls with a laugh. "D'Angelo Bailey - I'll never
forget that kid."
Old D'Angelo won't forget you, either. "He was the one
we used to pick on," says Bailey, now married with kids
and living in Detroit. "There was a bunch of us that
used to mess with him. You know, bully-type things. We was
having fun. Sometimes he'd fight back - depended on what mood
he'd be in." As for Eminem's recollection of the event
that put him in the hospital, Bailey boasts, "Yeah, we
flipped him right on his head at recess. When we didn't see
him moving, we took off running. We lied and said he slipped
on the ice. He was a wild kid, but back then we thought it
was stupid. Hey, you have his phone number?"
In the spring of 1997, Eminem recorded his eight song Slim
Shady EP - the demo that earned him his deal with Interscope.
At the time, he was scrounging more than ever. He and his
girlfriend, Kim, had been living with their baby in crack-infested
neighborhoods. A stray bullet flying through the kitchen window
and lodging in the wall while Kim was doing dishes wasn't
the worst of it - they had been adopted by a crackhead. "The
neighborhoods we lived in fucking sucked," Kim says.
"I went through four TVs and five VCRs in two years."
After cleaning out the first of those TVs and VCRs, plus a
clock radio, the guy came back one night to make a sandwich.
"He left the peanut butter, jelly - all the shit - out
and didn't steal nothing," Em says. "Ain't this
about a motherfucking bitch. But then he came back again and
took everything but the couches and beds. The pillows, clothes,
silverware - everything. We were fuckin' fucked."
The young parents moved in with Em's mother for a while,
which wasn't much better. "My mother did a lot of dope
and shit - a lot of pills - so she had mood swings,"
Em says. "She'd go to bed cool, then wake up like, 'Motherfuckers,
get out!'" Em's mom denies all of the above. "I've
never done drugs," she says. "Marshall was raised
in a drug and alcohol-free enviroment." He moved in with
friends, and Kim and the baby lived with her mother. "I
didn't have a job that whole summer," Em recalls. "Then
we got evicted, because my friends and me were paying rent
to the guy on the lease, and he screwed us over." The
night before he headed to the Rap Olympics, an annual nationwide
MC battle in L.A., he came home to a locked door and an eviction
notice. "I had to break in," he says. "I didn't
have anywhere else to go. There was no heat, no water, no
electricity. I slept on the floor, woke up, went to L.A. I
was so pissed."
"Oh, my God," recalls Paul "Bunyan" Rosenberg,
the beefy lawyer who manages Eminem. "There was this
black guy sitting next to me in the crowd at the Olympics.
After the first round, he yells, 'Just give it to the white
boy. It's over. Give it to the white boy.'"
They didn't, and Em was crushed. Not only couldhe have used
the first-place prize, 500 bucks and a Rolex, but he wasn't
used to taking second. "He really looked like he was
going to cry," Rosenberg says, nodding thoughtfully.
Well, Eminem lost the battle, but he won the war. A Shady
EP given to a few Interscope staffers soon made it into the
hands of co-head Jimmy Iovine. While Em was in L.A., Iovine
and Dr. Dre took a listen. "In my entire career in the
music industry," Dre says, "I have never found anything
from a demo tape of a CD. When Jimmy played this, I said,
'Find him. Now.'"
Their first day in the studio, the pair knocked off "My
Name Is" in about an hour, and as much as that song proved
that Em is a brother from another planet, they were just warming
up. "I wrote two songs for the next album on ecstasy,"
Eminem says. "Shit about bouncing off walls, going straight
through 'em, falling down twenty stories. Crazy. That's what
we do when I'm in the studio with Dre." Dr. Dre on E?
"Ha, ha," Dre laughs. "He didn't say that!
It's true, though. We get in there, get bugged out, stay in
the studio for fuckin' two days. Then you're dead for three
days. Then you wake up, pop the tape in, like, 'Let me see
what I've done.'"
"Hey, turn here," Eminem says to the driver of
the big white van currently crunching through the snow-covered
streets of east Detroit. "Stop. That was our house. My
room was upstairs, in the back." The small two-story
homes on the gridlike streets are identical - square patch
of grass in the front, a short driveway on the side - differentiable
only by their brick face or shingles. The van turns off 8
Mile, passing Em's high school, then the field next to the
Bel-Air Shopping Center, where Em lost his boombox and nearly
his life. Em is looking out of the window like a kid at Disneyland,
pointing, recalling happy and heartbreaking memories with
equal excitement. "I like living in Detroit, making it
my home," he says as the van heads toward the highway.
"I like working out in L.A., but I wouldn't want to live
there. My little girl is here."
The van pulls up to Gilbert's Lodge, the every-food family
restaurant in suburban St. Clair Shores where Em worked on
and off for three years. Inside there are antler chandeliers,
a couple of appetite-suppressing mounted moose heads and a
"trophy room," containing the jerseys of various
local teams. The restaurant's staff scurries about, unaware
of Em, who has virtually walked into the kitchen without being
greeted. "Yo, Pete, whassup?" Em calls to a mustached
man checking on orders. "Hi, Marshall," answers
his former manager, Pete Karagiaouris. "Coming in to
buy the place?" A few heads turn, and apron-clad folks
say quick hellos.
"Hi, Marshall," says a forties-ish waitress with
a sticky-sweet voice and a Midwestern accent. "You know,
I watch MTV and I never see you."
"Oh, yeah?" he replies coolly.
Em takes a table towards the back. After a very silent twenty
minutes, he stops a passing waitress: "Can we get some
"Yeah, but I need to see your ID," she says.
"I don't have my wallet with me, but I used to work
here - ask Pete. I'm over twenty-one."
Less than twenty-four hours ago, in Staten Island, security
guards had kept a frothing crowd from tearing Em to shreds
while he earned five grand for rapping four songs. In his
own hometown, in the place he spent forty to sixty hours a
week for three years, he's a stranger, and one without silverware,
water or a menu. Either Gilbert's issued a memo about keeping
Em real or the staff is having trouble coming to terms with
Marshall's success. "Why did that bitch have to say that?"
he says about the MTV jab. "Fucking bitch. I never liked
her." It's a theme he returns to for the rest of the
night. Em's shot of Bacardi arrives; he slams it, gets another
and goes off to talk to the Gilbert's former co-workers. "Man,
everything can be going so right," Rosenberg says, sipping
his beer. "But a comment like that will stick with him
for days. This is his reality - he came from this, and after
everything is over, this is the reality he has to go back
The manager heads over, offering to make Eminem a special
garlic-chicken pizza. "He was a good worker," Karagiaouris
recalls. "But he'd be in the back rapping all the orders,
and sometimes I had to tell him to tone it down." Em
demonstrates, freestyling the ingredients of most of the appetizers
in his herky-jerky whine. "Music was always the most
important thing to him," Karagiaouris says. "But
I never knew if he was any good at it - I listen to Greek
"You know what, Paulie?" Em says, smiling mischeviously.
"I want to do a clothing line. Fat Fuck Clothing, for
the Big Pun in you. What do you think?"
It's getting late, and Em's daughter is waiting for him.
He has four days here at home to spend with her and her mother.
The van winds back to Detroit, stopping at a modest home.
Kim, a pretty blonde, hops in holding Hailie, a groggy but
smiley blue-eyed beauty who immediately dives onto Em's lap
and wraps her arms around his neck. The van whisks off, Hailie
falls back to sleep, and Em tells Kim about the New York shows.
Forty minutes later, the van turns into the trailer park -
more of a village, really - that Em calls home. "After
I got my record deal, my mother moved back to Kansas City,"
he says. "I took over the payments on her trailer, but
I'm never here." Indeed, the eviction notice on the door
is proof enough. "Don't worry, we took care of that one,"
Rosenberg says as Em rips it off and goes inside.
The double-wide mobile home houses Em's possessions, which,
after all the robberies and the moving around, have been acquired
in the last six months. An autographed glossy of Dre that
reads, "Thanks for the support, asshole" (mirroring
Shady's autograph in "My Name Is") is on the wall,
as is the album art from the Shady EP. Above the TV are two
shots of Em and Dre from the video shoot, along with pictures
of Hailie. A small rack holds CDs by 2Pac, Mase, Babyface,
Luther Vandross, Esthero and Snoop Dogg. A baby couch for
Hailie sits in front of the TV. On a wall near the kitchen
is a flyer titled "Commitments for Parents," which
lists directives like "I will give my child space to
grow, dream, succeed and sometimes fail."
Hailie settles down on the floor with a stuffed polar bear
as Kim prepares her for bed. The couple are happy to see each
other tonight, but songs like "'97 Bonnie and Clyde"
make it clear that times are not always this tranquil. Their
relationship has been volatile - all the more so since their
daughter's birth. At one point two years ago, when they were
on the outs and dating other people, Kim, according to Eminem,
made it difficult for him to see his daughter and even threatenend
to file a restraining order. Em wrote "Just the Two of
Us" on the Shady EP, to tell the tale of a father killing
his baby's mother and cleaning up the mess with the help of
his daughter: "Here, you wanna help Dada tie a rope around
this rock?/Then we'll tie it to her footsie, then we'll roll
her off the dock/Here we go, count of three. One, two, three,
wee!/There goes Mama, splashing in the water/No more fighting
with Dad, no more restraining order."
The original had a slightly different beat and a less monied
production that "'97 Bonnie and Clyde," the version
on the Interscope album, but on the Shady LP, Hailie chillingly
plays herself (she is also on the album cover and liner notes).
"I lied to Kim and told her I was taking her to Chuck
E. Cheese that day," Em recalls. "But I took her
to the studio. When she found out I used our daughter to write
a song about killer 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."
Kim declines to comment on that song or any of the others
about her, including a track slated for Em's next album called
"Kim." The song is the prelude to "'97 Bonnie
and Clyde," with Em acting out the screaming fight that
ends in murder. Em has played it for her already and claims
that now she is truly convinced that he is insane. "If
I was her, I would have ran when I heard that shit,"
Dre says. "It's over the top - the whole song is him
screaming. It's good, though. Kim gives him a concept."
Em's friend Proof has been around the couple from the beginning.
"This is what I love about Em," he says. "One
time we came home and Kim had thrown all his clothes on the
lawn - which was, like, two pairs of pants and some gym shoes.
So we stayed at my grandmother's, and Em's like 'I'm leaving
her; I'm never going back.' Next day, he's back with her.
The love they got is so genuine, it's ridiculous. He gonna
end up marrying her. But there's always gonna be conflict
Em says Hailie has heard his record and loves it, but he
knows she's too young still to get much more than the beats.
"When she gets old enough, I'm going to explain it to
her," Em says. "I'll let her know that Mommy and
Daddy weren't getting along at the time. None of it was to
be taken literally." He shakes his head ruefully. "Although
at the time, I wanted to fucking do it." Em is the first
to admit that he's got a bad temper, which he has harnessed
into a career. "My thoughts are so fucking evil when
I'm writing shit," he says. "If I'm mad at my girl,
I'm gonna sit down and write the most misogynistic fucking
rhyme in the world. It's not how I feel in general, it's how
I feel at that moment. Like say today, earlier, I might think
something like, 'Coming through the airport sluggish, walking
on crutches, hit a pregnant bitch in the stomach with luggage.'"
Slim Shady is Marshall Mathers' way of taking revenge on
the world, and he's also a defense mechanism. On the one hand,
a lot of Slim Shady's cartoonish fantasies are offensive;
on the other, they're better than Mathers re-creating the
kind of abuse the world heaped upon him growing up. "I
dealt with a lot of shit coming up, a lot of shit," he
says. "When it's like that, you learn to live day by
day. When all this happened, I took a deep breath, just like,
"I did it.'" The magnitude of what he's done in
such a short time doesn't seem to have sunk in. Em hasn't
sipped the bubbly or smelled the roses - and if he allots
time for that in the next few months, it will have to be at
the drive-through. As for the future, he won't even wager
"If he remains the same person that walked into the
studio with me that first day, he will be fucking larger than
Michael Jackson," says a confident Dre. "There are
a lot of ifs and buts, but my man, he's dope and very humble."
As Em closes the door, with Hailie's blanket in his hands,
he looks humble, a little tired and pretty happy. For now.
By Charles Aaron, Spin.com