Slim Shady. A name that triggers some form of chemical release in one’s brain. In the history of hip hop, rock or even pop there never really has been anyone quite like Eminem. He effortlessly hits all the buttons pushed over the years by Gangsta rap, Kurt Cobain, MTV, Howard Stern, Madonna, Tupac, or even Elvis.
Twinkling with blue-eyed charm, freestyling, cartoon-hilarious, unrelentingly insolent, outrageously indiscreet, crass, and yet beneath that white pasty skin of his, highly sensitive. He is the dope antidote to celebrity culture and without a doubt, one of its supreme products. Throughout his career, he has been joyriding through the celebrity landscape like a drunken kid in a steamroller, spitting out controversies and scandals as he goes. Exposing and stomping over issues like race, gender, obscenity, the White House, pop sweethearts - all with a fine regard for delicate sensibilities.
But the fact is, he’s way more than just a grinning satirist. The music produced thrives on the turmoil he experienced in his life. The emotions built up and expressed in tracks like Rock Bottom, Mockingbird or even Cleanin’ out my Closet is more than just ‘music’. It’s his way of lyrically letting out his internal demons.
He was raised in a broken home, a violent, dirt-poor childhood, trying to subsist in crack-infested neighbourhoods to even dodging the occasional bullet. And if that isn’t enough, his mother sued him, his own grandmother threatened to sue him and his wife divorced him TWICE! In a way, Eminem “isn’t really music”- listening to his tracks often transcends the regular experience of listening to music.
He is a lyrical genius. He’s justly praised for puncturing US hypocrisy and loved for his lewd yet devastatingly logical wit. The thing that made Eminem stand out as one of the most compelling figures in, let’s just say the whole world, was his brutal honesty and rawness toward his self-image. The way he portrayed himself, and the fact that his past is an open book to the entire world- while other celebrities hide behind their huge teams of lawyers and managers. I don’t think any artist would have written a track like “Stan.” I don’t think any artist could’ve even thought of something like that.
If you think about it, he enjoys stirring up nasty and uneasy issues to the surface. He understands American culture - shredded down to its barebone. He’s aware of it being a dysfunctional mess, and that dysfunctional stories like his will sell. That’s exactly what happened.
He worked through his family issues and “settled all accounts.” He triumphed in every respect and was more successful than he could have ever dreamed of being. Which started to welcome a fresher set of problems. Because following cleaning out my closet, Eminem seemed to run out of “reality.” Albums like Encore, Relapse & Recovery made you sympathise and feel for the times he was struggling.
Post that, he didn’t have a well of turmoil on which he could draw from. He felt pressurised by the media and the public to constantly keep reinventing himself- hence, his writer’s block. The album Relapse is insightful in a way because it has absolutely nothing to do with drugs. It was more of rediscovering himself, it’s a reference to the incorrigible Eminem doing what he did best- being his good old, bad boy can’t help it, self.
Ultimately, Slim Shady is a difficult, inimical bundle of virtues and vices- an ass, a genius, woman-hater, extremely sensitive, an underdog, grossly immoral, and yet a thoroughly decent guy. He’s what people would call inconsistent. He does what hip hop and rock’n’roll have always done, and should always do - worry, rather than reassure you, churn you up inside rather than flatter you, and raise unwieldy questions, rather than present you with answers.
In reality, Eminem doesn’t just work from a fixed ‘emotional’ position but he ranges across an entire gamut of moods and voices. The chaos, confusion and contradictions of which are doubtlessly a true reflection of his muddled feelings.