Born Marshall Mathers in St. Joseph, Missouri, Eminem spent most of his childhood shuttling between Missouri and Michigan, till eventually settling in Michigan when he was eleven. Eminem grew up in a lower class, predominately African-American neighborhood. Picking up rapping at 14, Eminem and fellow friend and MC Proof (R.I.P.)would freestyle in their high school lunchroom. Making a name for himself on the battle rap circuit, Eminem signed with an independent label in 1996 and dropped his debut album titled Infinite.
The album flopped and caused Eminem to fall into a deep depression. Substance abuse, relationship problems with his wife Kim, and getting fried from his job led to an unsuccessful suicide attempt. This environment of anger and poor circumstances led Eminem to develop and alter ego he would call Slim Shady. His style switched to a vicious flow with angry lyrics and violent content, and he released The Slim Shady EP in 1997. He then made a trip to the Rap Olympics, where he placed second and caught the eye of some Interscope Records representatives.
Eminem’s EP was sent to Jimmy Iovine, who then sent the tape to Dr. Dre. Dre was impressed and signed Eminem to Interscope under his Aftermath Entertainment label. They hit the studio and repackaged and added to The Slim Shady EP, and came out with The Slim Shady LP in 1999. The album went triple platinum within the year, and Eminem had finally found success as Slim Shady.
Despite controversy over Eminem’s sometimes sadistic lyrics, Eminem continued his critical and mainstream success with his 2000 release The Marshall Mathers LP. It broke records almost selling 2 millions units in one week, and produced some of his most famous songs. With two more albums, The Eminem Show in 2002, and Encore in 2004, Eminem further cemented his legacy as one of hip-hop greats.
Despite rumors of him quitting rap in 2005, he came back in 2009 after a hiatus with the album Relapse. It re-established Eminem’s place in hip-hop, and he has since released two more albums with continued critical and commercial success. In total, he has sold 172 MILLION albums, making him not only the best selling hip-hop artist of all time, but the best selling artist of the 2000s.
Today we salute and wish a happy birthday to hip-hop icon, Eminem!