My Name Is
America had no idea who this bleached blond, white rapper was or what he was talking about, until he told us (for just over four minutes) that he was Slim Shady. Eminem completely enthralled American media as he made light of the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal and made fun of Pamela Anderson and Marilyn Manson.
This and other videos like “The Real Slim Shady” have granted Eminem eternal recognition as one rap's raunchiest acts. He is often credited with the desensitizing of rap fans to shock tactics, paving the way for the likes of Odd Future and Hopsin.
Though his skill with lyrics and complex subjects would later gain recognition, Eminem's initial appeal centered on his penchant for slander and the ease with which he displayed intensely graphic violence through his music. Prime examples include "97 Bonnie & Clyde" and "Kim."
Of course, Eminem did not invent horror core rap. What he did was contribute some of the most defining songs in the sub-genre. Beyond the disturbing lyrics though was Eminem's steely defense of them. Songs like "The Way I Am" and Em's verses on "Renegade" make a compelling argument for the basic human element in some of his more colorful rhymes.
While most discussed his antics and whatever the latest controversy was, Em's core fans knew the talent behind the character. Eminem has always been nice with the lyrics, as far as anyone that's heard Infinite can vouch. The rest of the world got a taste as early as "Stan" one of Eminem's most successful singles to date and the common internet designation of overly biased or belligerent fans.
While Em boasts some of the most technically complex raps in the game, he's also demonstrated remarkable talent for conveying emotion through rhymes. Tracks like "Cleaning out my closet" and "Toy Soldiers" exemplify this.
Songs like "White America" also show Em's political side, further showing his versatility.
By the time "8 Mile" released Eminem was well established as the hottest rapper on the scene, or at least close to it. The film's critical and commercial success only helped reinforce this sentiment.
The film detailed a struggle familiar to many aspiring young rappers and highlighted Em's skills as an actor and (tangentially) a battle rapper for an international audience. It remains one of the best hip-hop movies thus far and also spawned one of Eminem's most popular songs, "Lose Yourself."
Just a year after the film's release, Eminem helped birth another of the most popular artists of the time, 50 Cent. All this combined with his station as the co-founder of Shady Records and his vast production catalogue make Eminem one of the premier hip-hop moguls in the business.
Eminem’s name is one often thrown around in G.O.A.T. debates, for good reason. Few rappers can boast Em’s level of skill, his versatility, his longevity or his commercial success. Fewer still can infuriate the nation multiple times and still have a viable career at 40. Does any of this make him the G.O.A.T.? A better question, does it matter?
The greatest rapper of all time changes from person to person, day to day, album to album. It’d be hard to argue that Eminem may have been the greatest rapper at one moment or even at multiple moments. It’d be easy, however, to make the same argument for many of the other rappers in our Game Changers series.
The one indisputable fact is that rap was forever changed after the release of The Slim Shady LP and no rapper - black, white or otherwise – with above-average lyrical skill can go through their career without their name being mentioned alongside (or against) Eminem’s.
HNHH continues our look at some of rap's most influential and essential artists in our Game Changers series, the focus this time on Detroit's resident legendary emcee, Eminem.
Eminem is one of the biggest things to happen to hip-hop, period. He challenged the status quo and found success as a white artist in a predominantly black industry. Though he was not the first white rapper to blow, Eminem is one of the few to be consistently ranked among the greatest rappers of all time.
Though his recent work hasn't been as impactful as earlier efforts, everyone from the kids on the corner to Donald Trump knows his name and probably even has a song or two on rotation.
He is, at once, one of the most shocking, horrifying, lyrically gifted, and commercially successful rap acts in hip-hop history. HNHH presents our latest Game Changer, Eminem.