Published September 17, 2009
Eminem was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III on Oct. 17, 1972 in St. Joseph, Mo. He was born to parents Deborah "Debbie" Mathers-Briggs and Marshall Mathers Jr., although his father abandoned the family when Eminem was a baby.
As a child, the family moved around constantly, often leading Eminem to feel like an outcast and be subjected to bullying.
One particular incident with schoolmate D’Angelo Bailey left Eminem in the hospital. He later produced a track about it which highly exaggerated the encounter, entitled “Brain Damage.” Bailey accused Eminem of libel, but the charges were dismissed in court.
Marshall began performing when he was 14, and soon created the rap name M&M, which he later changed to Eminem. While he faced enormous barriers in the Detroit hip-hop world because of his skin color, he decided that the best way to gain acceptance was prove his skills by battling other rappers in clubs. It took time, but he eventually became a popular attraction on the club scene.
Economic reasons were often the cause of Eminem and his mother’s many moves, so they often had to rely on public housing or the care of relatives.
Debbie was also taking Valium and Vicodin during this time (legally), though Eminem has claimed over the years that she was abusing the drugs.
Debbie filed a defamation lawsuit against Eminem in 1999, demanding more than $10 million for these charges. Eventually the case was settled with Debbie receiving $25,000, with more than $23,000 going to her lawyer, as per the judge’s orders. A judge denied a request by Debbie to reconsider the settlement.
Marshall attended Lincoln High School in Warren, Mich., where, after failing ninth grade three times, he dropped out at the age of 17.
However, he retained some close associations with people from the school, including his friend, the late rapper Proof, as well as future wife Kimberly Ann “Kim” Scott.
When Kim got pregnant, Marshall’s drive to succeed increased even more. Their daughter, Hailie Jade Scott, was born on Dec. 25, 1995. Hailie became a huge part of Marshall’s life and music, as he worked to give her everything he was deprived of as a child.
The suicide of his uncle kept Eminem away from music for awhile, but he soon returned upon requests for him to join various groups.
He first joined the group the “New Jacks,” and then went on to “Soul Intent,” who released his first single in 1995. The B-side of his single was done by Proof, who later started the group D-12 with him. Soon after, Eminem took a break from music to care for his daughter.
In 1996, Eminem released his first independent album, “Infinite.” However, his first album attempt failed to make a profit, and Kim ended their relationship and prevented him from seeing his child.
Eminem then attempted suicide using an overdose of Tylenol. The attempt failed, and Eminem continued his music and worked to reconcile with Kim. The two were married on June 14, 1999.
In 1997, Marshall released “The Slim Shady LP Demo.” Rap artist and producer Dr. Dre heard a copy of Marshall’s demo, and agreed to sign him after Marshall came in second to MC Juice in a major freestyle-rap battle.
In 1999, Marshall released “The Slim Shady LP” on Interscope, and it went triple platinum. This was the beginning of the controversy over his often violent lyrics.
In May 2000, Marshall released “The Marshall Mathers LP,” and it sold 6 million copies. Several of the album’s singles became hits, including “The Real Slim Shady,” “Stan” and “The Way I Am.”
Marshall and Kim have continued to have problems, however, as often outlined in Marshall’s songs, such as his graphic description of killing her in “97 Bonnie and Clyde” and “Kim.” Then in 2000, Marshall saw Kim kiss John Guerrera outside of the Hot Rocks Cafe in Warren, and he threatened Guerrera with an unloaded 9mm gun and allegedly pistol-whipped him.
The day before, Marshall had a run in with Douglas Dail, an associate of the “Insane Clown Posse” group, with whom he had a rivalry. He was observed to be holding a gun pointed at the ground during the incident.
Eminem was arrested and charged with misdemeanor charges of brandishing a firearm in public, assault with a dangerous weapon and two counts of concealed weapons possession in two separate trials for the two incidents.
The Guerrera case ended with a plea bargain where Eminem pleaded guilty to weapon possession in exchange for the assault charges being dropped. He received two years of probation and was ordered to pay $100,000 in damages at the conclusion of the case.
In the Dail case, he pleaded no contest to the charges of firearm possession and brandishing. For this case he received one year of probation, enforced concurrently with the first sentence.
Meanwhile, Eminem and Kim continued to be estranged. In July 2000, Kim attempted suicide by cutting her wrists in the couple’s home in Michigan. Eminem then filed for divorce a few months later, which led Kim to file a lawsuit trying to deny Eminem custody of Hailie, and seeking millions in defamation damages.
They soon settled the lawsuit and agreed to joint custody of Hailie with Kim getting physical custody and Eminem being granted “liberal visitation rights.”
By the end of that year, they had reconciled again and dismissed the divorce claims. This didn’t last, however, and Kim filed for divorce in 2001. It was finalized in October and they were granted joint custody of Hailie, with Eminem being required to pay child support.
Since then, their relationship has continued to be on-again, off-again, and they remarried and filed for divorce again in 2006. Currently Kim is seeking joint custody and child support payments from Eminem.
Eminem has often been a controversial figure, with many critics taking offense at lyrics they consider violent, misogynistic and anti-gay. Eminem has always maintained that the lyrics are not meant to be taken seriously, and that he has no problem with women or gay people.
When “The Marshall Mathers LP” was nominated for a Grammy, the gay rights group GLAAD organized a boycott of the Grammys. Marshall responded by singing a duet with openly gay singer Elton John, which ended with a hug.
In 2001, Eminem rejoined “D-12,” and released an album with them. They went on the road for the summer, and upon his return, Eminem filmed the movie “8 Mile,” which was loosely based on his own life. Critics raved about his performance, and the negative media attention died down to some degree.
Then in 2002, Eminem’s single “Without Me,” hit the charts. It bashed artists Moby and Limp Bizkit, and at the MTV Video Music Awards, Eminem verbally attacked Moby on stage, drawing boos from the crowd. The album “The Eminem Show,” was a smash hit, as was the following album, “Encore,” in 2004.
The first single from “Encore,” “Just Lose It,” included a controversial video where Eminem parodies Michael Jackson. Many friends of Jackson spoke out against the video, and BET announced it would stop airing it, although MTV continued to do so, and it remained immensely popular.
Eminem also signed a deal with Sirius Radio in 2004 to produce a rap station called “Shade 45.” He also owns a clothing company called Shady Ltd. Eminem is also an active music producer. He was the executive producer for the two D-12 records, as well as producing various tracks for numerous other artists as well as himself.
Marshall’s music has continually mentioned drug use, although he has never been in trouble with the law in this regard. However, when he entered probation for his sentence, any recreational drug use was forced to an end because of mandatory drug testing. Later, due to trouble sleeping, Marshall began taking the prescription sleeping pill Ambien. His use of the drug soon became a problem, however, and he checked into rehab in 2005, canceling the European leg of his current tour.
Around this same time, Eminem’s aunt and uncle, Jack and Betty Schmitt, sued him, alleging that he has promised them a $350,000 house and the money to keep it up, and instead has kept it in his name and tried to evict them.
A decline in drug use by Marshall also goes hand in hand with further responsibilities in caring for his daughter, Hailie. Marshall has also often taken care of Kim’s twin sister’s daughter Dawn, as well as his younger half-brother Nathan.
Since 2005, various rumors have surfaced suggesting that Eminem is looking to retire. He has stated that he has no such plans, however.
Released: May 1, 1995
The Slim Shady LP
Released: Feb. 23, 1999
The Marshall Mathers LP
Released: May 23, 2000
The Eminem Show
Released: May 26, 2002
8 Mile Soundtrack
Released: Oct. 29, 2002
Released Nov. 12, 2004
Curtain Call: The Hits
Released: Dec. 6, 2005