In Honor of Eminem’s 40th Birthday, Here Are 40 Unforgettable Moments from His Illustrious Career
40. Early Life/High School Years
Marshall attended Warren, Michigan’s Lincoln High School between 1986-1989. While he struggled with his studies, he became involved in freestyle rap battles at Osbourne High School, located on Detroit’s East Side. Eminem’s talent quickly gained him acceptance in a the predominantly African-American scene, where he would spend much of his late teenage years. In 1989, Marshall dropped out of high school as a result of bad grades (he repeated the 9th grade three times) and truancy.
39. Release of “Fuckn’ Backstabber”
The title like sounds exactly what one would think an early Eminem song would sound. One of Em’s earliest singles, his rap group “Soul Intent” released this in 1995 under the label “Mashin’ Duck Records.” What do you think?
38. Finishing second in the 1997 Rap Olympics
While the guy he’s competing against sounds a little bit like Big Sean with a speech impediment and allergy infection, Eminem’s performance at the Rap Olympics was good enough to win the attention of Jimmy Iovine and Interscope Records and, later, a spot on their label. The rest, as they say, was history.
37. Signed to Aftermath Entertainment
In 1998, Eminem officially signed with Aftermath Entertainment, a subsidiary of Interscope Records run by a dude called Dr. Dre. Let's just say it was a great pairing from the get-go.
36. “Slim Shady LP
Much like early episodes of “South Park,” popular attention directed at this 1999 album focused on the profanity, the vulgarity, and the sheer weirdness of someone so against the norm (in the case of “South Park,” elementary school kids, for Em, his whiteness) entering an established genre. And, much like the anti-”South Park” movement, this distracted from the artistry of the “Slim Shady LP.” It's number 273 on Rolling Stone’s all-time greatest albums for a reason.
35. ''97 Bonnie and Clyde'
“'97 Bonnie & Clyde”, which was Previously featured on The Slim Shady EP as “Just the Two of Us”, Eminem recorded this song to feature his daughter, Hallie. The song discusses some pretty non PG themes however (Eminem disposing of his girlfriend's corpse), he told Kim that instead of going to record, he was taking Hallie to Chuck E. Cheese.
Said Em, “When she found out I used our daughter to write a song about killing 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.”
34. “Guilty Conscience”
For sheer fucked-up hilarity, you’re hard-pressed to find a funnier song in Em’s repertoire than this experimental track, delivered via the stories of Eddie the liquor store thief, Stan the wannabe date-rapist, and Grady, the cuckolded 29-year-old construction worker. It’s worth a re-listen. Try, right now, to not to crack up during Em’s taunts of Dre, “Mr. N.W.A., Mr. A.K. coming Straight Outta Compton, y'all better make way!”
Released off of “The Marshall Mathers LP, ”“Stan” was ranked #15 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs List and #296 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.” One of Em’s darker tracks, “Stan” is sampled over Dido’s “Thank You” to create a truly remarkable, yet ultimately tragic vibe. The haunting video has been lauded as one of his best.
32. 1999 Real Slim Shady VMA Performance
Hundreds (thousands?) of blonde-haired Em clones took a break from spitting on your onion rings at Burger King to descend upon Radio City Music Hall for a truly legendary performance of “The Real Slim Shady.” This, we’ve decided, is the moment when Eminem officially arrived as a mega star.
31. Assault Charges
How about this for a two-day stretch? On June 3rd, 2000, Em got in an altercation with Douglas Dail, an affiliate with the Insane Clown Posse, at a car audio shop. Em pulled an unloaded gun on Dail and was promptly arrested. Then, THE VERY NEXT DAY, Mathers saw his wife kissing a bouncer in the parking lot of a restaurant. He assaulted the bouncer… and was arrested again. Em received two years probation the two incidents. And you thought your weekend was rough.
30. “Collaborating” with the Notorious B.I.G. for “Dead Wrong”
With its references to dead hookers and such, 2000’s “Dead Wrong” is one of the darkest songs in the Biggie canon. His low depths are complemented nicely by Em, who, in a double-time rap over the beat, pokes fun at his “Satanic” reputation by listing off day-to-day hobbies like cannibalism, animal sex, and human sacrifice. Ah, the good ol’ days, before the Illuminati—when all our rappers weren’t one-world conspirators, just Satan worshippers.
Haha, did I say “Dead Wrong” was dark? This six-minute and seventeen-second number was notable for ending, as Rolling Stone said, with “Eminem screaming at his ex in an insane stream-of-consciousness hate spew.” This is his “Dance with the Devil”—easily his most uncomfortable song ever put to record. Terrifying.
28. Feuds with Moby and Fred Durst
Em has always been known for having in his arsenal some of the funniest and meanest put-downs in the music biz. They were on full display for feuds with Fred Durst (“Shit, Christina Aguilera better switch me chairs/so I can sit next to Carson Daly and Fred Durst/and hear ‘em argue over who she gave head to first…), and his historically shitty band, Limp Bizkit (“Chris Kirkpatrick you can get your ass kicked/worse than them little Limp Bizkit bastards”), as well as for Moby. Oh, Moby. The techno artist called the rapper a “misogynist, a homophobe, a racist, and an anti-Semite” at the 2001 Grammy’s. He received this response in “Without Me”: “You 36-year-old bald-headed fag blow me/You don't know me, you're too old let go it’s over, nobody listens to techno!” Did it work? Do you see Moby or Fred Durst anywhere near the Billboard list? (Although you will see a lot of techno.)
27. “Up In Smoke Tour” and “Forgot About Dre”
In 2001, Eminem toured with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, and Ice Cube, Devid the Dude, Warren G, Nate Dogg, D12 and many more in what is considered one of the more famous hip-hop tours in history. Em’s “Forgot About Dre” collaboration has him sounding like a hyperactive kid playing with his older brother, all energetic lines and bouncing-off-the-walls enthusiasm. (That was a compliment.)
26. Grammy Awards Performance with Elton John
This may go down as the greatest performance in Em’s career. After gay rights groups like GLAAD called out the rapper for what they felt were homophobic and misogynistic lyrics in his work, Em countered by saying, well, he was offensive to everyone. And then he got Elton John to perform “Stan” with him at the Grammy Awards. The debate cooled.
25. Calling Out Lynne and Dick Cheney in “Without Me”
Lynne Cheney, the wife of then Vice-President Dick Cheney, repeatedly spoke out against Eminem and his vulgar, violent tone. Em zinged her and her hubby rather nicely in this number, which made the case that society uses him as a scapegoat for its own many problems. (And, in the interest of bipartisanship, Em also routinely called out Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, for puritanism.)
24. Terrifying “Cleaning Out My Closet” Video
23. “8 Mile”
Eminem starred as Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith in the now-classic hip-hop drama about a young rapper growing up in the Detroit Ghetto. (The role was a stretch.) “Lose Yourself,” which was written for the film, received an Academy Award for “Best Original Song.” This was a big deal at the time, because no rap song had ever before won the prestigious award—Em opened up the floodgates for pioneering acts like, uh, Three Six Mafia.
22. Discovering 50 Cent
50 Cent is in “mogul mode” now, but there was a time when he was, far and away, the biggest rapper in the world. “In Da Club” will never get old, and 50, we’re forever grateful for essentially ruining Ja Rule’s career. Thank you.
21. Investigated by the US Secret Service
In 2003, The United States Secret Service admitted they were “looking into Eminem” as a result of some choice lyrics from “We As Americans,” which appeared on the bonus CD for “Encore.” (The lyrics in question: “Fuck money/I don’t rap for dead presidents/I’d rather see the President Dead/It’s never been said, but I set precedents.” The meaning of those lyrics is not really up for debate, we’ll admit.)
20. “Just Lose It”
Eminem pissed off Michael!
“I am very angry at Eminem's depiction of me in his video,” Jackson said. “I feel that it is outrageous and disrespectful.”
19. D12 and ‘My Band’
The Dirty Dozen, a.k.a. “D12” formed in 1996 and rose to fame following Eminem’s commercial success. They’ve released two albums: “Devil’s Night” in 2001, and “D12 World” in 2004, and one massive No. 1 hit, “My Band,” a hilarious satire on boy bands that, well, you had to be there. Em was really big at the time.
18. Releases Music Video for “Mosh,” One Week before the 2004 Election
People forget how political Em became around 2004-2005, but in terms of his influence, this may represent his most polarizing moment. The track begins with an eerie rendition of The Pledge of Allegiance, then radically veers towards anti-war rhetoric. The video features many an anti-Bush newspaper article, the classroom theme driving home a “what are we learning from this?” authority-questioning sentiment.
17. Work with Nate Dogg
Eminem and the late, great Nate Dogg collaborated on a number of tracks throughout their careers, most notably “Till I Collapse” in 2002, and “Shake That” in 2005. Naturally, Nate Dogg’s passing had a profound impact on Eminem. Said Slim Shady in a public statement, “Nate's voice in music will never be replaced…He helped create the blueprint for West Coast hip-hop, and I was one of the lucky people who had the privilege to work with him and the honor to have him as a friend. Nate will be sorely missed. My condolences and prayers go out to his family and loved ones.”
16. Ranked No. 58 in Bernard Goldberg’s “100 People That Are Screwing Up America”
In his book, Goldberg noted Em’s misogynistic and overwhelmingly violent messages, among other things, as to why Eminem should not be a role model for young Americans. Bernard Goldberg is a humorless assclown.
15. “When I’m Gone”
Although ultimately a part of “Curtain Call,” “When I’m Gone” was released in 2005 as a single. It was a HUGE deal (since no one was sure if he was going to rap again), and the video is one of his finest.
14. Starts ‘Marshall Mathers Foundation’
For every questionable action, it’s important to remember Marshall Mathers does in fact give back. His foundation, which was officially launched around 2006, provides assistance to disadvantaged youth. Our lawyers made us mention this.
13. Release of His Memoir, “The Way I Am”
Below is an excerpt on Marshall’s 2008 tell-all memior, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly:
I've always had issues with my temper. When I look back at myself during those years when everything was blowing up, I think maybe at first I was a little, you know, too aggressive and loud. It was like I had this voice and I had to be heard. ''Don't f— with me,'' to the point where people must have been wondering, Why is this dude so angry? Is he on crack? Is he on crystal meth?
I go back and see old interviews and even now I wonder, Why was I so hyper? I went through a phase back then when I was shooting pistols in the air behind the studio and, you know, pulling guns out, pointing a pistol in somebody's face, not even realizing that I could've gone to jail for that s—.
Musician’s autobiographies are rarely good. This was an exception.
12. Inducts Run-DMC in the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame
Eminem went radio silent for a couple of years after the release of “Curtain Call,” going through what we now know were enough downers to tranquilize an African elephant. By 2009, we had gone five years without a proper Eminem album. Five long years without any new verses on Christopher Reeve’s no longer functional legs! Hell, Reeve wasn’t even alive anymore! This speech in April of ‘09 marked the beginning of his comeback. It was heartfelt, it was honest, and it was symbolic of where Eminem now places in hip-hop history. Plus: We now knew he was clean.
11. 3 a.m. Music Video on Cinemax
Of course, no one said comebacks were easy. Mathers stumbled out of the gate with his first two singles, “We Made You” and “3 a.m.,” two of the all-time worst Slim Shady numbers. “3 a.m.” was notable for an expensively produced and lavishly violent video that was forced to premiere on pay cable. Those who tuned in at 10 p.m. got to see Em rapping in a Tweety Bird voice about killing Miley Cyrus. It wasn’t really worth the five-year wait.
10. 'Relapse Release'
Not all of “Relapse” was “3 a.m.” bad, though. In fact, the album holds up decently well. The production by Dr. Dre is stellar, and the barely contained rage on tracks like “Underground” and “Bagpipes from Baghdad” sound like they belong on lost “Marshall Mathers LP” tracks. Of course, you probably just remember the album by that stupid accent he ran into the ground. Which is fair. That accent should be an entry on this list by itself.
9. Mariah Carey Feud
This was one of the more bizarre diss songs in music history. Typically rappers save their worst shots for other rappers. Em, angry that Mariah Carey had aired their dirty laundry in the song “Obsessed,” retaliated with an insane, fiery diss track “The Warning.” The song, seriously, is on the level of “Hit ‘Em Up” and “Takeover.” Only instead of being directed at Biggie or Nas, respectively, it was toward the star of “Glitter.” Hey, more power to him.
8. Feuds at the VMAs with Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Sacha Baron Cohen
Twice, Eminem was pranked by people at the MTV VMAs. The first came when he was accosted by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in 2002. He actually shoved the puppet and told it to get out of his face. The second prank came in 2009, when Sacha Baron Cohen, dressed as his character Bruno, swooped down from the ceiling of Radio City Music hall and placed his ass on Eminem’s head. Mathers walked out in disgust. We found out later that the Bruno stunt was staged, while the Triumph feud, unbelievably, was not. This is worth repeating: At the height of his fame and influence, Eminem argued at an awards show with a dog puppet.
7. Appears in a Cameo in “Funny People”
Funny, insightful, a bit over the top. Em’s range in a nutshell.
6. Releases Recovery, Setting Record for Successive U.S. No. 1 albums by a Solo Artist
Featuring recent chart-toppers, including “Not Afraid,” “Love the Way You Lie,” and “No Love,” “Recovery” debuted as the top album on the Billboard Top 200 list, selling 741,000 copies in the first week alone. It’s since sold over 6 million copies worldwide, and was the best-selling album of 2010.
5. 60 Minutes Interview
While it would be unfair to categorize Eminem as “media-shy,” he certainly hasn’t made a habit of agreeing to every interview. He opened up for Anderson Cooper in 2010, though, looking back at his humble beginnings and his recent drug addiction in a remarkably candid way. Interview highlight: Saying it “pisses him off” that no one thinks anything rhymes with “orange.”
4. Concert with Jay-Z at Yankee Stadium
One of the biggest concerts of the new millennium. Here’s the two performing “Renegade,” which appeared on Jay’s 2001 “The Blueprint” and gained increased notoriety when Nas dissed ‘Hova by saying “Eminem murdered you on your own shit,” which wasn’t exactly incorrect.
3. Chrysler Superbowl Commercial
One of the better commercials in Super Bowl, if not advertising history. Eminem’s not only the face of Detroit, but the face of hometown pride and loyalty. Piss off, Clint Eastwood.
2. “Marshall Mathers LP,” “Eminem Show” Certified “Diamond” In Same Year
Back in 2000, “The Marshall Mathers LP” won the Grammy Award for “Best Rap Album,” and was nominated for “Album of the Year.” Eleven years later, it reached “Diamond” status, an extremely rare feat that occurs when an album goes 10x Platinum. In non RIAA speak, this means it sold over 10 million copies. Em’s 2002 “The Eminem Show” reached the same status earlier in that year. Eminem is the first hip-hop artist ever to achieve this feat, joining the elite company of 19 other artists/music groups.
1. The Future
If he never writes another lyric, Eminem will go down as one of the greatest musicians to walk this earth. Thankfully though, that shouldn’t be the case. Slim announced earlier this year that he’s working on an eighth studio album, to be released in 2013.
Additionally, Eminem is set to appear in a number of film projects. He was featured in this year mega-documentary “The Art of Rap,” and will appear in next year’s highly anticipated “How to Make Money Selling Drugs.” He’s also set to star in “Southpaw,” a critically hyped boxing film.
Whatever Eminem does after the big 4-0, you can be sure you’ll hear about it. One of the more mangled (yet brilliant) minds of the new millenium, Marshall Bruce Mathers III’s place a cultural icon has been solidified and then some.