As Slim Shady and Eminem, Marshall Mathers feeds on gleeful shit-stirring and trickster shock-tactics. But away from the mic, he claims there’s a kindler soul behind the persona. So is Eminem whatever he says he is, or did he lose himself in the music? Read below for his most revealing quotes and decide for yourself.
10 On self-censorship
Eminem was at his best teasing pop culture’s repressed subconscious – not punching down to women and gay men, not cracking rape jokes for a cheap punchline, but playing on our obsessions with celebrity and America’s seedy underbelly that everyone recognises but few in the public eye discuss. If he’s sick enough to think it, he’s sick enough to say it.
9 On quality time
Perhaps a less popular pastime than he envisaged, Em’s booger castle nonetheless provides a vivid analogy for the sanctuary to be found in vulnerability, even when your day job is being the most notorious rapper in America.
8 On record sales
A major flop for 2010 album ‘Recovery’ could’ve put Em out to pasture: after the sloppy ‘Relapse’ he’d scrambled to save face, blaming his addiction to painkillers. Eventually, the record saw him cling to his credibility among “real” hip-hop fans, and although 80 mil is a way off, a year after release, it did become the first ever album to hit one million digital sales – a decent, ahem, recovery, then.
7 On rap as a drug
The late-2000s were a tricky time for the rapper: as peers Jay-Z and Kanye went from strength to strength, at least in entrepreneurial terms, the Detroit man, who’d recently lost his buddy Proof in a shooting, slid further into addiction. Talking up a return to the straight and narrow, he tapped into an eloquence that had been missing from his tunes.
6 On poverty
Marshall Mathers’ pockmarked, broken-home upbringing has been well-documented, not least in largely autobiographical biopic 8 Mile. But this frank admission gives an alarmingly poignant insight, even by his standards. “I was poor white trash,” he’d admitted earlier, “no glitter, no glamour, but I’m not ashamed of anything.”
5 On social media
There might be a bit of Slim Shady in all of us, but if only we could all follow this solid slice of Marshall Mathers wisdom, internet comment sections everywhere might be less Slim Shady and more Marshall Mathers.
4 On rap as a social threat
A well-worn sentiment, but you can never say it enough: scapegoating rap, metal and video games will never fly, especially in countries where gun sales remain totally legit.
3 On high school
For all his furious notepad-filling, Eminem’s rap superpowers didn’t stop him being a social outcast. This perceptive quote gets to the heart of why comic artists wrote shy, marginalised outsider figures with a wellspring of hidden powers: so people like Eminem could locate themselves and learn to harness their own powers.
2 On hip-hop
Let’s face it, the number of musical big shots who could’ve passed as accountants, lawyers or oil barons can be counted on a sign of the horns. Marshall Mathers, who’d look as comfortable in a fly tux as Princess Kate would in trackies, is a shining example of somebody escaping inevitable fuckedness to show us the virtues of good old graft.
1 On humiliation
A lesson for us all, here: if you want to become of the most notorious figures in music history, getting booed ain’t a bad start. You know how the rest of the story goes: “A week later, a day later, an hour later I got the urge, and I was like, I gotta get up, I gotta do it again.” Lucky for us, it paid off.