“If people take anything from my music, it should be motivation to know that anything is possible as long as you keep working at it and don’t back down.”—Eminem
Eminem, the iconic rapper, songwriter and record producer, is widely credited as being a pivotal figure in the popularisation of hip hop in Middle America, an artist who has managed to break major racial barriers with his work since breaking into the mainstream and becoming one of the most commercially successful rappers of all time. “Sometimes I feel like rap music is almost the key to stopping racism,” he once famously said in a quote which typifies his approach to music.
Marshall Bruce Mathers III, who was born in Missouri, spent most his formative years living in a working-class, primarily black, Detroit neighbourhood and it would be this youth that proved pivotal in his artistic development. “When you’re a little kid, you don’t see colour, and the fact that my friends were black never crossed my mind. It never became an issue until I was a teenager and started trying to rap,” he once said of his first foray into music. “I was poor white trash, no glitter, no glamour, but I’m not ashamed of anything,” he added when reflecting on his humble beginnings.
Noticing his skill for rapping from an early age, Mathers began competing in freestyle rap battles during his lunch break at school and, from that moment on, didn’t look back. While the making and the rise of Eminem was anything but conventional, he did so with great determination and relentless passion despite the obvious disadvantages against him. “Nobody likes to fail. I want to succeed in everything I do, which isn’t much. But the things that I’m really passionate about, if I fail at those, if I’m not successful, what do I have?” he added. “People can try to reinvent themselves. I don’t think you can really change who you are, though, because who you are is pretty much where you came from and what you’ve done up to now.”
After creating Infinite, his first studio album in 1996, Eminem has since released eleven studio albums, five compilation albums, and one EP. The most recent effort, Music to Be Murdered By, was released earlier this year and cemented his place as one of the most influential and pioneering artists of all time. While his legacy remains unchallenged and forever etched into the annals of popular culture history, we’re stepping back into the archives to revisit a breakthrough moment in the creation of the real Slim Shady.
In 1996, while trying to cut his teeth as a rapper, Eminem’s first live concert was recorded in which he performs alongside D12. The rare footage, which has only emerged in recent years, was recorded three years before Eminem famously signed with Dr Dre and his label Aftermath records. It offers a fascinating glimpse into the early desire of a bonafide rap legend.
See the clip, below.