Eminem is one of the 10 best-selling artists of all time. Born Marshall Mathers, he’s amongst solo heavy-hitters such as Rihanna, Mariah Carey, Madonna and Elvis Presley. It’s no wonder then that his fan base is as global as it is today, more than 20 years since he first appeared on the music scene.
As the rapper prepares to bring his biggest hits to Abu Dhabi’s du Arena on October 25, we take a look back at his meteoric rise to success — starting with debut record ‘Infinite’ in 1996, and up until 2018’s best-selling hip hop album, ‘Kamikaze’.
1. ‘Infinite’ releases on tape and vinyl
‘Infinite’ was Eminem’s debut album in November 1996. Released under Web Entertainment, the album was distributed on cassette and vinyl that Eminem sold out of the boot of his car in Detroit. ‘Infinite’ was delivered in a much different, tamer style than what audiences are familiar with now, and many consider it to be the rapper’s attempt to find his voice. It isn’t available through any online music stores today. Original copies of the album are considered somewhat of a collector’s item and a 1st press vinyl on eBay currently goes for $2,750 (Dh10,099). Days after the 20th anniversary of ‘Infinite’, Eminem released a remaster and remix of the title track on his Vevo channel, making the song available digitally for the first time.
2. Eminem signs with Dre and wins his first Grammy
After releasing ‘The Slim Shady’ EP in 1997, Eminem caught the attention of hip hop producer Dr Dre who signed the rapper to Aftermath Entertainment. The extended play was different from ‘Infinite’ — Eminem switched up his flow and subject matter, dealing with more explicit and violent content and introducing the ‘Slim Shady’ persona for the first time. (The character originated in his former hip hop group D12, which consisted of members and their alter egos.) Dre two years later executive produced Eminem’s major label debut ‘The Slim Shady LP’; the 1999 album won Eminem his first ever Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
3. Setting a new Grammy record with two new releases
Both ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ (2000) and ‘The Eminem Show’ (2002) won Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album, making Eminem the first artist to win the accolade for three consecutive albums. Thematically ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ featured Eminem processing his own success and sudden fame and addressing the criticism around his lyrics — but criticism only continued to mount against the rapper from politicians and fellow artists, despite the album being one of the fastest-selling at the time. ‘The Eminem Show’ came next, featuring megahits such as ‘Without Me’, ‘Cleanin’ Out My Closet’ and ‘Sing for the Moment’.
4. Making history at the Oscars with ‘Lose Yourself’
In 2002, Eminem starred in the cinematic drama ‘8 Mile’, loosely based on his own life, and became the first ever hip hop artist to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song for the soundtrack’s lead single ‘Lose Yourself’. It also won two Grammy Awards. The song took on a life of its own and was the rapper’s first No 1 single in the United States. Rolling Stone has ranked it as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and 50 top hip hop songs in history.
5. ‘Encore’ (2004), drug addiction and five-year hiatus
Eminem’s fifth album ‘Encore’ sold millions of copies but it was considered a slump in his career. The album failed to impress critics to the same level that his previous albums had. While some only took issue with its midsection or second half, others went as far as to call it the death of Eminem. As recently as last year, Eminem admitted to radio host Sway that he wouldn’t consider ‘Encore’ “one of my better albums”. A year later in 2005, Eminem began a five-year professional hiatus, partially due to writer’s block and a prescription drug addiction.
6. End of hiatus, ‘Relapse’ (2009) and ‘Recovery’ (2010)
Eminem made a comeback with ‘Relapse’ in 2009, on which he dealt with the end of his rehabilitation and brought back his alter ego Slim Shady. The record was met with mixed reviews but over time has found a dedicated following. The next year Eminem dropped ‘Recovery’, which was by comparison more widely praised and became the best-selling album that year. It featured commercial hits such as ‘Not Afraid’, ‘Love the Way You Lie’ (ft Rihanna) and ‘No Love’ (ft Lil Wayne). The album also made an impact on more casual fans, as several songs had consistent radio play.
7. Nostalgia hits with ‘The Marshall Mathers LP 2’ (2013)
Thirteen years after ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’, Eminem released a sequel that became one of his best-received albums in years. It featured another hit collaboration with Rihanna, ‘The Monster’. Asked whether he felt good about the album by Rolling Stone magazine, Eminem replied: “I don’t know if I ever feel totally great about a record when I put it out. With every record that I put out, someone has literally got to come pry it from me because when I listen to my own music, I just hear flaws in it.” He added, “I feel like right now I’m probably working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life.”
8. ‘Revival’ (2017), ‘Kamikaze’ (2018) and a throwback anniversary
Eminem released another album that received mixed and even opposing reactions in 2017, ‘Revival’. The record featured more big-name collaborations; the first three singles were ‘Walk on Water’ (ft Beyonce), River (ft Ed Sheeran) and Nowhere Fast (ft Kehlani). A year later, 2018’s ‘Kamikaze’ became the best-selling hip hop album of 2018. It’s Eminem’s tenth consecutive No 1 album and his latest record of new material to date. However, the rapper this year celebrated the 20th anniversary of his major record debut ‘The Slim Shady LP’ with a re-issue that featured acapella versions, instrumentals and more.