Today, Marshall Bruce Mathers III turns 40. And oh, what a vitriolic, hate-filled, record-shattering, and genre-defining journey it’s been.
The guy’s got a lot to celebrate. For one, he’s the most successful rapper of all time. Seriously. He’s sold more than 90 million records. That’s more than 2Pac, Biggie, and Jay-Z. I could go on and on about his accolades – 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP is the fastest-selling solo album in US history – but you can find those yourself on his Wikipedia page. And yes, it’s very, very long.
Part of what makes Eminem so popular is the fact that he’s totally, unabashedly, sometimes uncomfortably transparent. Em doesn’t deal in the obtuse – he spits what he thinks, what he feels, what he is, with brutal, self-referential honesty (and he was doing it way before Yeezy and Drake made it cool). And if that means inviting listeners into into the vagaries of his marriage — by this point I feel like I know his ex-wife Kim personally — or making a legally-dubious habit of name-dropping celebrities, so be it. He gave his fans a kind of warts-and-all hyper-realism that has yet to be matched. Whatever our reasons for listening — you can relate to his words, or you’re amazed by his lyrical dexterity, or because of perverse curiosity – the bottom line is, we’re still listening.
So I raise my glass to you, Em, on your special day. Thank you for “Without Me,” which played on repeat for most of my 13th year; thank you for The Eminem Show, which proved that rap could be heartbreaking and personal (even though my dad took the CD when he heard “Drips“); and thank you for continuing to be a source of twisted inspiration to us all.
Readers, how has Eminem and his music had an impact on your lives? Sound off in the comments.