Why Eminem was such a prominent rapper


Markos Zegeye, Video Editor

Eminem. You know him. Everyone knows him. 

At some point, he was a pop culture icon, his works beloved by everyone (well maybe not EVERYONE per say, but a lot of people). Now? He may still have some fans, but his work is often met with far more contention these days, especially compared to his works from the past.

And it’s not hard to see why.

With this in mind, it may be hard to believe there was a time where people really looked forward to his work and was celebrated by many. However, that’s exactly the case, because his music wasn’t just catchy; it resonated with people who were largely ignored

Eminem had a very rough upbringing. His dad left him before his second birthday, he frequently fought with his mom, and he dropped out of school due to bad grades. He worked a minimum-wage job at a crime-ridden neighborhood, where he was eventually fired. This, coupled with the failure of his first album Infinite, as well as his substance abuse, led to his first suicide attempt. It’s safe to say that he had a horrible life growing up, and this reflected in his music.

Eminem would later adapt the alter ego Slim Shady, a sadistic, violent side of him, said to take over when he’s too high on drugs. His debut EP, the Slim Shady EP, was excessively vulgar, rapping about substance abuse, murder, and his overall crappy life. He was completely unhinged, especially at the start of his career, which became the signature trademark of his music.

Take, for example, Sing For The Moment.

In this song, Eminem lashes out at everyone: his critics, the justice system, overprotective parents that just don’t get it, even John Guerra, whom he punched because he caught him kissing his ex, Kim. He doesn’t hold any punches, as if he’s releasing all this pent-up anger. At the same time, though, he also mentions how his music helps those who are going through tough times, like what he used to go through. His music may seem vulgar to some, but to others, it resonates with them, and he wants to let him know that he hears them, and knows their pain.

However, he’s not above roasting his fans, either. Or at least, his overly obsessive ones.

Have you ever heard the phrase “stan loona?” Or just stan whatever? It comes from this song, and the actual meaning of the word is much more unsavory than what most people think it is. It doesn’t refer to a superfan of someone’s work; it’s someone who’s overly, unhealthily obsessive with someone or something, to the point where it affects their personal life and relationships very negatively. And that’s exactly what this song is about: an overly obsessive Eminem fan who abuses his girlfriend, changes his appearance to look like Eminem, and kills himself trying to send a cassette tape of a recorded message. Considering how big Eminem was (and still is), it wouldn’t be surprising if he did have to deal with fans like this.

But what about what is undoubtedly his most popular song – lose yourself?

Something that many people don’t know about this song is that it’s the main theme of a movie called 8 Mile, in which Eminem himself plays the lead character.  The song is about both that very character, and Eminem himself.

The synopsis of this movie is that it’s about a man named Jimmy Smith Jr., who lives an unhappy life with a poor family. He plans on becoming a rapper and quitting his crappy, minimum wage job, but he can never truly seize the moment. This is what the song is about, and it’s pretty similar to Eminem’s life growing up. Both of them had a rough childhood, rebelling against their terrible parents and using rap to cope. It’s not just Eminem, either: children across the country can relate deeply to a situation like this. And Eminem knew this, because of how many times he addressed his fans in his songs.

Ultimately, that’s what made Eminem such a huge star: his relatability and brutal honesty. In the 90’s and early 2000’s, counterculture was all the rage, and Eminem fitted in perfectly. He wasn’t afraid to essentially say “f*** you” to the establishment, and sticking it to the man. And it resonated with a lot of people. People who felt they were ignored. Who felt they were done for in life. Who felt they can’t get anywhere. 

Unfortunately, over time, Eminem lost that touch, and he’s now a shell of his former self. Despite this, his older works are still held in high regard, and that doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon.