Rapper. Eminem was born as Marshall Bruce Mathers III on October 17, 1972 in St. Joseph, Missouri. He never knew his father, Marshall Mathers Jr., who abandoned the family when Eminem was still an infant and rebuffed all of his son's many attempts to contact him during his childhood. As a result, Eminem was raised by his mother, Deborah Mathers. She never managed to hold down a job for more than several months at a time, so they moved frequently between Missouri and Detroit, Michigan, spending large chunks of time in public housing projects. "I would change schools two, three times a year," Eminem later recalled. "That was probably the roughest part about it all."
This itinerant lifestyle left a large impact on his personality. He had no close friends, kept almost entirely to himself and was treated like an outcast at each new school. "Beat up in the bathroom, beat up in the hallways, shoved into lockers," he remembered. Eminem has been scathingly critical of the way his mother raised him. Through his song lyrics, he has publicly accused her of being addicted to prescription drugs as well as subjecting him to emotional and physical abuse. However, Deborah Mathers has vehemently denied all such accusations, and in 1999 she filed a $10 million defamation lawsuit against her son. They settled the case for $25,000.
Eminem attended Lincoln High School in Warren, Michigan, where he failed the ninth grade three times and eventually dropped out at the age of 17. Despite being a poor student, Eminem always had a deep affinity for language, devouring comic books and even studying the dictionary. "I found that no matter how bad I was at school, like, and no matter how low my grades might have been at some times, I always was good at English ... I just felt like I wanna be able to have all of these words at my disposal, in my vocabulary at all times whenever I need to pull 'em out. You know, somewhere, they'll be stored, like, locked away." As a teenage dropout, Eminem found a way to express his passion for language, as well as to release his youthful anger, through the emerging musical genre of hip-hip. He identified with the nihilistic rage of late-1980s and early-1990s rap music, and he was especially taken with N.W.A., the popular and highly controversial gangster rap crew from Los Angeles.
Although at the time rap music was almost exclusively produced by black people, Eminem, who has pale white skin and bright blue eyes, nevertheless entered into the Detroit rap scene as a frequent competitor in rap "battles"—competitions in which two rappers take turns insulting the other through improvised rap lyrics. Eminem proved highly skilled at such verbal sparring and, despite his race, quickly became one of the most respected figures in Detroit's underground rap scene. He recalled, "I finally found something that yeah, this kid over here, you know, he may have more chicks, and he may, you know, have better clothes, or whatever, but he can't do this like me. You know what I mean? He can't write what I'm writing right now. And it started to feel like, you know, maybe Marshall's gettin' a little respect." Mathers assumed the stage name M&M, a playful reference to his initials, which he later began writing phonetically as "Eminem." This period in Eminem's life—working odd jobs to make ends meet while participating in rap battles and desperately attempting to land a record contract—was later dramatized in Eminem's semiautobiographical film 8 Mile.
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