Eminem: The Rap Icon Unknown To Younger Generations

by Jason Francis

It's been about 15 years since the foul-mouthed Detroit MC appeared on the national music radar. He was armed with lyrical skill that was often overshadowed by the vulgar, disrespectful and highly offensive songs he created.

Eminem’s career has taken him from Motor City's underground battle circuits to the bad boy of "TRL" to earning himself a place as one of the greatest MCs ever, without question.

Today, on Eminem's 42nd birthday, there's a generation that doesn't know the Slim Shady who terrorized mainstream music while gaining legions of fans and detractors across the globe.

These days, Em might put out a song here or there, or drop an explosive collaboration with Rihanna that sits on the pop charts for weeks, but he's not on the same throne as before.

He is a far cry from the Marshall Mathers who brought hip-hop to the masses not so long ago.

Cause I'm at the end of my wits with half this sh*t that gets in. I got a list here's the order of my list that it's in. It goes Reggie, Jay-Z, Tupac and Biggie, Andre from OutKast, Jada, Kurupt, Nas and then me. But in this industry I'm the cause of a lot of envy, so when I’m not put on this list the sh*t doesn't offend me. — "Till I Collapse"

Em comes from the era of hip-hop that didn't play nice. Whereas today's artists keep quiet for fear of burning bridges and damaging business relationships, Eminem is from the old school of diss records and battle tracks.

Lyrical wars with the full stable of artists under Irv Gotti and Ray Benzino at the height of their respective careers resulted in some the best music of the time and some of the most stressful situations.

In the midst of piling up Grammy, MTV and Billboard awards, Eminem was public enemy number one of the FCC, GLAAD and many more organizations.

Yet, that’s nothing compared to having his own mother file defamation suits against him, complete with a song that she recorded and released to the public.

The classic beef and battles of the rap industry are something of a time past, and Eminem sat right in the fire as the new millennium arrived.

At the same time, he steadily dropped some of the most powerful, relevant and gripping music of our time.

While some folks only saw him as the crown prince of the trailer park, Shady regularly connected to hip-hop fans, regardless of race or background.

That's why we sing for these kids, who don't have a thing Except for a dream, and a f*ckin' rap magazine Who post pin-up pictures on their walls all day long Idolize they favorite rappers and know all they songs Or for anyone who's ever been through sh*t in their lives Till they sit and they cry at night wishing' they'd die Till they throw on a rap record and they sit, and they vibe We're nothin' to you but we're the f*ckin' shit in they eyes... -- "Sing For The Moment"

He’s no longer the fixture in the music scene he once was, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s by choice.

Eminem sees the current hip-hop landscape and knows much of what is moving today isn’t what he does. But, going against the grain is what Slim does.

As Em prepares Shady XV, the new double CD album that celebrates the 15th anniversary of Shady Records, one can only wonder what message the rap God is planning to deliver.

If history has shown us anything, it’s a safe bet the product will be amazing and also piss a few people off.

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