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Marshall Mathers, Eminem and Slim Shady


By William Cho

“Love, when spelled backwards and read phonetically, reads evil”
― Eminem

Marshall Bruce Mathers III a.k.a Eminem, some root for his ingenuity, some hate for his rebellious nature.Whether his lyrics create hate or inspiration it's abstractly up to the listener but one thing that can be universally agreed upon is his uncanny knack for delivering his erratic, almost insane thoughts to the world.As portrayed in his lyricism, Eminem's beliefs stem from an “anything-goes” setting, sometimes his lyrics exemplify his love for his children, his fans. At other times it's hate, animality ,controversy, and most importantly, exposition of himself. With this system of sporadic, themes, ideas, and elements, Eminem reveals his life in a way only the person who has lived it can see. Because of this, his fans can affiliate with these genuine lyrics, he creates a junction friendship that is based upon the fact that hardships come and go. Even with variety of irregular topics within his different pieces of music, he does have a constant. The constant is his personas, Eminem has three main personas that each pertain to a different part of himself. The first persona is Marshall Mathers, the delicate, almost brittle human being that proved to be the base of the other two. The child born on October 17,1972 and the teenager who got bullied. Then theres Eminem, the rapper. The man who is recognized as the king of hip hop and the man who has won 15 Grammys. Lastly, there is Slim Shady, an alter ego of sorts, his “devil on his shoulder.” Slim becomes Marshall’s output of hate, violence and animosity towards the world and life in general that was bottled up inside as a child. Each of these elements are characterizations of himself as a whole and each song can be symbolized by one of the three personas.

Let's begin with Marshall Mathers, this is the person, the human that personified Eminem before he became Eminem. Mockingbird a single in Eminem's album Encore, evidently associated itself with this persona. Eminem describes this song as an apology towards his two daughters, Hailie and Alaina for the life they had to endure while growing up. It begins like this: “Yeah, I know sometimes.Things may not always make sense to you right now. But hey, what’d Daddy always tell you? Straighten up, little soldier! Stiffen up that upper lip!What you cryin’ about? You got me.” Through this introduction, Eminem goes back to the past. He begins by calling his kids “soldiers” which signifies the warlike environment they grew up in and continues by reverifying that he is there for them. This understanding of love and care belongs to the Marshall Mathers persona, an aura of sanity can be perceived instead of the usual insanity associated with the rapper. The song ends with one of Eminem's most famous verses: “And if you ask me to, Daddy’s gonna buy you a mockingbird. I’ma give you the world. I’ma buy a diamond ring for you, I’ma sing for you. I’ll do anything for you to see you smile. And if that mockingbird don’t sing and that ring don’t shine.I’ma break that birdie’s neck.I’ll go back to the jeweler who sold it to ya.And make him eat every carat, don’t fuck with Dad! (Ha ha!).”In reference to the book “ To Kill A Mockingbird” written by Harper Lee, Eminem associates the mockingbird as his daughter Hailie. In the book, a Mockingbird symbolizes an innocent person who falls victim to circumstance and prejudice, and Eminem connects this reference to Hailie by saying that she is the mockingbird who is innocent but is punished as a victim of circumstance. This last verse shows his unconditional love for his daughter which reiterates the fact that love is present in this song. Because of this love, it can be concluded that the Marshall Mathers persona can be used as the symbol of this song. In Marie W. Dallam’s, Eminem: The Best Emcee Since Jesus, she writes, “ Eminem implies that other people's experience of his music,the realest of the real, frees them from their oppression; presupposed is the idea that the act of creating his art has freed and continues to free Eminem himself.” This song Mockingbird, in a sense, frees Haillie from the confusion and hardship of her past, which in turn frees Eminem from the sorrows of regret. Essentially this full truth “ apology” lifts the regret of raising his daughter in a hostile environment and allows Em to continue his life.

The next persona is Eminem the rapper, the supposed “rap god” and “king of hip hop.” This persona represents purely the rapper that climbed to the top in a predominantly African American rap society that at one point didn't accept white rappers. Lose Yourself was released as a single in the 8 mile soundtrack and perfectly exemplifies his rise to the summit of hip hop. The song begins with Eminem describing the hardships of the beginning, he writes, “ his palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy.There’s vomit on his sweater already: Mom’s spaghetti.He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready.To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting. What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud.He opens his mouth, but the words won’t come out.He’s chokin, how? Everybody’s joking now.The clock’s run out, time’s up, over – blaow! While starting out in underground battle rap, Eminem felt an immense amount of pressure not only because of his skin color but because he knew he was great but couldn't perform in the moment. The direct allusion to “moms spaghetti” is reference to Em’s poor childhood, symbolizing spaghetti as their only choice of food because of its low price. The layers of obstacles he faced during the beginnings of his rap career established his persona as the official rap god. By the third verse, he is ready to prove himself as he writes, “No more games, I’ma change what you call rage.Tear this motherfuckin’ roof off like two dogs caged.I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed.” At this point of the song, there is a curve to success. This can be correlated to his real life, most likely when he got the opportunity to work with Dr.Dre. It was the opportunity that arrived from all the obstacles he overcame during the beginning which ultimately shot himself to the success he always dreamed of. This timeline of Em’s life that is represented throughout this song shows the classic “ Eminem the rapper” persona. His rise from impossible inception to unimaginable success epitomizes Eminem the rapper.

Last but not least is the Slim Shady persona. Viewed as the most outlandish, outrageous, out-of-control persona, Slim represents the violent and wild nature of Eminem. Songs that implement this alter ego tend to cross the border between sanity and insanity. Often enforcing a more forceful and verbally abusive rap tone and style. Eminem has repeatedly said that he uses his alter ego slim shady to vent on topics he himself cannot. One song that fully justifies his alter ego is called Just Don't Give A Fuck, a single on the Slim Shady EP. The lyricism in this song completely reiterates the animality in this persona. Lyrics like, “Admit it, fuck it, while we comin' out in the open.I’m doin' acid, crack, smack, coke and smokin' dope then.My name is Marshall Mathers, I'm an alcoholic.” and “Extortion, snortin', supportin' abortion.Pathological liar, blowin' shit out of proportion.The looniest, zaniest, spontaneous, sporadic.Impulsive thinker, compulsive drinker, addict.Half animal, half man.Dumpin’ your dead body inside of a fuckin' trash can.With more holes than an Afghan.” The wild nature of Slim Shady is clearly evident in these lyrics. He talks about his use of drugs and alcoholism and continues by listing all of the complications within himself. Although it may seem like wild, out-of-control lyrics with no meaning behind them, Eminem is actually repeating his flaws because of his own past insecurities. He is essentially telling the listeners that this is his true self and even he, himself, is not perfect. At this point in Em’s career he wasn't completely accepted by the environment in which he was in. Therefore, this song portrays his indifference to people's opinions, an idea only Slim Shady can announce because of his apathy towards backlash. In the journal article, Eminem: The Best Emcee Since Jesus, Dallam writes that most of Eminem's music can be sectioned into Progressive rap. “ These songs are inherently culturally aware, and when artists create Progressive Rap they are seeking to illuminate deep structural problems and transform listeners with messages about the say of society and humanity.” The “deep structural problem” that Slim seeks to illuminate in this song is the people who do not accept him for who he is. He essentially wrote a song about his flaws to counter any negative response people have for him. This has an effect on both himself and his confidence while further changing the thoughts of those haters.

Whether it's Marshall Mathers, Eminem, or Slim Shady, all three personas created lyrics that not only attracted a certain societal region but attracted all of society. Marshall Mathers symbolized the human, Eminem the rapper, Slim Shady the devil. The whole represented the person we know today as Eminem. Each characteristic defines a section of his life; without one there wouldn't be another. The constant interlocking allows different people in different cultures in society to acknowledge and understand Eminem at a personal level which further clarifies his immense popularity throughout the world. Although some parts of Eminem personas can be controversial, it is undeniable that all three are needed.

Works Cited

Dallam, Marie W. “Eminem:The Best Emcee Since Jesus.” Studies in Popular Culture, vol. 29, no. 2, Apr. 2007, pp. 83–97.

“Eminem – Mockingbird.” Genius, 25 Apr. 2005, genius.com/Eminem-mockingbird-lyrics.

“Eminem – Lose Yourself.” Genius, 28 Oct. 2002, genius.com/Eminem-lose-yourself-lyrics.

“Eminem – Just Don't Give a Fuck.” Genius, 13 Oct. 1998, genius.com/Eminem-just-dont-give-a-fuck-lyrics.

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