This weekend, Eminem entered the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Predictably and appropriately, it was longtime associate Dr. Dre who was there to induct him. Dre gave an entertaining and moving speech, during which he also made time for some humor.
At one point, Dre joked about Eminem’s history with drugs, saying, “Em would go on to overdose, relapse, and recover not only on his albums, but also in real life. Let me tell you something: this guy goes through a lot of sh*t just to get a concept for a song.”
Eminem addressed the overdose in his own speech, too, saying, “I almost died from an overdose in 2007, which kind of sucked. Hailie, plug your ears: because drugs were f*cking delicious, and I thought we had a good thing going, man, but I had to go and f*ck it all up and take too many. G*ddamn. OK Hailie.”
“OK, let me get serious.
Over 20 years ago, Jimmy Iovine, who is also one of tonight’s inductees and one of my best friends, played a demo tape for me from a guy who called himself Eminem. The first thing I said when I heard it was, ‘What the f*ck did he just say?’ I loved it so much that I couldn’t stop listening to it.
A few days later, Jimmy called me and said, ‘You know he’s a white guy, right?” F*cked me up! The last thing I was thinking about when I was listening was that he was white. It never even crossed my mind. Looking back, I don’t know why it didn’t cross my mind. He certainly didn’t sound like a Black rapper, especially because of what he was saying. I guess it was my ignorance at the time, thinking that if you’re a really good rapper, you must be Black.
Not too long after that, we met for the first time. We hit it off and the next thing you know, we’re at my house working. The first time I put on a beat, he gets on the mic and says, ‘Hi, my name is.’ Boom! And that was the beginning of what became an amazing creative collaboration.
Then came the backlash. ‘Look at him, Dre! He has blue eyes! You can’t sign him!’ There was a massive amount of resistance from my own team and from a lot of people around me: people who had never even heard the music, but didn’t want me to sign him or work with him simply because he was white.
While everyone else around me had their doubts, I knew that his gift was undeniable. His raw, dark, and humorous lyrics coupled with an impeccable cadence stood out from anything I had ever heard before, and he was hungry. Both of us were. We were two artists in do-or-die situations: he was desperate to find a way to feed his family and I was searching for something to sink my teeth into creatively. Each of us was exactly what the other needed and I was willing to bet my entire career on it.
My rebuttal to those naysayers went something like this: ‘He’s going to be the biggest-selling artist on our label.’ Little did I know he was going to be one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
From the moment he introduced himself to the world with The Slim Shady LP, he skyrocketed to the top of the charts and stayed there for 100 weeks while earning a Grammy for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance.
Can you believe after promoting violence to little children and killing his daughter’s mother, this guy still had more sh*t to get off his chest?
Well, then The Marshall Mathers LP dropped. On that album alone, his alter ego, Slim Shady, tied me up in his basement, had sex with his mother, and killed his daughter’s mother, again, while proceeding to offend just about every special interest group we have. It clearly struck a collective chord and became one of the fastest selling solo albums in United States history.
Em would go on to overdose, relapse, and recover not only on his albums, but also in real life. Let me tell you something: this guy goes through a lot of sh*t just to get a concept for a song.
But here is Em’s genius, with his incredible wit and wild imagination: he was able to hold up a mirror to White America while also expressing the pain of living through poverty in dysfunctional families devoid of hope. Eminem brought hip-hop to middle America and offered kids who looked like him a way to connect to it.
Hip-hop wasn’t just for Black kids in desperate inner-city circumstances anymore. People of every stripe could have the art form speak to their struggles, too.
Eminem wasn’t just the underdog who broke through the glass ceiling of hip-hop. He shattered it: 220 million albums sold, 13 No. 1 albums, 10 of which all consecutively debuted at No. 1, making him the first artist ever to achieve this. Grammy Awards, an Emmy, and an Oscar. Best-selling music artist of the 2000s. Best-selling hip-hop artist ever. And he doesn’t care about any of that. I care about it more than he does.
What’s most important to him is that he’s earned the respect of his peers as one of the best to ever do it.
Turns out this unassuming white guy with blue eyes from Detroit went from being repeatedly turned down to turning everything we thought we knew about hip-hop on its head while forcing us to confront our own biases, growing not only the genre, but all of us right along with it.
It is my great honor to induct my friend, Eminem, into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.”