The ingredients for The Eminem Show were simmering since inception. A product of a 73-hour labor, Eminem‘s life was a fight from the beginning, and the stories are well-known: There’s the beating he took at the hands of bully DeAngelo Bailey when he was only 9; his absentee father; life on the tough streets of Detroit with a mother drudging through jobs to make ends meet; and then, of course, the rapping. For many inner-city adolescents, rap music had become a possible avenue of escape, careening past hard-labor work or some kind of criminal element. Surging his way through hip-hop’s underground scene, Eminem’s intent was to sharpen his craft, routinely engaging in freestyle battle sessions and open-mic nights around the Detroit area. The ancillary battles propelled Marshall into the studio, and in 1996, he created the underground release, Infinite.
That initial offering gave way to The Slim Shady EP, and then an appearance at the 1997 Rap Olympics in Los Angeles. The latter gave Marshall exposure, and his second-place performance as well as The Slim Shady EP found their way into the hands of Dr. Dre. The Compton rapper and überproducer knew he had found a star despite the color of his skin.
“I got a couple of questions from people around me,” Dre told Rolling Stone in 1999. “You know, ‘He’s got blue eyes, he’s a white kid.’ But I don’t give a f*ck if you’re purple: If you can kick it, I’m working with you.”
With the backing of a wall of Dr. Dre sounds, The Slim Shady LP was a success, selling almost half a million copies in its first two weeks, and spawning a wildly entertaining music video in “My Name Is.” And, just like that, Eminem was a star.
“I couldn’t even get into a motherf*cking club just being Eminem before the (“My Name Is”) video,” he said to Rolling Stone. “Last night they had people clearing tables for me. It’s f*cking bananas. Scary sh*t, too, ’cause you can fall just as quick as you went to the top.”