Hey! Do you want to feel old? Get ready for this.
TODAY IS EMINEM’S 40TH BIRTHDAY.
Eminem. Is. 40. Years. Old.
Just deal with that for a second. Oof.
My earliest memory of Eminem is from the sixth grade, where an older girl played me his Slim Shady LP in our bunk beds at space camp. (I go hard, guys.) The first track she put on was the TERRIFYING “97 Bonnie and Clyde” and I delicately held one earphone to my ear and tried to make out the words. Did I mention that song is about disposing of his child’s mother’s corpse? I felt like I was getting away with something bad. I don’t think I’d really heard rap music before then, unless you count Will Smith. (He don’t gotta cuss in his rap to sell records but I do…)
Anyway, I was immediately hooked. The first time I saw Eminem was in the “Forgot About Dre” video. Embarrassingly, I remember being shocked that he was white. (Which…I know.) He was rapping so fast and everyone in my class was trying to memorize all the lyrics, especially Em’s part. I secretly, quietly replayed the song over and over in my bedroom, writing out the words, hoping my parents wouldn’t come in and ask what I was listening to.
I did the same for “The Real Slim Shady.” I was so gigglingly scandalized. I couldn’t believe he was getting away with saying what he was saying! On MTV! The same station that played bubblegum acts like Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. And Eminem could just openly mock them! As he raps in Slim Shady, “I’m like a head trip to listen to / because I’m only giving you / things you joke about with your friends inside your living room / the only difference is I got the balls to say it in front of ya’ll / and I don’t got to be false or sugarcoat it at all.” I felt dizzy every time I saw him perform: HOW COULD HE GET AWAY WITH THIS?
Granted, I was young and Eminem was made to appeal to that shock factor in the youth. It worked.
Over the years since then, I’ve fluctuated on Eminem. I love when he actually does what he’s good at (“Bad Meets Evil,” collabs with Dre, etc) and hate when he just goes for cheap celeb pot shots. I don’t think he actually hates women or gay people, which is kind of a controversial stance I could write a whole thesis on (I’ll spare you). He’s certainly an interesting, talented artist who made an impact on me as a kid. Can’t believe he’s 40 YEARS OLD now.
To honor a man I actually really enjoy as a rapper, here are some of my favorite Eminem moments and videos:
Guilty Conscience ft. Dr. Dre
I once used this song in a college presentation on morality. College is totally worth paying for, guys.
Forgot About Dre ft. Dr. Dre
Oh man, in another collab between these two “I Need A Doctor,” Eminem really lays out what was going on at this time. He gives proper credit to Dre for giving him his career and for championing and believing in him. Their friendship is like, super sweet actually.
The Way I Am
An anthem. Eminem will not apologize.
The Real Slim Shady
Iconic. Brought us the undying question, “Will the real Slim Shady please stand up?” Kathy Griffin is in this as a nurse. Too many great lines to quote them all here.
Or how about this 2000 VMA performance combining the two:
Em leads an army of Shadys into the theater! The censoring is super weird! But damn, it’s so good!
Performing With Elton John
When I heard this was happening, my mind was blown. LGBTQ groups lost their shiz over this performance, blaming Elton John for condoning Eminem’s homophobia or something. This performance is amazing. It’s such a great, unlikely collaboration.
And the actual music video with Devon Sawa, which is also incredible and creepy:
Kim and ’97 Bonnie and Clyde
These two songs really skate the line between life and art. Naturally, Em’s wife was PISSED when she found out he used their actual daughter’s voice in a song about him murdering her. These songs are terrifying, and they show a side of Slim Shady that isn’t my favorite but that has to be acknowledged.
Lose Yourself and 8 Mile
RIP Brittany Murphy. :(
Bruno Puts His Butt In Eminem’s Face
Was Eminem actually mad about this? Or was this a publicity stunt? Either way, man, this was funny.
Renegade ft. Jay-Z
No reason. I just love this song. Carry on.
Em Gets Political
“We As Americans” and “Mosh” both blasted former President George W. Bush and VP Dick Cheney. Instead of aiming at mindless reality stars and pop singers, Eminem turns his venom on politicians. Much more deserving targets of his wordplay and brilliance.
Bad Meets Evil
If you haven’t heard Em’s collabs with Royce da 5’9, you need to. It’s some of his best stuff and it hardly gets the attention of the stupid Mariah Carey digs or easy attention-grabbing singles. This is one of my favorites, “Bad Meets Evil.”
Obviously, he has a HUGE library of songs and this doesn’t even scratch the surface, but you get the picture. He’s gone through more transformations than Optimus Prime and more comebacks than Cher, but you gotta hand it to him — at least he’s never been boring.
Happy 40th, Em! Thanks for teaching me all those cuss words when I was a kid. Couldn’t have done it without you!