-- Shaheem Reid, with additional reporting by Sway Calloway
"My insecurities? I'm dumb, I'm stupid, I'm white, I'm ugly, I smell, I'm stupid and I'm white," Eminem says in the middle of his interview atop the Peninsula Hotel in New York City. "I have freckles ... um ... I'm short, I'm white, I'm not very smart, I wanna kill myself. ... My nose is crooked. Um ... my penis is small.
"I'm f---ed," he concludes, walking over to the ledge of the roof as if he's about to jump.
Will he or won't he? Is he or isn't he? Everybody wants to know. Has Hailie's dad really gone crazy? When the mic is turned off and he's out of the spotlight, is he really the guy who, on wax, joked about stealing Christopher Reeve's legs, threatened to rape his own mother and killed his cheating mate?
Of course he's not, Em says with a wink.
"As an artist, you wanna keep a certain mystique," he says. "I don't ever want everybody to know everything that I'm joking about and serious about. That's the fun with creating and doing music leaving that mystique for people's imaginations so they can get what they wanna get out of it. I guess."
When fellow lyrical illuminator Nas brought fans' fascination with gloom to light by rapping, "You love to hear the stories of how the thugs live in worry," his words couldn't have been more truthful. Nothing surpasses the allure of when floetry greats such as Nasir Jones, Tupac Shakur, Christopher Wallace and Shawn Carter shed the invincibility of their indomitable stage personas and stand before the world butt-naked, engrossing us with their soul-bearing tales of torment such as "Life's a Bitch," "So Many Tears," "Everyday Struggle" or "You Must Love Me."
Eminem is also unafraid to come from behind the curtain and expose himself as Marshall Mathers, the man who admits to feeling like he can get "eaten alive" by his insecurities. Sure, he became the music industry's centerpiece of controversy with rebellion anthems such as "The Real Slim Shady" "Kill You" and "Criminal," where he flagrantly uses the "F" word (f---, f----t, FCC) as Slim Shady.
Beneath the potty-mouth posturing, it's just plain ol' double M. Marshall Mathers, product of a broken home who was, in his own words, "made to believe I was sick when I wasn't." Marshall Mathers, a 28-year-old divorced single father whose life seemingly revolves around the two biggest loves of his life (his daughter, Hailie, and hip-hop) and the two people he says have scarred him for life (his mother, Debbie, and ex-wife, Kim). Marshall Mathers, the "white Pac" and "spiteful, delightful new Ice Cube," the biggest albeit most reluctant pop star in the world who just wants his props as an MC.