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Just how controversial is Eminem, really? Nas rhymed that he went to hell when he was 12 for punching out Jesus Christ. If Tupac carried out some of the threats he made on records, practically half of the hip-hop community would have caught severe beatdowns. Biggie once rapped about sticking up pregnant women. Even the Jiggaman has soiled his manicured hands, narrating how he's sold more cocaine and busted more rounds of ammo than Al Pacino's heralded Scarface character. Yet none have come under more fire for their records than Eminem.

 "I don't feel like I've said anything different from any other
rapper ..."
"I don't feel like I've said anything different from any other rapper in the history of hip-hop," Eminem vents. "I just believe that there's a spotlight on me because I connected with those kids in those suburban homes, because I look like them and they could relate to me. I connected with those kids, and those parents got mad."

"Ol' boy sh--s like us, wipes his ass like us — he's not no different," agrees Baby, Cash Money Millionaire and Big Tymer. "He's just a human that's got talent and is a good artist that's successful. Big up to him. I just like to hear him do what he do. I think he's a talented individual. As far as the controversy, I ain't really into that."

"I caught more flack than any rapper I've ever seen," Eminem scoffs, while 50 floors beneath him, honking horns signal that rush-hour traffic has begun to set in. "At first I used to get mad. Why, in every article that I read, was something about controversy, something about lyrical content? I always felt like, 'Why can't I be recognized for my talent first? When are people gonna see how crafted the music is and how much time I spend on making the music?' I used to get mad, but then I sat back like, 'You know what? F--- it.' Maybe these people are right. Maybe I am terrible."

While a lot of folks don't seem to get it, P. Diddy does. "I believe that a lot of these ill thoughts go through kid's minds, and I think he's made it so clear that a lot of his stuff is tongue-in-cheek," Diddy says. "It's like he's speaking what's on people's minds, what's on his mind and whatever crazy state it's in. He's saying it in a lyrical form, expressing himself, and he's not wishing any malice."

Fortunately for Eminem, Oakland County (Michigan) Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris didn't think he was that bad of a guy either. Last June, she sentenced him to probation after he pleaded no contest to charges that he carried a concealed weapon and brandished a firearm in public during an altercation. Em also pleaded no contest and received probation last April for pistol-whipping John Guerra, a man he caught kissing his wife outside a bar in June 2000. ("The Kiss," a skit on The Eminem Show, addresses the incident.)

"I'm not gonna front. I thought I was gone for a minute," Eminem says of his trips to court. "I didn't know how long, but I thought I was gone. Every day it was something. It was hanging over my head. I'm glad that it's over with, but I think that I got a lot from it and it ended up being a plus in my book.

"It was a reality check," he continued. "It straightened me up and started making me realize, A, to calm down, and B, that this sh-- could all end tomorrow. My worst fear was, 'How am I gonna explain this to Hailie? What am I gonna say if I'm found guilty and I gotta do a prison sentence?' "

  "Without Me"
The Eminem Show
(Interscope)
The MC, who still has four court cases pending, was also torn to pieces with anxiety about becoming musically irrelevant. Sure, he beats his chest and taunts everyone about how the world would be a worse place sans Eminem on his current single, "Without Me," but he says the separation actually would have hurt him the most.

"I thought I was gonna go away and people was gonna forget," he continues. "Some artists that go to jail, people forget about them. Their name ain't out there. Everything that you've worked for ... I thought everything that I worked for could crumble, like, any day, you know? So that was nerve-racking. I'm glad to not have it hanging over my head anymore. I wash my hands of it."


NEXT: Eminem opens up about Mom, respect and being slept on ...
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Photo: Interscope

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 "White America" (live)
The Eminem Show
(Interscope)



 "What You Say"
The Eminem Show
(Interscope)



 "Without Me"
The Eminem Show
(Interscope)



 Eminem featuring Elton John
"Stan"
(live from 2001 Grammy's)

The Marshall Mathers LP
(Interscope)



 Dr. Dre featuring Eminem
"Forgot About Dre"
(live from Spring Break)

Dr. Dre ... 2001
(Aftermath)



 "The Way I Am"
The Marshall Mathers LP
(Interscope)



 "Stan"
The Marshall Mathers LP
(Interscope)



 "The Real Slim Shady"
The Marshall Mathers LP
(Interscope)



 Eminem featuring Dr. Dre
"My Name Is"
(live from 1999 VMAs)

The Slim Shady LP
(Interscope)



 Eminem featuring D12
"Quitter"




 "Exclusive: Eminem freestyle"



 "Exclusive: Eminem freestyle"



 "Exclusive: Eminem freestyle"



 "Guilty Conscience" featuring Dr. Dre
The Marshall Mathers LP
(Interscope)



 "Role Model"
The Slim Shady LP
(Interscope)









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