Eminem's Road To Relapse, Part 4: Encore And 50 Cent

Fif joins the Shady/Aftermath family just as the future of Em's career comes into question.

As the May 19 release of [url id="http://www.mtv.com/music/artist/eminem/artist.jhtml"]Eminem[/url]'s long-awaited Relapse album approaches, MTV News is taking a deep dive into our extensive [url id="http://www.mtv.com/music/artist/eminem/artist.jhtml"]Eminem[/url] archives and examining each phase of the MC's storied career. Part one looked at his rise; part two at his initial stardom; part three at his feature-film debut in "8 Mile"; and here, in part four, we take a look at how his 50 Cent co-sign and the toned-down album Encore.

Even a quiet Eminem makes a lot of noise.

The rapper vowed to take time off beginning in 2003, after a hectic 12 months the year before. He took on double-duty as both an artist and an actor in 2002. So Em decided to follow in the footsteps of his mentor Dr. Dre and operate behind the scenes with plans to develop his Shady Records roster.

Enter 50 Cent.

The Eminem protégé exploded into the mainstream. After bulldozing his way through New York's mixtape circuit, the brash Queens rapper inked a deal with Shady Records and Aftermath Entertainment. 50 quickly demolished the chart-topping reign of Ja Rule with a series of vicious dis records and sealed the deal on his stardom with a record-breaking opening week for his major-label debut, Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

The album was heralded by Eminem as a classic and he, as the biggest rapper in hip-hop, predicted Fif would soon be recognized as the hottest act in the game.

"Undoubtedly, 50 will be the hottest rapper next year," Em told MTV News on the set for "In Da Club," alongside Dr. Dre and 50.

"That's no doubt," Dre echoed.

»Part 1: The Rise

»Part 2: Stardom

»Part 3: '8 Mile'

»Part 4: Encore And 50 Cent

»Part 5: The Hiatus

Eminem's agenda would soon become full with a number of things throughout 2003. He signed to executive produce two posthumous Tupac albums, and he hit the studio hard to work on D12's sophomore album, D12 World. He also became heavily involved in 50's feud with Ja Rule, which soon turned into a full-fledged battle between the Shady/Aftermath camp and Murder Inc. Each dis grew more scathing, personal and crossed the point of decency a few times.

The Source and Eminem then went at it. The magazine's owners targeted the white rapper as an opportunist who was robbing hip-hop of its culture. The mag unearthed early recordings of a young Em freestyling and making disparaging remarks about African-American women. Rappers like Busta Rhymes came to Eminem's defense, and the Detroit lyricist lashed out at Source owner Ray Benzino in a series of chest-thumping mixtape tracks.

The beefs and battles weren't exactly how Em planned on spending his downtime. If 2003 was wobbly for the rapper, his 2004 and 2005 would soon knock him off balance. A number of personal problems soon enveloped the star. Kim, Em's on-and-off wife, was arrested in 2004 for drug possession. He released his next solo album, Encore, and the Secret Service looked into his President Bush protest song "Mosh," once again putting Em under heavy scrutiny.

Once Encore was finally released, the project sparked debate over how long the rapper would remain in the spotlight. The collection was toned-down compared to his previous efforts. There were songs that remained consistent with the hallmark numbers he recorded before, like the biting first single "Without Me" and "Mockingbird," an ode to his daughter.

But the closing number, "Encore/ Curtains Down," in which a lone gunshot can be heard, raised questions with many fans. Was Eminem killing off Slim Shady, the feisty persona that brought him fame and fortune? He repeatedly denied assertions that he was retiring.

Eminem hit the road in 2005 to support Encore with a heavyweight lineup for Anger Management 3, including 50 Cent and Lil Jon.

In early August, Eminem spoke with MTV News during an Anger Management stop in California. He began to show signs that his career was taking its toll, talking about his daughter and missing seeing her grow up.

"She'll be all right. Hailie's a little trooper," he said. "It's tough, 'cause one side of you wants to be on the road and be glad you're with your friends. I mean, my friends are basically part of my family. But my family family at home, it's tough to be away from them, and you want to be there when those things happen. Those are the moments you say, 'I should have been there.' "

Later that month, Em canceled the European leg of the tour due to what was reported as exhaustion. The next day, he was hospitalized for sleep-medication dependency. 50 Cent went on to finish out the Anger Management 3 Tour as the lone headliner.

In the next few months, Eminem entered rehab, reconciled with Kim once again and ended his 2005 with another #1 album, as the greatest-hits package Curtain Call: The Hits landed atop the charts.

Little did fans know that was the last they would see of Slim Shady for the next three years.