Eminem’s Road To Relapse, Part 5: The Hiatus

Slim Shady withdraws from the spotlight.

As the May 19 release of Eminem‘s long-awaited Relapse album approaches, MTV News is taking a deep dive into our extensive Eminem 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”; part four at his 50 Cent co-sign and the toned-down album Encore; and here, in part five, his second divorce, death of his best friend, and hiatus.

Overweight? Overdosed? Or something altogether worse?

Those were just some of the many questions asked about Eminem during his three-year retreat from the public eye.

Slim Shady had been ubiquitous since he first stepped on the scene in 1999. The superstar lyricist recorded multiple blockbuster albums, created headline-grabbing controversies and cemented his legacy as not only one of the greatest rappers of all time but also one of the most important artists and musical voices of his generation. Then he seemed to slowly fade out of the spotlight.

Em reconciled with Kim once again in December of 2005 and quickly remarried the mother of his child in a whirlwind courtship one month later. 50 Cent attended the Michigan nuptials, along with D12, and Proof served as the best man.

However, three months later the pair split once more , seemingly for good this time. Eminem filed for divorce from Kim, who he had dated on and off again since his high school days. The swift breakup was as puzzling to some as their second trip down the aisle.

But just as Eminem was dealing with his second divorce, he’d be struck by shocking tragedy less than seven days later. His best friend, mentor and fellow D12 member Proof was fatally shot in a Detroit club on April 11, 2006. The venerable rapper’s death caught the hip-hop community off guard — Proof had proven to be an affable and extremely well-liked person among his many peers.

The double dose of bad news sent Eminem reeling. 

Veteran journalist Sacha Jenkins, who partnered with Eminem to work on the rapper’s 2008 biography “The Way I Am,” described the incidents as ingredients that led to Em’s increased drug use and eventual addiction and dependency. 

“I think the grind of doing something that he really loved and that turning into this really super pressure-filled career, on top of the tragedies that he suffered — including personally his relationship with people within his family like his mother, the situation losing his best friend Proof, all those things combined — I believe and he believed, contributed to his downward spiral.”

Through his camp, Eminem released a touching statement about Proof and then went into hiatus. 

“You don’t know where to begin when you lose somebody who’s been such a big part of your life for so long. Proof and I were brothers,” Eminem said in the statement. “He pushed me to become who I am. Without Proof’s guidance and encouragement there would have been a Marshall Mathers, but probably not an Eminem and certainly never a Slim Shady. Not a day will go by without his spirit and influence around us all. He will be missed as a friend, father and both the heart and ambassador of Detroit hip-hop.”

Em made a rare appearance two months after Proof’s death at the 2007 BET Awards in June, joining Busta Rhymes onstage for a performance . But for the next year and a half — throughout the latter half of 2006 and all of 2007 — Eminem was barely seen or heard from.

Rumors swirled that the rapper was battling drugs. A doctored photo popped up online of a bloated Eminem that caused a stir regarding his weight. Then, in January of last year he was hospitalized, reportedly due to a bout of pneumonia .

No one knew just what to believe about the rapper who had all but become a recluse. It wasn’t until two June cover-story interviews, with Vibe and XXL, that fans got the unfiltered details of Eminem’s whereabouts. He revealed he was a recovering drug addict and spent stints in and out of rehab to deal with his addiction to pills. 

XXL Editor in Chief Datwon Thomas, who interviewed Em for the story, said he was surprised by how candid the rapper was about his struggle for sobriety. 

“When we got into the interview, he was just, ‘Yo, man, I went through all this stuff with these pills.’ I was like, ‘Whoa.’ It just hit me,” Thomas told MTV News. “I actually had it down further in my notes. I had to rearrange everything and bring it to the top, like, ‘Whoa, we going in.’ I didn’t have my scuba gear on fast enough to go that deep where he was at. But it was good, because it set the tone for the whole thing. To be open that much, that early, just led me in a way where I could go where I wanted to. The only place where he protected as far as personal side was his daughters and Kim.” 

Thomas said Em was very measured during his admission, using the word “struggle” over and over as he discussed his challenges. It was clear he understood his comments would be explaining a lot. 

“His tone was pretty even throughout. Whenever he would get into those dark, emotional places, you could feel the pause in him,” Thomas said. “Just kind of, ‘Wow, I’m really saying this. This is gonna be out for the people.’ You could just see him going through that. But at the same time you could also see him releasing it and him being cool with it. Being cool with letting people know, ‘You’re going through problems I’m going through.’ He’s letting you know, ‘I’m going through the same thing, and it’s a constant struggle.’ The number-one word he used throughout the interview was struggle. ‘I struggle with this.’ And with someone that fights so much, he was just ready to let go [and admit he was a drug addict].”

Last June Eminem began making his comeback. He phoned into his Shade 45 satellite radio station to prank call LL Cool J , who was being interviewed by one of the DJs. Shortly after, his label, Interscope Records, announced he was working on a new album.

In September of 2008, he confirmed he was concentrating on his own new material , and he later announced in November the title of his new album: Relapse .

Eminem may have been knocked down, but Marshall Mathers managed to pick himself back up. Now guess who’s back?