[Editor's note: Over the holiday season, SonicNet is looking back at
1999's top stories, chosen by our editors and writers. This story originally
ran on Thursday, Feb. 4.]
Detroit-based rapper Eminem the latest discovery from superstar
hip-hop producer Dr. Dre said he's tired of the "great white hope"
tag being hung around his neck by a number of music magazines.
"All that sh-- is already happening and I can't control it," said Eminem
(born Marshall Mathers). "I was born this color, and naturally, I'm gonna
be thrown into certain categories. In a minute, people will get sick of
it, and I'm gonna speak on it."
Already a 10-year veteran performer at the relatively young age of 24,
Eminem had been kicking around the Detroit rap scene for more than five
years before hooking up with Dre. Now, he is following in the footsteps
of Dre's previous protege, multimillion-selling gangsta-rapper Snoop Dogg.
Eminem wants you to know that "Just Don't Give a Fuck" a track
from his major-label debut album, Slim Shady LP, due Feb. 23
isn't just empty boasting.
"The world will get offended when they listen to my sh--," said Eminem,
who recorded such potentially inflammatory tracks as "Brain Damage,"
"Guilty Conscience" and "Still Don't Give a Fuck" for the album.
"At the end of the day, I don't give a sh-- what I rapped about," he said.
"I'm just having fun ... and making fun of all the f---ed up sh-- in the
Growing up "f---ing" poor in Kansas City and shuttling between his hometown
and Detroit much of his life, Eminem said rap was the only music he related
to as a teen-ager. After being turned on to such pioneering rappers as
Run-D.M.C., Ice-T and the Beastie Boys, Eminem performed with the Detroit
duo Soul Intent and later released his independent-label solo debut,
Infinite, in 1996.
That album and the subsequent Slim Shady EP featured the rapper's
mocking, exaggerated vocals to dish out provocative lyrics and harsh
put-downs. These recordings created a huge buzz in the rap underground
and eventually caught Dre's ear.
Speaking from a Los Angeles studio, Eminem boasted that Dre
co-founder of the pioneering gangsta-rap group N.W.A discovered
him after finding a cassette of his nasally-voiced rhymes on the floor
of the garage belonging to Interscope Records head Jimmy Iovine.
"He said the cover just caught his eye and he picked it up and just popped
it in and was like, 'Where's this d---head at?' " (RealAudio excerpt
of interview), Eminem joked.
After Eminem won a spot onstage at the Rap Coalition's 1997 Rap Olympics
MC battle and scored second place in the freestyle competition, Dre decided
to take a chance and sign him.
"Just [Eminem's] voice and what he's talking about is so different," said
Dre, who has produced such landmark hip-hop albums as his own 1992 solo
debut, The Chronic. "There's no doubt you need to hear him."
Dre was so enamored of his find that he conceived of a number for them
to perform together the provocative "Guilty Conscience"
excerpt), one of three songs he produced for the album.
Eminem already has enjoyed alternative radio play and heavy MTV rotation
for his jokey "My Name Is" (RealAudio
excerpt), which spoofs both the presidential "Monicagate" scandal
and shock rocker Marilyn Manson in the video. But Dre stopped short of
saying that Eminem is already the first break-out star off the producer's
Aftermath Records roster. "I would just say that we're going to try and
build to make him [a star]," Dre explained (RealAudio
excerpt of interview).
Eminem said that "My Name Is," in which he jokes about poking his eyes
out with Nine Inch Nails and trying to figure out which Spice Girl he
wants to sleep with, is his way of introducing himself. "I lets the world
know I'm a smart-ass," he said. "It proves I can make a radio song if I
want to, without compromising my lyrics."
With years of rapping and freestyle MC battles finally paying off, Eminem
also has begun to draw high praise from fellow rap artists. Prince Be of
P.M. Dawn said he and partner J.C. were chasing after Eminem to sign him
to their label, while fellow white Detroit rapper Kid Rock was effusive
in his praise.
"The motherf-----'s dope," Rock said of Eminem. "The motherf-----'s ...
fresh as hell. Detroit's the home of the white rapper. We got love for
our honkies in Detroit.
"He's off on the same f-----g sh-- I'm on ... He's a white boy who smokes
crack and grew up in a trailer park like myself."
Eminem unwittingly revealed that hard-scrabble persona during his interview
with SonicNet Music News by promising to "go choke them motherf-----s"
during an unexpected cell phone call.
He said he plans to hit the road in the next few months to promote Slim
Shady LP and already is working on the sequel. "I want to release the
other album this year," Eminem said. "You're going to see a lot more
personal sh-- on the next one."
As for the expected comparisons between himself and ex-Dre mate Snoop
Dogg, Eminem said he could see the connection and promised not to let
Dre down. "I won't disappoint [Dre]," Eminem said. "I may offend people,
but I won't disappoint them."