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— Ryan J. Downey, with additional reporting by Heather Parry


Eminem is sweating through his wife-beater T-shirt. His arms are flailing wildly, bobbing to the rhythm of the DJ behind him. He clutches the mic firmly, pressing it to his lips like it contains the last bit of air on an oxygen-deprived planet. A tall, imposing opponent looks on under the dim lights that hover above the shoddily constructed stage.

 '8 Mile' Photos
Bodies cram against the concrete walls, screaming a chorus of approval as Em takes the lead in this battle, one of a thousand that have gone down inside this club. The very air seems electrified with the intensity of his performance, the savagery of the dis-or-be-dissed environment. Em's in a zone. He pulls no verbal punches. No quarter is asked, nor given.

For underground hip-hop heads, it's a familiar scene. And save for his platinum-blonde Caesar haircut's new natural brown replacement, to Eminem fans it's the hungry MC they've seen countless times before, doing what he does best. Rapping for respect.

Except it's not a clip from his latest video, footage from an early concert, nor a commercial for his next album. It's a scene from a movie. "8 Mile" is fiction, though its littered with obvious parallels to the multiplatinum rapper's real-life beginnings — slugging it out against MC after MC in small, stinky clubs near Detroit's 8 Mile Road.

 "It was the world to me ..."
"It's the exact same thing," Eminem said, comparing his early days to the battle scenes in "8 Mile." "It's how it used to be, all the battle rhyming, everything. As serious as you see me take it in the movie is how serious it was in my real life. [Battling] was everything. It was the world to me, and to any other MC that's coming up, you're trying to make a name for yourself, you're trying to make a rep. That's what it is. That's your world."


NEXT: Eminem vs. Proof, Em vs. 'two-faced Brittany Murphy, and '8 Mile' vs. reality ...
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Photo: Universal


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