The first I heard of Eminem’s music was “The Slim Shady LP”. My boy Rod was excited about it and said, “You gotta hear that!” so I took his advice. But before I put the tape on, I studied the cover art, and the accompanying images were dark – especially the illustration of the corpse sticking out of the trunk of a car. I remember thinking, What am I about to hear? !
On first listen, I jumped around, listening to songs like “’97 Bonnie & Clyde” (during which his alter-ego Slim Shady talks to Eminem’s real-life daughter Hailie, then 5 years old , as she drove to a pier to dump her mother’s corpse in the water), “Just Don’t Give a Fuck” (Em denounces fellow white rappers Vanilla Ice, Everlast and Miiilkbone) and skits like ” Ken Kaniff”.
I knew from the jump that this cat was different because of what and how he rapped. But after seeing how the lead single, “My Name Is,” launched — complete with a catchy music video in which the rapper impersonated President Bill Clinton, Johnny Carson and a porn star — I thought he’d be big. Of course, it ended up being massive!
In hip-hop, those who care can hear when it’s live — meaning when it’s real or when it’s created in a studio — and the way Eminem rapped, you knew the talent was genuine. Also, he showed the masses his authentic point of view from a Central American white male perspective. Look at previous Rock Hall hip-hop inductees like Jay-Z, LL Cool J and NWA – all are from New York or Los Angeles, with the majority being from the East Coast. It could easily be argued that Eminem’s music took hip hop to new places and spaces it may not have been played before and opened up the genre to even more people. As for the legends that came before him, those who brought the bars, the beat, the DJs, the graffiti, Eminem took this in-your-face art form to the next level.
But Em is more than a rap star. With his notoriety, his mystique, and his tens of millions of fans, he’s also a rock star, and yes, he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Rock and roll and hip-hop are cousins that share many of the same rebellious, disruptive, raw, and authentic traits. Eminem is all of this and more.
Gray Rizzy can be heard on SiriusXM Shade 45.
This essay is part of a series – in partnership with the on-air talent of SiriusXM – to honor artists inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on November 5 in Los Angeles.
Catch the entire 2022 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on HBO November 19 at 8 p.m. ET, plus a simulcast on SiriusXM’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Radio (Channel 310 ). SiriusXM listeners can also catch live behind-the-scenes coverage and commentary on Volume on the SXM app and on Faction Talk (channel 103).
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