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The Love and Mainly Hate Relationship between Eminem and Kim Mathers

If any musician personified the late 1990s, it was the hugely successful rapper, Eminem.  Despite racking up sales throughout the globe, nobody could’ve predicted Eminem’s success.  After all, although hip hop had rapidly made strides within the music industry to become one of the top selling genres, the music’s culture was rigid and seemingly limited the chances of a white rapper succeeding.  However, through his controversial and often hateful rhymes, the undeniably skilled Eminem quickly gained respect within the hip hop world while attracting thousands of fans who didn’t usually listen to rap on a daily basis. 

While he was a polarizing figure for much of the early part of his career, Eminem would eventually win over his detractors to become a universally acclaimed artist.  Although he was reaching new heights as one of the most commercially and critically successful music artists of his time, Eminem’s life was spiraling out of control.  A man that often made references to his duty as a father to his daughter Hailie, Eminem struggled with the weight of his notoriety.  His drug and alcohol use spiraled and Eminem often made proud references to this part of his life in his rhymes.  However, Eminem would eventually go to rehab to recover from his addition to Zolpidem sleeping pills.

As an artist, Eminem is one of the most contradictory and complex throughout music history.  A man lauded for his comical and sometimes extreme use of cartoonish violence, Eminem also weaved a powerfully personal narratives to his songs that humanized his harsh songs.  He was an artist that put a spotlight to different parts of his personality through the brilliant use of alter egos.  His Slim Shady persona was outspoken and make such outlandish claims as kidnapping rap legend Dr. Dre and making dubious claims about famous celebrities.  However, Eminem would reach the aphex of his success through hits like “Stan” and “Lose Yourself” that document his personal experiences with his success and the buildup of his career.

Throughout the highs and lows of his career, Eminem’s personal life was relatively stable.  Devoted to his daughter Haillie, Eminem had a stormy relationship with the girl’s mother, Kim Mathers.  A highly volatile relationship that Eminem would often use as subject matter for his most brutal songs, the world was able to gain a uniquely upfront view to Eminem’s personal relationship.  His marriage to Kim Mathers would fall apart as Eminem rapidly climbed up the music charts.  After some tense encounters, Eminem and Kim Mathers would surprise the world by remarrying again on January 14, 2006.  However, this celebrity marriage quickly ended in another celebrity divorce a scant eleven weeks later.

Despite the intensely combustible nature of their personal relationship, it is hard not to notice that the marriage between Eminem and Kim Mathers were one of the biggest celebrity marriages of their generation.  It was these often hard to acknowledge details that Eminem detailed in song and the couple would experience in reality that make the sometimes love and often times hate relationship between Marshall Mathers III and Kim Mathers one of the most fascinating celebrity marriages of their time.

If very few people could’ve predicted that a white rapper would rise through the ranks of the hip hop world and gain both critical and commercial success, nobody would’ve predicted that Marshall Bruce Mathers III would be the person that would take on such a prominent role in the entertainment world.  Born on October 17, 1972 in St. Joseph, Missouri, Marshall Bruce Mathers III was raised in a difficult environment where he and his family had to overcome the realities of living in the poor white areas of Detroit, Michigan. 

A social outcast, Marshall Mathers’ life would drastically change when he was introduced to rap music by an uncle.  This new art form would provide an outlet for Mather’s considerable wit and creativity.  He would soon become a fixture of the local Detroit rap scene where he released an independent album in 1997 named “Infinite.”  The album was not well received as many felt that Eminem had not established his own style.  While he was making changes to his rapping persona, Eminem continued to be a presence on the local battle rap scenes where he would eventually place second in the National Rap Olympics.  Eminem would also build a relationship with respected local artists such as Proof, Royce da 5’9”, and the future members of D12.

Building on his reputation as one of the illest underground MCs in Detroit, Eminem introduced the world to his new alter ego, a demented mind called Slim Shady who would say the things that you would think but would never say.  While he received more attention from the hip hop community, Eminem struggled with a mixed reaction to his new violent persona and the fact that he was a white rapper in a genre that was predominantly black.

In fact, rap legend Dr. Dre first thought that Eminem was black when he first heard his demo.  When the two would meet, Dr. Dre would be surprised but wouldn’t let the issue of race get in the way of recognizing talent.  Dr. Dre had come to prominence through his work with pioneering gangsta rap group, N.W.A., and he helped define the sound of the early 1990s with his work with Death Row Records but he was having trouble starting up his new label, Aftermath Records.

These two seemingly polar opposites shared one trait: an almost maniac Protestant work ethic.  They would spend a year crafting Eminem’s major label debut, “The Slim Shady LP.”  On the album Eminem fully embraced his role as agitator, encouraging a man to commit double homicide against his wife and lover on the hit song, “Guilty Conscience,” and would have a huge hit with the song, “My Name Is.”  While the album would go on to become one of the biggest albums in 1999, Eminem was still flying under the radar.  He would still struggle against perceptions that a white rapper couldn’t be good and that the only reason why he was able to say such raw things was due to his being white.  It was also on The Slim Shady LP that the world was introduced to Eminem’s turbulent personal life.  On the song, “’97 Bonnie and Clyde,” Eminem rapped about taking a trip with his daughter, Hailie, to dispose the body of his wife, Kim Mathers, who he had just murdered. 

Despite describing his intensely volatile relationship with Kim Mathers, the two would marry on June 14, 1999.  During that time, Eminem would gain widespread credibility for his cameos on Dr. Dre’s classic sophomore album, Chronic 2001, and anticipation was at a fever pitch for Eminem’s sophomore album, The Marshall Mathers LP.  Released in May 2000, The Marshall Mathers LP would go on to become one of the most successful albums of the decade.  Powered by the cheeky, celebrity baiting anthem, “The Real Slim Shady,” the Marshall Mathers LP would top the shock quotient of his debut album.

Ironically, the Marshall Mathers LP would also expand Eminem’s range and make him more of a sympathetic figure due to the popularity of songs that described his struggles.  The song’s second single, “The Way I Am,” describes the pressure he felt from his record company and from media critics that linked his music to the shootings at Columbine High School.  While this song would become popular, it couldn’t match the overwhelming success of the album’s third song, “Stan.”  In this creative hit, Eminem would describe a deranged fan who lives out the song “’97 Bonnie and Clyde” to tragic results.

Despite his newfound commitment to responsibility, The Marshall Mathers LP would include a prequel to “’97 Bonnie and Clyde,” that wouldn’t change perceptions of the highly charged relationship that Eminem had with Kim Mathers.  The song, “Kim,” was essentially an uncomfortably realistic facsimile of an argument between the two that was essentially Eminem screaming verbal abuse at his wife.  The song ended with the sound of Eminem slitting Kim’s throat and was pretty uncomfortable for anybody to listen to.

As Eminem’s fame increased his life spiraled out of control.  His marriage to Kim Mathers would fall apart on October 11, 2001.  His rising success helped fuel Eminem’s growing drug addiction.  With a reputation as a bad boy, Eminem would engage in dangerous behavior by participating in feuds with other rap stars and also having several run ins with the law.  The craziness of his personal life would peak on June 2000 when he would be arrested by police officers for carrying a concealed weapon and assaulting a man that he saw kiss Kim Mathers outside of a club.

An internationally respected artist and one of the world’s biggest celebrities, Eminem has retreated from his fame.  Although he has released two successful albums, The Eminem Show and Encore, and also a critically acclaimed semi-autobiographic movie, 8 Mile, that has reduced the controversy surrounding his character, Eminem has attempted to keep a lower profile.  He has toured only sporadically and is more engaged in the music production side of things.  His record label, Shady Records, is the home for megastar rapper 50 Cent and Eminem has seemingly devoted his life to raising his young daughter, Hailie.

As Eminem has retreated from the spotlight, it was a bit surprising to learn that he and Kim Mathers were reconciling and would remarry on January 14, 2006.  While the world may have been surprised by this news, people who know the couple were not.  Born on January 9, 1975 in Warren, Michigan, Kimberly Ann Scott and Marshall Mathers had been dating since 1989.  Their relationship had always been a volatile one that was marked with frequent breakups and reconciliations.  The two would have a daughter prior to Eminem’s success, Hailie Jade Mathers.

While Eminem often praised Hailie’s role in his life and would often remark on the sad reality that his work commitments were taking away time from his daughter, he would not put Kimberly Mathers up on the same pedestal in his work.  Although Kimberly Mathers often seemed indifferent about the way she was portrayed in Eminem’s songs, she did attempt to commit suicide by cutting her wrists after she witnessed one of Eminem’s performances on July 7, 2000.  During the Up in Smoke tour, Eminem would often bring up a mock-up doll of Kim Mathers on stage where he would abuse it to the audience’s delight.  However, Eminem has often come to Kim’s assistance privately whenever she encountered trouble.

By turning the tables on our celebrity culture by making his personal life extremely public, Marshall Mathers quickly rose through the ranks of musical superstardom to become arguably the most important artist of his generation.  However, it is also his volatile portrayal of his relationship to Kim Mathers that may prevent this celebrity marriage from having a happy ending.  Regardless of the situation, many people have found inspiration in hearing the songs that have been inspired by the sometimes love but mainly hateful relationship between Marshall Mathers and Kimberly Mathers.