Eminem- How he dealt with Fame, Drugs and His Race

29 Apr

In the world, as we know it, the term addiction has a lot of meanings. One can be addicted to anything, as long as it has a hindrance to someone’s day-to-day life. This can be a less harmful substance like food but in many cases, the term addiction is being referred to as alcohol and drug abuse. For someone to have a drug addiction, it is strongly considered a disability because it disables someone to do what they want in their everyday life without the help of their drug of choice. In terms of music, many artists are experiencing the disability as known as addiction.

Nowadays, we are well aware of the rap legend Marshall Mathers, as known by his stage names, Eminem and Slim Shady. Eminem influenced an entire generation of music and a generation of listeners in the early 2000s. His vulgar lyrics made older generations treat his music similar to rock and roll music in the 1950s. Fans started to see Eminem as the rap Elvis. However, with great projects and albums like the Marshall Mathers LP and Slim Shady LP, people take for granted his presence in the industry. In the 1990s, the rap industry was primarily run by African American artists like 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. Seeing a white artist as popular as Eminem was like seeing a unicorn. And due to the mass success of Slim Shady’s albums, he began to develop drug habits that would almost lead to the end of his life.

The story of Eminem starts like this; Eminem grew up in an area of Detroit, Missouri, known as 8 Mile. He lived in a trailer park and an area with a lot of violence. Due to this, his upbringing was very rough. Eminem’s mother was an avid drug user and this reflected her treatment of Em. Eminem was abused by his mom until he was 14 when Em decided to drop out of school and pursue music. Through lucky circumstances, Em was placed in the eyes of Dr. Dre, one of the most successful producers ever, and signed him.

With Dre, Eminem released his first solo project in 1999, the Slim Shady LP. This album sold around 280,000 units in the first week and put Eminem in the spotlight. This newfound fame led Em down a dark path of drug addiction. In his hit song of the LP, “My Name Is” there are multiple lines that have to do with his drug use. “99 percent of my life, I was lied to, I just found out my mom does more dope than I do, I told her I’d grow up to be a famous rapper, Make a record about doin’ drugs and name it after her,”.1“Eminem – My Name Is.” Genius, 25 Jan. 1999, His drug addiction can also be seen in interviews and videos from people on the street.

Eminem’s drug of choice was prescription pills but those who were around him said he would take anything available. Dr. Dre even said himself that Eminem recorded some songs off the Slim Shady LP while he was on ecstasy. He was well aware of his drug abuse too, he even said in an interview that he would take a “ridiculous amount […] I could consume anywhere from 40 to 60 Valium [in a day].”2McGowan, Mark. “Drugs, Poverty And Controversy: How Eminem Turned Himself Into A Rap Megastar.” LADbible, LADbible, 27 Aug. 2019,.

With more drugs in his system, Eminem released his sophomore project in 2000, The Marshall Mathers LP, and drugs were ever more prevalent than they were before. The Marshall Mathers LP became an instant classic. It sold 1.78 million copies during its first week of release. Millions upon millions of teens were listening to the profane lyrics of Eminem making fun of celebrities, talking about violence and, once again, his drug use. In the song “Drug Ballad ”, there are lines to describe his drug use as a performance. A performance in which drugs took hold of him and caused me to lose touch with reality. The chorus goes as:

“‘Cause every time I go to try to leave (Whoa), Something keeps pullin’ on my sleeve (Whoa), I don’t wanna, but I gotta stay (Whoa), These drugs really got a hold of me (Whoa), ‘Cause every time I try to tell ’em “no” (No), They won’t let me ever let ’em go (Go), I’m a sucker all I gotta say (Whoa), These drugs really got a hold of me” 3“Eminem (Ft. Dina Rae) – Drug Ballad.” Genius, 23 May 2000,.

This song is almost eerie as in detail the struggle Eminem has with his drug problem. He says lines about doing ecstasy and not caring if it catches up to him. Another song that has drug references in it is the song “The Way I Am”. “I sit back with this pack of Zig-Zags and this bag, Of this weed, it gives me the shit needed to be, The most meanest MC on this on this Earth”. 4“Eminem – The Way I Am.” Genius, 23 May 2000, Em states that the only way that he feels like himself is when he is on some kind of drugs.

Unfortunately for Shady, the drugs had caught up to him in 2007 where he overdosed on methadone, a drug he had never taken before5McGowan, Mark. “Drugs, Poverty And Controversy: How Eminem Turned Himself Into A Rap Megastar.” LADbible, LADbible, 27 Aug. 2019,. He had bought from a dealer that told him “it is just like Vicodin,”. The number of drugs he had taken that day was the equivalent of 4 bags of heroin and it left him 2 hours away from dying. After overdosing, the following months were very painful. The number of drugs in his system left him in a bad state. Eminem even said that he had to learn how to rap again. “Like the rhyme schemes didn’t even sound familiar to me,” Eminem said.6Reilly, Nick. “Eminem Had to Learn to Rap Again after near-Fatal Drug Overdose in 2007.” NME, 6 Jan. 2021,

After the overdose, Eminem released a project titled “Relapse” in 2009. The title is an obvious reference to the overdose he had in 2007 and how he kicked his habit. Some of the songs on Relapse refer to the way he was feeling, acted, and the things he said while he was on drugs. This album received mixed views from fans. The themes of it seemed to wean away from the killing and drug use that were on the Slim Shady LP and The Marshall Mathers LP for a rather calm tone talking about the problems with drug use. It seemed to leave Eminem in a weird place. While the album is a masterpiece, as many of Eminem’s albums are, it made fans split. It was a fight of “We like the old shady!” or “the new shady is better!”. Some of the fans did not care for the fact that Eminem almost died; they were only caring for the tone of his music rather than Eminem’s safety.

Another part of Eminem’s struggle in the music world is, surprisingly, the fact that he is white. While we now accept not just white rappers but all types of rappers, in the 1990s and early 2000s, it was an uncommon occurrence to see a white man rapping. While Eminem’s talent is undoubtedly great, it was more Dr. Dre’s work that put Eminem in the position he was in after the release of the Slim Shady LP and the Marshall Mathers LP.

The genius work of Eminem had every teenager saying profanities to their parents no matter what background they came from. This is the work of both Dr, Dre and his influence on the black community and also the genius of Eminem himself. Eminem was talking about the same things that the black rappers were like 2Pac talking about drugs and gang violence. Eminem was doing the same thing but doing it in his way. Eminem discusses how he feels about his issue in the song “The Way I Am” by saying “And I just do not got the patience, To deal with these cocky Caucasians, Who think I’m some wigger who just tries to be black, ‘Cause I talk with an accent, and grab on my balls.” 7“Eminem – The Way I Am.” Genius, 23 May 2000, He does not care what anyone thinks, he is just making music.

He put on the mask of his alternate ego in The Slim Shady LP and talked about smoking weed, taking Ecstacy, and having sex with other people’s moms. Even though everyone knew that Em was a great rapper in the making, he did have some doubters. A popular Hip Hop magazine called XXL published an article titled “A message to the white man” with an illustration of Eminem mooning the reader with a Q&A underneath. While this represents the “screw you” attitude of Shady, it made a lot of people mad that the illustration was put in the magazine in the first place.

Looking at Eminem’s body of work, he has 2 diamond-certified albums (10 million+ units sold), 6 Multi-platinum certified albums (2 Million+ units sold), and 1 gold certified album (500 thousand+ units sold). He has been the best-selling musical artist since the year 2000. He defeated the odds of being a white rapper in an industry predominantly run by African Americans. He influenced an entire generation of musical artists and fans. Above all, he defeated a decade-long disability known as prescription pill addiction. To be called the greatest rapper of our generation would be an understatement to Eminem aka Slim Shady.


1 “Eminem – My Name Is.” Genius, 25 Jan. 1999,
2, 5 McGowan, Mark. “Drugs, Poverty And Controversy: How Eminem Turned Himself Into A Rap Megastar.” LADbible, LADbible, 27 Aug. 2019,
3 “Eminem (Ft. Dina Rae) – Drug Ballad.” Genius, 23 May 2000,
4, 7 “Eminem – The Way I Am.” Genius, 23 May 2000,
6 Reilly, Nick. “Eminem Had to Learn to Rap Again after near-Fatal Drug Overdose in 2007.” NME, 6 Jan. 2021,