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Eminem Interviews

The King and I

Date: 2006
Source: Sunday Mail

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In the final part of our series The Real Slim Shady, rapper
Eminem - Marshall Mathers - tells how he fears fame and fortune
will go as quickly as it came.

And he talks candidly of the brutal beatings he received at school
and how they changed his life.

As his new album, The Eminem show, is poised to top the charts, the
controversial rapper opens his heart to America-based writer NICOLA
PITTAM about his incredible career.

Chart-topper Eminem believes he is the new Elvis Presley.

Just like the king nearly 50 years ago, Eminem has been described as
a "white man singing black music" and a danger to the morality of youth.

In the lyrics to his new single Without Me, which went straight to
No.1, the rapper sings: "I am the worst thing since Elvis Presley, to
do black music so selfishly and use it to get myself wealthy."

Elvis outraged parents and moralists in the 1950s with his on-stage
antics, including his raunchy hip-thrusting dancing.

Today, Eminem, 27, is just as controversial, performing a macabre, masked
routine with a chainsaw.

Both born poor, the two singers grew to love black music, repackaging it
for the white audience and selling millions of records.

But Eminem, real name Marshal Mathers, fears his very fame could destroy
his life - just like The King.

He said: "There are so many pressures that go with my job right now. It's
crazy. I always wished and hoped for this. But it's almost turning into more
of a nightmare than a dream.

"I can't even go in public anymore. I've got the whole world looking at me. I
can't be treated like a regular person anymore."

Eminem's life has always been turbulent. His film 8 Mile, due out this summer, is
partly autobiographical, based on the tough district of Eight Mile Road in Detroit,
where he spent part of his childhood. His family moved repeatedly and he attended a
staggering 30 schools but didn't fit into any of them.

The rapper tells of savage beatings at school that changed him from a quiet, friendly
boy to the future bad boy king of rap.

At Dort Elementary School in Roseville, a mixed race suburb of Detroit, Eminem received
one of the worst beatings of his life, aged just nine years old.

He suffered severe concussion when he was set upon in the school toilets by an older
black boy. In his song Brain Damage, he relived the incident, saying: "I was harassed
daily by this fat kid named De Angelo Bailey, an eighth-grader who acted obnoxious, 'cause
his father boxes.

"Every day he'd shove me into the lockers and he had me in the position to beat me into
submission.

"He banged my head against the urinal until he broke my nose, soaked my clothes in blood,
grabbed me and choked my throat.

"He kept chokin' me and I couldn't breathe. He looked at me and said, 'You're gonna die
honkie!'"

It was just one of several attacks he suffered at the hands of black classmates.

In fact, he endured a four-month reign of terror at the school.

It became so bad his mother Debbie filed a lawsuit against the school. Although it was
eventually dismissed, she claimed the beatings left her son with headaches, post-
concussion syndrome, intermittent loss of vision and hearing, nightmares, nausea and a
tendency for anti-social behaviour.

But rather than turning against black culture, Eminem latched on to it through rap music.

Introduced to the art form by his beloved uncle Ronnie, he became mesmerised. Artists
such as LL Cool J and Run DMC became his heroes, replacing the comic book characters
that had been his previous passion.

He would study the dictionary to bolster his vocabulary for lyrics, but was less
diligent when it came to schoolwork, dropping out of Lincoln High School when he was
just 14.

The singer said: "I was a smart kid, but I hated school. I failed ninth grade three
times.

"I just wanted to rap. I'd go to friends' houses and rap, or I'd stay in my room all
day, standing by the mirror and lip-syncing songs, trying to look cool."

Now the second biggest recording star in America, behind N'Sync, he's beaten black
rappers at their own game. Yet he seems desperate to be accepted by his black rap
peers. He's been accused of being a 'wigger' - a white person who imitates black culture.

In the song The Way I Am, he hits back: "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."

Former pal Jesse Gaston, 20, an African American who grew up playing basketball in the
streets with the star, said: "The biggest thing for him is he's got the whites and the
blacks buying his music."

But for the young Eminem, struggling against the bullies, life at home was just as
troubled as school.

Childhood sweetheart Kim, who moved in with his family when she was 12, recalled:
"It was rough, to say the least. Marshall's mother kicked us out every other day,
threw temper tantrums, threw things at us."

The couple eventually moved out and lived with former school pal Mark 'DJ Rec' Claus.

Mark said: "His mum was screwed up and he didn't want to be around it. Marshall didn't
do any drugs or drink. He was just dating Kim off and on and doing the music thing."

Co-workers at Gilbert's Lodge restaurant, where he worked before he hit the big time,
remember him as a friendly and funny cook.

They say he used to rhyme food orders to pass the time and worked tirelessly to achieve
his dream of becoming a successful rapper.

Neighbour Ramona Dorsey said: "He was an all right kid, no worse than a lot and a lot
better than some. He was taught manners by someone."

And while he worked diligently to further his career, while holding down a job, Kim was
the only constant in his life. She gave birth to his beloved daughter, Hailie Jade, now
seven, and the couple married in 1999.

Their relationship has since turned sour and they divorced last October - but not before
Eminem had sung about wanting to rape and murder his wife.

Pal Jay Fields said: "Kim has been the basis of a lot of his songs. Pain, mystery, love
and drama - that's what motivates an artist as much as love and affection."

But it wasn't always that way. Eminem said: "Not to defend Kim but I realise what has
happened to me has probably been a strain on her, too. When we were younger, she supported
everything I did. The older we got, the more reality started to set in.

"She's one of those people who is real down to earth, like, 'Hello! You're living in
fantasy. These things don't happen to people like us'."

Increasingly, Eminem felt Kim was losing her faith in him. He said: "To be honest,
I really didn't have much support, nobody in my family, in her family. Just a few
friends. And just myself."

He seems determined to stay near those few close friends. Like Elvis, who chose to
live in his home town of Memphis, Eminem has remained true to Detroit.

Rejecting a celebrity mansion in Los Angeles, he bought a house in the Sterling Heights
district of the city, overlooking a trailer park.

Last year he skipped the Grammy Awards but was seen out in bars and clubs near his home.
He eats at his old workplace, Gilbert's Lodge, hangs out in his old neighbourhood and
even chose to shoot his movie on location at Eight Mile Road.

He said: "I tried to stay close to home. I bought the house in Sterling Heights when I
didn't know I would be as successful as I am now.

"It was like, 'I better grab this house, I don't know if any more money is coming'.

"I bought the house, got it on the main road, just figuring I might get a couple of fans
every once in a while. That was a big mistake.

"But I stayed close to home just because I'm so used to it. A lot of people don't understand
this about me."

   
           
   


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