From his less-than-humble beginnings to the pinnacle of notoriety and superstardom, Marshall Mathers has truly seen it all.

Born in 1972 to his mother Debbie and father Bruce, Mathers’ family broke apart soon after forming. His father abandoned his wife and infant son and moved to California. Mathers and his mother moved between Detroit and Missouri, typically changing homes every year or so and living with family members. When he was a teenager, Mathers wrote letters to his father that all came back with “return to sender” marked on them.

For most of Mathers’ youth, he and his mother lived in a poor neighborhood in Detroit, and he was often targeted for bullying. But he had a creative outlet: He loved storytelling. He first dreamt of becoming a comic book artist, but then he discovered rap. The first rap song he ever heard was “Reckless” featuring Ice-T, given to him by his mother’s half-brother Ronnie. Ronnie played a positive role in Mathers’ childhood, mentoring him and giving him emotional support.

Marshall repeated ninth grade three times before dropping out of Lincoln High School at age 17. He had already begun rapping by this time and frequently snuck into the neighboring high school with his friend to compete in freestyle rap battles during lunch. Weekends saw them performing at open mics on West 7 Mile Road, the epicenter of Detroit’s underground rap scene. He spent much of his free time working on rhymes for different words in the English language.

Meanwhile, Mathers fought constantly with his mother, who was described as having a “very suspicious, almost paranoid personality” by a social worker. In 1987, Debbie invited runaway Kim Scott into their home. Marshall and Kim began a tumultuous relationship several years later. By 1988, he had adopted the stage name MC Double M and was recording demo tapes and appearing in music videos. Mathers’ uncle Ronnie committed suicide in 1991, a traumatic experience that caused Mathers to stop speaking for several days.

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He formed The Dirty Dozen, also known as D12, in 1996 — the same year he released his debut album, Infinite, which was a commercial failure. DJs who rejected his tracks asked him why he didn’t just go into rock and roll, which fueled him to craft darker, angrier tracks. He and Kim lived in a dangerous neighborhood and were robbed multiple times, and Marshall was working for minimum wage washing dishes. Before Christmas of that year, he had been fired and attempted suicide.

In 1997, Mathers developed an alter ego called Slim Shady and recorded the Slim Shady EP, released by Web Entertainment. The EP attracted some attention, even getting mentioned by hip-hop magazine The Source in 1998.

After placing second in a nationwide rap battle in Los Angeles, Mathers’ EP got noticed by Dr. Dre. The two began working on The Slim Shady LP, which was released in February 1999. It went triple platinum by the end of the year. The album’s violent lyrics were an outlet for Eminem’s anger and frustration, and they struck a strange chord with the public.

The next decade was all his. His second full-length album, The Marshall Mathers LP, came out in May 2000 and sold nearly 2 million copies before the end of its first week. Mathers toured that year with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Ice Cube. In 2001, he was the only guest on Jay-Z’s album, The Blueprint.

In May 2002, Eminem released The Eminem Show, the best-selling album of the year with 27 million copies sold worldwide. Encore followed in 2004, showcasing more of his political commentary. His subsequent albums include Relapse, Recovery, The Marshall Mathers LP 2, and, of course, the soundtrack to the semi-autobiographical blockbuster film 8 Mile.

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Eminem’s career was relatively quiet in the late 2010s, until the earth-shaking moment he criticized then-President Trump in the 2017 freestyle “The Storm.” This represented a comeback moment for Eminem — his support for Black Americans resonated at a time when social unrest and inequality were becoming highly talked about.

You can catch Eminem’s concerts today—see what this world-changing artist is up to by seeing him live, in-person, at a stage near you.

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