When I was in my troubled 14’s, over in the back-hill, upside down city of Athens, that seems to be stuck in the past and even though the people that live there have the impression they’re the center of the entire world, stubbornly refusing to wake up to the fact that no one really cares about what goes on in their little capital, I began to take notice of a brand new artist. His name was Eminem, though he introduced himself to the world as Slim Shady, an alias that I had no idea what it meant.
I was never really into rap, the only songs I ever listened to up till that point were Greek and English pop songs (Westlife, anyone?) that were either uplifting and cheerful or downright sad cause I would be depressed over some dumb girl that wouldn’t wanna go out with me. But then Slim came along.
I never even considered rap as an alternative because quite frankly, I didn’t like the anger that was in their lyrics. I found it alienating. Okay, I might have listened to the occasional ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, but who hadn’t? What I’m trying to say is, rap wasn’t my thing. I couldn’t connect to it. Growing up in a home where cursing was not allowed and hardly even practiced, to the point where I found it as something pointless and unnecessary (something that I have my family to thank for, true values are hard to come by these days), rap was a completely foreign element to me.
And then this funny little white guy shows up on MTV and starts making rap look like something amusing and even funny, through tracks like ‘My Name Is…’ or ‘The Real Slim Shady’ or ‘Ass Like That’. The things he said seemed completely forbidden, not because he was cursing just for the sake of cursing and to show that he’s not gonna play by “them rulz”, like most other rappers, but because he was actually taking on the entire Hollywood system that reeked of hypocrisy. Eminem stirred the waters like no other was willing to and just watching all those ‘celebrities’ take offense to his lyrical masterpieces (Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Carston Dailey, Fred Durst, Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee Jones, Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, just to name a few) was so satisfying. And every new headline was just another punch in the gut of that whole intolerable organisation that kept spewing out more Barbies and Kens, subconsciously enforcing a shameful body image onto an entire generation.
Apart from his entertaining side though, what really struck me about Eminem was that, even though he was a rap artist, his songs had a deeper meaning. He never shied away from talking about his own life. ‘The Way I Am’ is still one of the greatest pieces ever sung (or rapped, if you prefer) because it really confers the struggles that Eminem or any other artist goes through as a widely-known superstar. After all, he is still only human. And it is through these songs and these lyrics that I (and I imagine hundreds of thousands of other people) was able to connect with him.
People go through a wide arrange of emotions and Eminem was never afraid of talking about any of them in his songs. ‘Kim’ was one of the most emotionally powerful pieces I have ever heard and it is absolutely devastating to be able to relate to it; to feel the level of loss and betrayal that he must’ve been going through when he came up with it.
But at the end of the day, what saved Eminem from his drug problem that came very close to ending his life, what gave him an outlet when things got bleakest for him (apart from his love for his family I assume) was this passion for rapping, this uncanny ability to be able to confer his feelings into lyrics and then perform them in a way that is unique only to him. So he is living proof that even when we are feeling the lowest, we need to look towards the things we do good in order to be able to move forward and keep ourselves afloat. If it worked for Eminem, who happened to be discovered one day by Dr. Dre, it can work for anyone else, so long as they hold that one thing they’re really good at close to their heart and keep practicing at it.
In closing this post, I’d just like to point out that last night (24 February) I was given the opportunity that that 14-year-old boy from Athens I mentioned in the beginning never thought he would get: I attended an Eminem concert. The wait was long, the weather was hot, the lines were endless, but it was all worth it. The Rap God himself descended upon us and for two straight hours I was lost within his lyrical acrobatics that took me back all those years, all those laughs, all those struggles, all those good and bad times… Each and every song, whether it’s well-known, such as ‘Stan’, or well-written, like ‘Cinderella Man’, holds a significant importance to me personally since I would listen to it fanatically at some point in my life. From the first ‘Slim Shady LP’ all the way to ‘Kamikaze’, it’s been one hell of a ride and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Originally published at sopeoplewhatsup.blogspot.com on February 25, 2019.