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The Eminem obsession

Observer Music Monthly today ran one of the most touching, personal and revealing music interviews I’ve read in a long time. Eminem is interviewed by Anthony Bozza, the journalist who wrote the first-ever in depth profile of him (for Rolling Stone) before going on to pen his biography.

It’s the only in-depth interview he’s carried out to coincide with the release of Relapse and OMM are quick to point this out, splashing the story across the paper’s front page, no doubt casusing many greedy hands (mine included) to sweep it up in Tesco along with the sunday hangover bacon. But it got me thinking, just what is it about Eminem that commands this huge amount of interest? Think about it in – it terms of our hunger for details he’s almost up there with the Britneys and Amys of this world, rather than the Puffys, Snoops and other Hip Hop superstars. He’s one of a rare handful of musicians whose personality we find as captivating as their music. But why?

I remember the first time I heard Steve LaMacq play ‘My Name Is’ on Radio 1. I was 13 and had hardly listened listened to any Hip Hop until then – my musical diet consisted of lashing of Green Day with a sprinkle of Nirvana on top and a dash of KoRn at the sides. At that point Hip Hop just seemed like a bunch of guys with questionable taste in sportswear singing about guns and posing with half-dressed women. 

And then I heard Eminem, his words cutting through the radio red raw with self-hatred, fast and relentless, twisted and fucked up and funny and real. He breezed through porn, crime, violence, drugs and his mum’s tits in a few minutes and I laughed, cringed and sat vaguely stunned. It was funny and disturbing in the way an episode of South Park is, but it was also so personal, a tidel wave of confessions spitting out at me. He served up every neuroses, every black mark in his character and every fucked up sight he’d ever seen. It was possibly the rawest thing I’d ever heard.  And when I realised I’d miss the name of the track and who it was by, I sat glued to the radio every evening until it was played again. I wanted to know more.

I was obsessed with Eminem in the way only teenage girls can be. I trawled the internet reading every scrap of information – all his lyrics, Anthony’s Rolling Stone interview. I brought the Slim Shady LP from the states, unable to wait for the release date in Britian, and cried when it never arrived. The best day of my life was when the ticket to Reading festival, which he was headlining, dropped through my letterbox.

And it wasn’t just me. Music was usually a battleground at school, different cliques fighting it out for posession of the common room stereo, but everyone loved Eminem. We listened to him down the skatepark while chugging the white lightning someone’s brother had brought us, and the boy racers played him out the windows of their suped-up novas. That summer he totally changed what we listened to. Everyone got turned onto Hip-Hop, went and brought Straight Outta Compton when they found out Dr Dre had something to do with that too, and battles for whose CD we’d play on the school trip coach were never quite as brutal again.

And now we’ve all grown up, but we’re still hyped to hear Relapse when we couldn’t give a shit about whatever stupid comeback Limp Bizkit or KoRn are planning. And we still want to get inside his head and know all about him, because it was never just his music that hooked us – it was him. There’s always the angsty musicians who moan and wail about their anguish, and the teenagers who fall in love with them (and consequently grow up, cringe at the memories and hide their old CDs in shame), but Eminem was more than that. Sometimes we’re disturbed, even repulsed, by what he sings, but we’re constantly intrigued. He plays games with us through his lyrics, swinging from the autobiographical to the fantastical and fictuous, launching into his elaborate stories of psychos and serial killers. He makes us feel we know him then spins round and laughs in our faces, confusing us as to which part is actually him talking, which bits are true, how much he believes.

He is dark, he is complex and he is utterly intriguing. I don’t know how today’s 13 year olds will take it, with their floppy haired emo icons and god-fearing kanye wests, but I think he is amazing. And I don’t think there will be anyone like him again for a long time.

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